Aliens: Colonial Marines

Another bug hunt.

There's something refreshing about a sci-fi first person shooter which doesn't have to be coy about its influences and disguise the fact it's stealing from one of action cinema's finest offerings.

Rebellion's Aliens vs. Predator first enjoyed that privilege in 1994, and again for last year's reimagining. But it was tempered by impurity. The more recent game's three-class system, with an alien, a predator and a Colonial Marine all coming into play, made it a mongrel. Its dated gunplay was also a bit of a dog.

Now, Gearbox Software is seizing the opportunity to exploit the franchise with both hands. "I have been stealing from this game my entire career," says Randy Pitchford, a man who is spending his E3 darting between three different publishers, what with Duke Nukem Forever yet to release and Brothers in Arms: Furious Four just announced.

"I think most of the industry has. Aliens has influenced all of us," he continues. "When you think of the founders of Gearbox, Brian Martel and I, working at 3D Realms on Duke Nukem - you can see facehuggers and alien walls influenced by Giger.

"Maybe that's why we loved Halo so much when we helped Bungie and Microsoft bring it to the PC; you can see Aliens' influence in their dropships, and the Sergeant who's basically Apone." Here's betting Randy likes to play dress-up with a full Marines outfit he keeps stashed away for weekends.

The faithfulness of Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial Marines to the 1986 original is breathtaking. It's not quite the game of the film but it's as near as could be. Set directly after James Cameron's Aliens, it explores the aftermath of the film. The planet's atmosphere processor has been destroyed and the barren wastelands of LV-426 are, unbelievably, that little bit more barren.

A lot of love for the film is visible in the game. It's the world glimpsed in countless worn-down VHS tapes brought to life, from the torn-steel corridors of the colony to the flickering CRT screens of its hardware. In some ways this is a period piece, a replica of an eighties vision of the future, at once both quaint and iconic.

The Marines are fleshed out in brilliant detail, their character models built with close reference to film props and stills. It's the little touches that stand out; most of hour heroes have their battle-scraped armour personalised with characterful scrawls, while one has a pair of playing cards wedged into the brim of his helmet.

Their chatter is also authentic. It's the Dirty Dozen in space - a premise which may have been worn thin over years of like-minded games, but one which is integral to nailing the Aliens atmosphere. Squad mates are ever-present companions, providing a sweary soundtrack to the action.

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