Games: Aliens Dark Descent takes a strategic approach to sci-fi action-inspired bug hunt

Aliens: Dark Descent
Aliens: Dark Descent

Aliens: Dark Descent (Multi)

By: Focus

EVER since John Hurt poked a leathery egg, leading to a bad case of gut-rot, phallic-bonced Xenomorphs have been raising hell at the movies – hatching over 30 videogames in the process. And, right from the off – 1982's Alien, basically Pac-Man with Ripley instead of a yellow puck – they've been largely rubbish, barring rare bright spots like 2014's Alien Isolation.

Dark Descent, however, takes its cue from James Cameron's superior sequel. Rather than a single creature picking off crewmates one-by-one, Aliens featured a gung-ho troupe of meatheads shooting everything that moves – and, like the film, its gaming spin-offs tended to be hair-trigger military blasters.

Dark Descent takes a different tack, hanging the fireworks on a point 'n' click real-time strategy game: the 1990s genre du jour for bespectacled PC shut-ins.

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Taking control of space marine unit on the moon of Lethe, where an alien outbreak has spread across the Weyland-Yutani colony, Dark Descent's premise is simple. From the downed ship Otago, players guide a gaggle of hardened grunts through a series of missions to salvage parts and get the ship airborne.

Players order their entire squad around at the same time, pausing or slowing time to issue commands like using grenades or laying suppressive fire. Controlled as a single unit, the game decides who is best equipped at any given moment to do your bidding. And though your marines will automatically engage with enemies once spotted, it's for the player to use different weapons and fighting styles.

Aliens: Dark Descent
Aliens: Dark Descent

Individual personalities must be managed, and if anyone hits their maximum fear level, bad decisions are made in the heat of a battle, meaning it's game over, man.

Turrets, mines and walls of fire will put some space between you and your foe while motion sensors help track the Xenomorphs, who roam the map as ghostly dots. Between missions you'll return to a hub world for some light RPG business, levelling-up characters and dusting them down before sending them back through the wringer.

While struggling in the visual department, there's audio fan service aplenty, with everything from the iconic chitter of the pulse rifle to the ticking of motion trackers lifted straight from its celluloid cousin.

Alas, the Xenomorphs aren't the only bugs hampering your progress, with a nest of glitches and crashes needing patched out.

Atmosphere hangs from Dark descent like dribble from a Xenomorph's fangs, and for around £30 represents a bargain – even though its strategic approach to the blockbuster mayhem will alienate Call of Duty jocks.