If there’s one panel that always seems to get a preposterous amount of attention at PAX Prime events, it’s Gearbox Software.  The studio behind such releases as Duke Nukem Forever, Aliens: Colonial Marines and the Borderlands series has one of the most loyal fan bases out there, judging by the hundreds of folks who waited in line for hours at the Sheraton in Seattle.  Last year’s panel was a huge success, with Randy Pitchford (president of Gearbox) and his team providing everyone with a free copy of the game (via a voucher).  What would this year’s panel bring?  Plenty of shenanigans.

After starting a bit late due to the free pizza that the company generously supplied, Randy and his team hit the stage and kicked things off talking about the new Aliens: Colonial Marines Escape Mode, which was playable on the show floor all weekend.  The mode is a 4 vs. 4 online multiplayer mode, where one team plays as heavily armed Marines while the other features different classes of aliens.  We’ll have a full report of this mode up shortly, as we played quite a bit of it.

They showed a great trailer for the new mode, and the team talked a bit about the soldiers that were featured on it as well as the collector’s edition (which comes with a special alien Hive box, a power loader figurine and DLC).  They stated that orders for this item were going quickly, and it would soon become a limited item like the Borderlands 2 Loot Chest edition had become.  Pitchford advised jumping on it immediately.

The team also revealed that Michael Biehn, the actor who played Corporal Hicks in the 1986 movie Aliens, was brought on to provide voiceovers for his character, who’s featured in the collector’s edition downloadable content for the game.  They were surprised how he was able to put such emotion into the role, even after 26 years of the movie’s original release.  (He’s in his 50’s now.)

After that, the team rolled into Borderlands 2, which got the crowd into a frenzy.  After a video that explained some of the terrain you would be rolling through and the weapons available (and yes, they used the term “bazilliondier guns” again), they began talking about customization.  Borderlands 2 has it in spades for each character, including various default outfit types, with new ones available through an upgrade system.  Some of them really went over the top, including an outfit for Zero inspired by The Joker from The Dark Knight film.  (They also showed a QUICK piece of Minecraft-inspired armor, which, sadly, won’t make it into the final game for legal reasons.)

They also talked about the Mechromancer and her abilities, such as being able to summon an assisting droid that can destroy enemies with brutal melee attacks and “thunder claps”.  She’s “just about done” being in production, according to Pitchford, and will release no later than October 16th.  Players can pay $9.99 for her, or get her for free by pre-ordering the game before release.

The game will have four packs of downloadable content coming over the next few months, and though Pitchford wouldn’t reveal what they are, he did talk about the Season Pass, where players can get all four packs in one purchase price of $29.99, $10 cheaper than buying them separately.  For good measure, Pitchford then announced that all attendees would be getting the Season Pass free of charge.

After that generous announcement, the attention turned to another game in production, Brothers In Arms: Furious Four.  Pitchford confirmed that the project was moving forward, but, as the team mentioned previously, it’s going in a new direction.  It’ll be announced as a new IP at the company’s community event, which will take place on September 15th.  We’ll have full details once they’re divulged.  As for a new Brothers In Arms game, that has yet to be confirmed, but we’ll let you know.

Aside from some Q & A and a whole lot of joking between the staff, that pretty much covered everything that the panel had to offer.  Afterwards, we got a chance to meet up with team members and even chat with Pitchford about everything Gearbox – and even got a photo with him.

Kudos to Gearbox and 2K Games for taking such good care of us during the panel.  We can’t wait to do some damage in Borderlands 2 in just a little over two weeks’ time, and Aliens: Colonial Marines in February.  It’s going to be a good year for these guys.