The lights are on
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 inspirationThe 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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Survival Horror always seemed like the logical genre for an Alien game. Can't wait to experience this for myself.
This reminds me of Routine a bit, and that's a good thing.
I only expect Isolation to be at least 10x better then Colonial Marines. No pressure, Creative Assembly.
With how awful Colonial Marines is I would think there is no way this game could be worse. Colonial Marines was pure garbage.
…..I'm feeling the tides of a bomb. Don't get me wrong, chill your butthurt. I want this game. I really do. I'd be thrilled to play a game described like this. But I'm sensing rinse and repeated: GameInformer finds a game they really like on demo (which, reminding, has all the shiny, scary, pretty parts and is glossed up to get good reviews), tells us how awesome is is/could be (Remember Me) and then when it finally hits shelves, the review is meh. I'm getting a deja vu here.
It certainly looks interesting, and I really like the Alien franchise. I want this to be the best.
I'm so excited for this! I can't believe Gearbox dropped the ball like they did. This definitely seems good, though. I usually stray away from scary games. Alien terrified me when I was a kid, and for some reason I've always been drawn to it. Hopefully this scares the hell out of me again. Could you imagine it with the Oculus rift?
Forgetting the franchise entirely, this game looks like a genuinely entertaining experience on its own right. My curiosity is piqued enough to spend some money on it.
Forgive me for pointing out the obvious:
"Alien: Isolation Could Be The One We’ve Been Waiting For"
That's what they said about Colonial Marines.
Sounds like it will be great. Which I really hope it is. I mean, using the first movie (the best one IMO) as inspiration, one xeno instead of dozens coming at you, team can't put technology older than 1979 in the game (don't know why but I like that). Gonna keep my eyes on this for sure.
sweet, its like a better dead space
While I hesitate to start ringing the victory bells after everyone got burned last time, a true Amnesia-style survival horror game could be just the shot in the arm this franchise needs. Will keep a lookout.
now this is what I want to see!