Xeno-blast: Hands-on with the Aliens: Colonial Marines campaign

Gearbox's shooter locks, loads, and readies itself for the doubting masses

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Conclusion: you've got options, and in absolutely no situation is "run in on foot, clawing the air menacingly" the best one. In fact strategic sneak attacks are just about your only guaranteed kill. Claw attacks are surprisingly weak, and though it's possible to skewer someone with a tail whip for an insta-kill, it's also jaw-clenchingly difficult to pull off. Whichever class you pick, you're moving around in third person, a design choice intended to reflect the xenos' heightened sense of awareness (and lack of eyes).

In execution though, the camera can be unhelpful. Instead of running up to a wall and heading straight up it, you'll often veer off in another direction and wind up chasing your own tail. If Colonial Marines' competitive multiplayer is going to be the slow-burning hit Gearbox seems to believe it will be, that third-person camera needs work.

And we really hope it reaches a happy conclusion, because the modes we've played are well-balanced, perpetually tight and while they might not convey visionary map design, they're multi-pathed enough to keep each round unpredictable. There are many ranks to grind through online, unlocking visual customisation options, custom loadouts, legendary weapons like Hicks' shotgun and ego-caressing badges.

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But as an online experience, Colonial Marines still feels like it's climbing walls, tip-toeing tyres and taking the odd soap-beating in basic training. Day one patches seem likely, likewise regular post-release updates. But in single player and multiplayer, some people are going to ignore the wobbly floorboards and flickering lightbulbs in Colonial Marines because the license means that much.

It won't be a technical accomplishment, but by the strength of its atmosphere and its secondary purpose as a first-person Aliens encyclopaedia it's odds-on for best game carrying the name since Rebellion's 1999 effort.

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