This latest of oh-so-many embarrassments bearing the much-abused Aliens name was six years in development, but you'd be forgiven for thinking Aliens: Colonial Marines was churned out in six months.
Admittedly, the online pillorying this first-person shooter, from the makers of the rather better-received Borderlands games, is crueller than it needs to be, but there's no denying that, after years of hype and promises, it's right old a mess. On top of that, we had an at least passable game about shooting one of cinema's most memorable monsters with Pulse rifles just a couple of years ago (Aliens vs. Predator), so to have something so similar, so bereft of ideas and so low-rent so soon makes zero sense.
The most obvious problems are technical ones - bugs, clipping errors and artificial intelligence that could be outwitted by the ghosts from Pac-Man. Cut corners also evidence themselves with some appalling/hilarious animation and tediously repeated environments - though at times it can be reasonably spectacular to behold, even if it's a far cry from the dramatic promotional video footage. The main issue is just how soulless it feels, though. You trudge through dark corridors, Aliens unconvincingly drop from walls and ceilings onto you (and veer wildly between being harmless to causing frustrating insta-death), and you endlessly hunt for the one door which the game will allow you to open.
Entirely bereft of memorable sights, events or characters, it's a grim conflation of the low-tech, low-imagination corridor shooters of the early 2000s and the oppressively linear, testosterone-steeped modern-day Call of Duties. The total refusal to do anything imaginative with a much-loved icon of sci-fi cinema somehow makes it even worse.
Indeed, for much of its relentlessly dim (in both senses of the word) duration it doesn't even have you fighting Aliens. Instead, you're up against generic soldiers, forgettable men-with-guns who could have come straight out of any other shooter. On the other hand, they're more consistent and tangible than the erratic, oddly cardboardy Aliens. Shooting an Alien is without satisfaction or horror - they pop like a sad balloon, with their infamous acid blood causing less havoc than a seagull emptying its bowels over unwary sunbathers.
Meanwhile, a much-ballyhooed plot which fills in some of the gaps between Aliens and Alien 3 turns out to be a nasty, turgid exercise is shallow machismo, with unpleasant and forgettable characters who give us no possible reason to invest in their fates. Fanservice is there, but then fanservice is everywhere in the extended Aliens universe.
Only at one point does the game collapse into so-bad-it's-good territory, with an apocalyptically terrible animation causing a certain type of alien to walk like a marionette with a nasty case of haemorrhoids. The rest of the time Aliens: Colonial Marines is simply dismal: a dull, uninspired and error-strewn shooter that feels like a perfunctory cash-grab rather than a game anyone involved could possibly have cared about. Rumour even has it that primary development was outsourced to other, less renowned studios. That's unconfirmed as yet, but other developers are indeed listed in the game's credit, so if nothing else we could suspect a too many cooks situation.
One day the strange story of this sad game and its long gestation will doubtless emerge, but for now don't let the ubiquitous advertising of Colonial Marines fool you into thinking it's anything other than the first (and possibly worst) major gaming train wreck of 2013. And that's the only thing this vacuous, limp bore ever be remembered for.