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Hands-On: Aliens: Colonial Marines Escape Mode

The folks at Gearbox Software must really love Left 4 Dead, and honestly, who can blame them? Valve's survival horror first-person shooter is one of the best we've seen on Xbox 360, with the multiplayer mode a real standout, pitting the desperate humans against the zombie horde. Anyway, the reason I feel that the Texas-based developer has a love for this franchise is because of the latest inclusion in their upcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines:

Get ready for Escape Mode.

Aliens

In Escape Mode, you'll notice quite a bit in common with Left 4 Dead's multiplayer. It's a four versus four stand-off online through Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, with four Marines on one side and four Aliens on the other. Your job as the Marines is to make it through certain checkpoints, or safe rooms (wink) before reaching a final objective within the allotted time limit. As the Aliens, of course, your job is to stop these Marines before they get there.

I recently has the chance to go hands-on with Escape Mode this past week at PAX Prime, and needless to say, I found it enormously entertaining – even playing as the poor humans.  See, there are perspectives to each side that serve an advantage.  On the Marines side, you're playing the whole thing in a first-person perspective, using weapons like the pulse rifle and a motion tracker as you move from point to point.  Meanwhile, on the Aliens side, you're playing in a third-person perspective, giving you a better lay of the land, as well as positioning of your character, so you can track Marines rather easily.

Aliens

Now, the Marines may not have the advantage when it comes to agility, but they've got plenty of firepower, which they can stock up on in the "safe rooms".  They can also pick up turrets over the course of the game, similar to the ones you saw in the deleted cut of the film, firing on everything that moves within their range.  Meanwhile, with the Aliens, you have four different character types, including ravagers that like to strike up close and "spitters" that can shoot acid from a distance, making them ideal picks for those who usually go with snipers.  They're good for distance attacks.

Unfortunately, during the demo, we only got to play on the Marine side, but Gearbox continued to demonstrate their knack for making quality first-person shooting click.  Playing as the Marines not only felt fluid, but also quite turbulent, running through the creepy hallways and outdoor spaces while continuously swinging around, looking for aliens that might be popping out of nowhere.  The developer has done a splendid job recreating the tension of the Aliens film in the game, and the locations are great, especially in the indoor environments, packed with creepiness including dripping alien ooze and plenty of eggs that look ready to hatch.

Aliens

Perhaps the most impressive effect, however, are the aliens themselves.  They move rather smoothly, whether they're spitting at you from afar or running in for the kill, clawing you with everything they've got while breathing heavily over you.  The Marines are no slouches, though, as they look pretty menacing in their own right – even if they do just have guns to defend themselves.

My team got wiped out pretty quickly by the aliens during our play session (blame it on the noobs who couldn't get off the damn elevator), but it did give me an idea just how much fun the mode will be.

Aliens

We'll probably get the opportunity to play as the alien side this coming weekend at Gearbox's community day event in Texas, so be sure to check back for GameZone's follow-up impressions.  In the meantime, I suggest getting a good team together now, as Aliens: Colonial Marines isn't too far off from its February 2013 release…

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Robert Workman
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