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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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  • Finally someone seems to get it. Aliens needs to be survival horror first and foremost or it will suck and fail to capture the spirit of the movies.

  • Sorry to say, but this snippet of a preview sounds a lot like the ones for Colonial Marines. All of this potential, none of it realized. Not even going to follow it until the review.

  • Iam sorry but if Creative Assembly is making it I have reasons to doubt it.Not only do they release games in god awful buggy states,but they also only make strategy game..

  • This is what I've been pining for. If you can tell from my avatar, I like Resident Evil. Sadly, recent incarnations have left me wanting; I miss the days of ACTUALLY limited ammo, little health, and feeling legitimately scared of most enemies in the game. It's just that uneasy feeling of being stalked, watched, or simply feeling too vulnerable: it's quite addicting, and it needs to be brought back. Let's hope they can do this right!
  • After the fiasco that Colonial Marines was, I'm gonna wait till this is actually out before getting too excited. Having said that though, if they pull off what they say they will then this will be great.

  • (sigh*)Finally(*sigh)  a survival horror alien game. This is exactly what is needed to revive the name. I just watched alien today. It's still awesome!

    Can't wait to play this maxed out on my pc :D!!!!

  • Wow.  Sounds really cool!  Can't wait to see it in action.

  • Somebody finally makes a good Alien game, and it's too effin scary for me to play it DX
  • Im not a big horror fan but i have lost all hope in creative assembly / sega puting out a finished game.