You might be playing a first- or third-person shooter - or watching the film "Aliens."
Every science fiction/horror game of the last 20 years - from the granddaddy of them all, Id's "Doom," to recent titles such as Electronic Arts' "Dead Space" series - owes a debt to the first two films in the "Alien" franchise, Ridley Scott's moody 1979 original and James Cameron's action-packed 1986 sequel, "Aliens."
"Aliens: Colonial Marines" (Sega, for Xbox360, PS3, $59.99; for PC, $49.99) is the follow-up that fans have been craving. (Forget about "Alien 3" and "Alien: Resurrection.") Developed by Gearbox Software, maker of the fantastic "Borderlands" series, it offers a strong story that fits perfectly within the mythology of the franchise.
Taking place shortly after the events of Cameron's sequel, "Colonial Marines" puts you right into the thick of the action on the planet LV-426. You play as Cpl. Christopher Winter, who arrives with his Marine unit at the planet in response to a distress call from the U.S.S. Sulaco - the ship Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley is aboard at the close of the second film.
Your mission is to find out why the Sulaco is still orbiting LV-426.
If you can survive the xenomorphs.
Some attack you from the ceiling. Some spit acid. Some explode when you get too close. When a face-hugger leaps at you for the first time, it'll make you jump out of your seat and laugh at the same time.
There are many nice touches drawn from the "Aliens" film. You can cut open and seal doors with welding torches. Your main weapon is a pulse rifle - complete with pump-action grenade launcher - and you can also track down "Legendary" weapons that pack a bit more punch, such as Cpl. Hicks' shotgun and Lt. Gorman's pistol. The ships and vehicles are spot-on with those in the movie, and sparring with a xenomorph while strapped into a power loader is as fun as it sounds.
And then there's my personal favorite: the motion tracker. When a horde is closing in from all directions, you may feel the urge to say, "There's something moving and it ain't us."
As you progress through the 8- to 10-hour campaign, you earn points that can be spent on weapon upgrades or your character's appearance. These upgrades apply across all the content in the game - including the multiplayer, which allows you to play as a xenomorph in several modes.
The settings are the real meat of the game. You spend some time aboard the Sulaco before reaching the planet's surface and fighting your way through the Hadley's Hope colony, both of which boast a strong attention to detail when it comes to the set designs from the film. Perhaps the most satisfying segment takes place aboard the derelict spaceship, complete with egg chamber and - yes! - the "space jockey."
The ominous Weyland-Yutani Corp. hovers over everything, and you may even pick up on a small reference to Scott's sort-of prequel "Prometheus." And series veterans Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen provide voiceover work.
Truth be told, the mechanics are pretty standard, the load times seem a bit long for this generation and the closing segment with the alien queen falls very flat. Still, "Aliens: Colonial Marines" should satisfy the average shooter fan and will enthrall those who love the films. Three stars out of four.