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Alien: Isolation

Alien: Isolation Could Be The One We’ve Been Waiting For

In space, nobody might be able to hear you scream, but we’ve grown accustomed to the sounds of disappointed sighs. Fans of the Alien movies have been burned in the past, most recently by Aliens: Colonial Marines. Developer Creative Assembly is taking a refreshing approach with Alien: Isolation. Rather than mine James Cameron’s space-marine classic Aliens for inspiration, they’re going back to where it all started: Ridley Scott’s 1979 horror film, Alien.

We scratched the game’s surface in an earlier preview, but I’m going to take a deeper dive. I was able to play and watch a demo of Alien: Isolation for several hours, and I walked away confident that this could be the Alien game that actually gets it right. Here are some of the biggest reasons I’d say fans have reason to hold onto hope. 

They're using the first film as an inspiration
The differences between Scott’s original movie and Cameron’s 1986 sequel couldn’t be starker. Scott introduced us to the xenomorph, a terrifying creature with a memorable way of making an entrance (this is your cue to clutch at your chest). Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley faced off against the alien monster as her crew dwindled one by one. It was slow-paced and terrifying. Aliens took a completely different approach. Instead of battling a single predatory beast, the film’s squad of United States Colonial Marines battled hundreds of the skittering abominations. It was thrilling in its own right, and it provided a template for games including Doom and Gears of War.

At this point, however, the things that made Aliens so much fun – Hudson’s panicked cries of “Game over, man,” Vasquez’s tough-girl attitude, the overall group dynamic – have been aped so much that they’ve lost much of their novelty. For whatever reason, Alien hasn’t inspired so many copycats, which opens up tremendous opportunities for devs like Creative Assembly.

The most obvious thing I saw was when my demo started was the game’s low-fi approach to technology. The art team was told not to use anything from beyond 1979 as inspiration, and that design mantra permeates everything you see. The game takes place in a place called Sevastapol Station, which features living quarters, shopping areas, medical facilities – the works. The areas I explored were filled with old-school touches, from huge push-button computers and incandescent lights to the way the game’s map UI buzzes and flickers onto the screen like a VHS tape with poor tracking. We don’t see many games using this era as inspiration, and it is an interesting change of pace.

Bug hunter, or bug hunted?
You can shelve your dreams of mowing through hordes of xenos. As Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s daughter, you’ve been trained to be an engineer. And unlike another famous video-game space engineer, I wasn’t armed with deadly equipment to help even the odds against the xenomorph. Instead, my mission was to get from point A to point B alive. It was tougher than it might sound.

The first time I played the demo, I wandered through the halls of Sevastapol Station until the xeno reared its ugly domed head. It skulked off down a hallway, and I pulled out my motion tracker to get a bead on it. I did my best to stay behind it, eventually finding a spot of cover. It wandered around for a while, clearly hunting for me. I waited, watching, trying to get a read on its patrol pattern. As it turns out, I probably could have waited all day.

Creative Assembly has built the alien (notice the singular there) to take advantage of its senses. If you run, it’ll hear your footsteps and head toward you. If you make the mistake of peeking out from cover just a bit too far, it’ll notice your head and attack. It can hear the sound of a locker closing, turning what you thought was a temporary refuge into a vertical coffin. 

In other words, this alien isn’t the bullet sponge you may have grown accustomed to. Amanda will eventually become armed with weapons and traps (which can be found or crafted), but she’s still far from invulnerable. Creative Assembly says the alien will learn, too. As one example, the creature could pick up on the fact that the silence between magazine reloads indicates that Amanda is temporarily vulnerable and act accordingly.

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Comments
  • This sounds like quite an exciting take. From reading the article, it seems to be comparable to Routine, which is equally exciting.

  • well, the expectation for future "alien" games is so far in the gutter that this can only hope to improve it, it can't really make it any worse. But being a much larger fan of "Alien" than "Aliens," I'm cautiously optimistic that this will be good, maybe great, but I'm not holding my breath.

  • I'm cautiously optimistic, but I won't preorder. Not after last time.
  • this looks terrifying. I must have it.

  • "One editor stuck dangerously close to the xeno, as if taunting it"

    Im gonna guess thats Dan Ryckert.

  • Sounds like this game is taking their inspiration from Dead Space.

    "You can shelve your dreams of mowing through hordes of xenos. As Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s daughter, you’ve been trained to be an engineer. And unlike another famous video-game space engineer, I wasn’t armed with deadly equipment to help even the odds against the xenomorph. Instead, my mission was to get from point A to point B alive. It was tougher than it might sound."

    Not that I really mind, Dead Space was/is a great franchise that has brought me hours of suspense gaming with a very nice difficulty.

  • Let's not have our expectations set too high. Aliens colonial marines was "great" too at one point.

  • This sounds intruiging, but I am not holding my breath.

  • Please let it be so. I've longed for an Alien game that doesn't make me want to rip my own eyes out.

  • Visually this game is a marvel, I just hope this is the same game that will come out, unlike the screwjob that was, ACM.

  • I think im sold on this game...hopefully it wont disappoint

  • I have always wanted a great Alien game that actually made you fear the creature...2010's AVP had good intentions, but was hard to truly enjoy. And I'd rather not speak on...well, you know. But this has rekindled a little bit of that flame for the game, and while I won't expect the world, I will definitely place this one on my watch-list.