The first thing you see is a gun. Not just a gun, but the gun. The M41A pulse rifle 10 millimetre with over-and-under 30 millimetre pump action grenade launcher, as so lovingly described by Corporal Dwayne Hicks during an unlikely moment of firearms-assisted flirtation with Ripley in James Cameron's 1986 classic, Aliens. Before the game even starts, you're forced to watch as your virtual hands hold the rifle up and inspect it from every angle. "Look," Aliens: Colonial Marines is saying. "Just like the film!"
That, it transpires, is the best trick in the arsenal of a game that understands that its success rests not on innovation or polish but on how often it can remind us of a movie made 27 years ago. That's why artist Syd Mead was brought back to expand on his original designs. That's why the music borrows from James Horner's score, by turns eerie and full of martial urgency. That's why the plot - such as it is - is sure to revisit every location, every encounter, that fans will want to relive. In terms of pandering to fan expectations, Colonial Marines can't be accused to dereliction of duty.
Those are mere surface details, however, and you only have to play the game for half an hour or so before you start to wish that Gearbox had invested as much time and effort in a stronger game engine and a few fresh ideas. For all the lunges it makes in the direction of movie authenticity, the game is held back by a stultifying lack of ambition and a game engine that barely works.