When you’re hanging around San Diego for the 2012 Comic-Con this year, there are a few things you should watch out for.  Besides crazy Prima Games staff going berserk at the Firefly panel (honestly, Joss, it was Fernando’s idea), you’ll also be able to mosey over to the Sega Arcade over at 200 Harbor Drive.  There, you can partake in the same thing we saw last month at the E3 expo – an awesome multiplayer set-up for Aliens: Colonial Marines.  Sega and Gearbox Software, the team behind the Borderlands games, are hard at work on this upcoming first-person shooter, and though it’s still months away from release (it isn’t even slated for release until early 2013), it’s shaping up to be a real contender with fans.

The multiplayer could’ve been set up with the typical first-person views, as we’ve seen in past efforts in the franchise, like Alien vs. Predator on the Jaguar and Sega’s modern retake on that series for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.  Instead, it’s a lot more balanced, so that both sides actually stand a chance of winning.  So if you choose the aliens, you certainly have faster movement and other advantages to overtaking Marines, but if you’re with the humans, you’re not automatically at a disadvantage.

Playing the mode from the Alien point of view, the action shifts to a third-person perspective, rather than the default first-person view.  This is a much better choice, as you’re able to see around you more clearly, without someone getting the sneak-up on you.  You can also move much faster than Marines, so you can get out of firing range if you’re spotted, or crawl on the ceilings while they look on the floor.  As an alien, you can attack without mercy, and even use your jaws to rip someone apart.

What’s more fascinating is when you work with your friends on a team strategy, moving out as a team in order to get the jump on each individual Marine soldier.  It’s a cool sight watching a group of Aliens successfully dispatch enemies, even if it’s a sight that isn’t quite for the squeamish.

But as we stated earlier, those who have the Marines have their own share of advantages.  They play the game from a first-person perspective, similar to what you would play in the single player campaign.  As a Marine, you have access to a number of superb weapons that could easily lay waste to Aliens, including the classic pulse rifle with the ammunition count readout and a grenade launcher that can cook anyone within its range.  We wouldn’t be surprised if Ripley’s classic flamethrower made the trip in the final game, burning Aliens to a fried crisp.

As Marines, you can also devise a strategy, as one of you can easily pull out a motion tracker to see where Aliens are on the map.  Now, this does leave that certain character defenseless for a couple of moments, as they have to switch between the tracker and the weapons, as they can’t use both at the same time.  However, you can easily fortify your surroundings and prepare yourself for incoming alien attacks.

Though we only saw the one map in the game, Gearbox did a bang-up job recreating the atmosphere of the classic James Cameron film for Colonial Marines.  Flashing lights and steam really know how to create a tense situation, as your fight between Aliens and Marines escalates.  The frame rate is quite steady throughout the heat of battle, though we have yet to see situations involving some of the larger vehicles in the game, like the walking crane machine and the huge Queen Alien.  We’re sure to get a better look at these elements later on in the game’s development cycle, well before its release.

Also, whoever worked on the sound team certainly did their homework.  Between the continuous Marine chatter that slowly but surely sets in a slight bit of panic and the howling Aliens that come at you from all sides, they really make it sound as if you’re right in the center of the movie.  What’s more, the music is pretty good too, though a bit incomplete with this demo.  We’re bound to hear more soon.

While Aliens: Colonial Marines does come with ample multiplayer support and even customization options to create your dream soldiers, there’s no option to make a female soldier.  This has been addressed in previous news reports, but Gearbox still hasn’t confirmed whether they intend to fix this in the final version.  Here’s hoping they reconsider, because, honestly, it just isn’t the same without Ripley around…

Nevertheless, Aliens: Colonial Marines looks like a movie-licensed game that should be worth the wait.  Check it out at Comic-Con next week and be sure to keep a lookout for the final product early next year.

And remember – “in space, no one can hear you scream.”