They mostly come at night…mostly. And, it turns out, at MCM Expo, where we went hands-on with Aliens: Colonial Marines multiplayer.

In an enclosed booth at MCM that was hot enough to have been underneath some primary heat exchangers, we got to play the multiplayer mode of Aliens: Colonial Marines. The setup was simple–it was marines against Xenomorphs, and the public against representatives from developer Gearbox and publisher Sega. For the first half of the demo, we watched other people play. It was immediately apparent that different tactics must be used depending on which team you pick, with Gearbox offering an experience that’s not unlike Dead Space 2’s multiplayer mode.

Check out GameSpot Australia’s video preview of the game.

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While xenomorphs may initially seem like the weaker choice, their assortment of alien abilities more than make up for their lack of firepower. They’ve got different vision modes that allow you to see through walls, locate members of the opposing team and silently pick them off one by one. Couple this with being able to walk on the ceiling, sneak through air vents and be almost completely silent, and xenomorphs can be a very dangerous enemy for the marines. The demo we saw featured Soldiers and Lurkers–Soldiers are able to deal and take more damage, but lack the speed and increased stealthy prowess of the Lurkers. Thankfully, respawning allows you to choose your class of alien each time.

We also got to see the Crusher power up in action, which in the right hands can completely turn the tide in team deathmatch. Despite their stealthy skills, xenomorphs have no chance against a well-armed group of marines. But with the Crusher power up, you can increase your damage output with a one-hit-kill charge-attack. Used properly, you can take out a group of marines just as easily as a bowling ball takes down a set of pins. You have to choose well when to use it though, because while you’re armoured at the front, the Crusher’s weak point is its back. As we saw multiple times in the demo, charging into a corner usually spells disaster if even one marine targets your spine.

Playing as a marine has its own advantages, though. In the hands-on time we had, it was amazing to see just how quickly a group of strangers learned that the only way to survive was to hunt as a pack. Along with two weapons, the marines come equipped with a motion sensor to locate the aliens, but it’s a tad impractical. If a xenomorph surprises you (as they often do), the delay in readying your gun could be the delay that kills you. In the dark close-quarters map we played, a shotgun was your best bet. Weapons packed a punch, and while the agility of the xenomorphs presents a challenge, you can quickly learn to anticipate their movements. In Aliens: Colonial Marines, you never know what’s lurking around the corner.

We dissect the latest trailer for the game.

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While we got to play team deathmatch, a number of other modes have been confirmed for Colonial Marines. Sadly the developers weren’t at liberty to say what they might be, but added that they fit in well with the game that they’d created. While the build we played handled really nicely, fine tuning of the multiplayer mode is now underway. Weapon unlocks, a currency system, challenges and customisability have already been confirmed, and we should be seeing more later this year.

We’re looking forward to seeing more of Aliens: Colonial Marines in the coming months. It is set for release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Wii U in early 2013.

By Lucy James