Gearbox is absolutely on fire these days. After the unprecedented success of Borderlands, their resurrection of Duke Nukem Forever (Yeah, it sucked, but they at least got it out), and the hype surrounding Borderlands 2, it really seems like they can do no wrong.
After a recent showing of the Escape multiplayer mode from Aliens: Colonial Marines, it looks like their hot streak is far from over.
Aliens: Colonial Marines (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC [previewed])
Not unlike Left 4 Dead's Versus Mode, Escape Mode in Aliens Colonial: Marines is a 4v4 mode, tasking four marines with coordinating and surviving the onslaught of xenomorphs, four of which are player controlled. Also similar to Left 4 Dead is the extreme dependence you and your teammates will have on one another.
Escape is a co-op mode in the truest sense. If you try to run solo, whether as a marine or xenomorph, you will get wrecked. One look at the pants-wetting maps you'll be playing on, and you probably won't want to run solo anyhow.
As soon as the game booted up, I found myself and my three squad mates in a cavernous bunker. There was a small ammo cache in front of us; we knew the drill. As we stocked up on all the bullets and shotgun shells we could possibly carry, we set out to reach our first objective.
Everything went well enough at first -- we were all communicating, watching each others' backs, and otherwise playing as safe as possible. Then I noticed a fast-moving silhouette in a dark corner, and I immediately opened fire. There was no hit marker on my reticule, so I assumed that we were all safe, until I heard my teammates scream for help behind me.
Like watching Ripley's own attempt to escape LV-426, the sense of paranoia and dread when playing Escape is palpable. Colonial Marines does a great job of recreating that suspense from the Cameron film, and it really shows when playing Escape. The paranoia felt isn't an accident, either. Gearbox has deliberately designed all the Marine's objectives to require them to stop in specific spots.
So for every major checkpoint your team manages to reach, the action comes to a halt, and you are forced to defend a position for a few minutes. While the most frustrating, these moments are also the most rewarding, as it shows off your team's prowess. Of course, if you want to be the one doing the attacking, that option is available in a few different flavors.
These aren't just your garden-variety xenomorphs you're playing as. Players who control xenos will have a host of different types to make the marines struggle for every inch. One such pain is the Spitter. Essentially the xeno's answer to the Marines' ranged capabilities, the Spitter is a ranged-focused xeno that spits acid from great distances. Combine that with the extreme agility and mobility of xenomorphs, and Spitters quickly prove to be a handful. You can also chose to play as a brusier-type xeno, trading ranged capabilities for melee ones. One such ability allows you to use your tail to impale any marine you successfully sneak up on.
Sadly, we didn't get very far in the demo. To say the Gearbox employees, who played as the xenomorphs, destroyed us is an understatement. So let's just say they destroyed us. In all seriousness though, I had a blast with Escape mode. Since I was never a huge fan of the Alien films, Colonial Marines was never on my radar. In any case, it is now, and it should be on yours as well.