Things You Might Miss In Alien: Isolation
I did a little preparation before sitting down with Alien: Isolation– watching the Blu-ray release of Ridley Scott's 1979 film, Alien. As far as homework goes, you can do a lot worse. The film is just as great now as I remembered it. It'd been a while since I last watched it (my first viewing, inexplicably, was in a fifth-grade classroom), and I was struck by its pacing, style, and atmosphere. It was clearer than ever why The Creative Assembly treated it with such reverence. Playing the game the following day, I noticed several nods and references to the movie, some overt, some subtle. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for when you start your own journey.
Alien: Isolation comes out October 7, which means you have plenty of time to schedule your own Alien screening. If you're planning on picking up the game, I strongly suggest you watch it again – either for the first time (GASP!) or to refresh your memory. It'll give you a greater appreciation for the world that The Creative Assembly has built for the game, and, as a bonus, it also happens to be one of the best horror movies of all time.
- The references start off right from the beginning. Alien has a memorable opening sequence, as the letters in the film's title slowly fade into view, line by line. Alien: Isolation pulls a similar trick, though players get a jarring new look at the sequence. The camera is pulled in tighter in the game's opener, pulling in close as though we're seeing it unfold on an ancient CRT. The edges of the text are fuzzy, and it's a disorienting way to begin.
- After an introductory cutscene, players begin their journey to Sevastopol Station on The Torrens. This ship is clearly inspired by The Nostromo, and they share a similar scale and décor. It's a strange feeling to wander through its padded halls, particularly if you took my advice and recently watched the film. Keep an eye out for little touches like helmets on the bridge that look a lot like the ones featured in this clip.
- I'll have to wait to see if I was losing my mind, but in one of the early sections of the game I'm pretty sure I heard a cat. There's also a note on one of the security terminals about one of the furry critters. It's unlikely that Jonesy made a stopover at the station, but cats and interstellar travel continue to be intertwined in the Alien fiction. Cleaning out a litter box is certainly easier than opening a hatch and letting the dog outside. And better for the dog, too.
- When you watch the movie again (you're going to do that, right?), you might pick up on something that I found a little jarring: People smoke a whole lot in Alien. Either oxygen isn't in short supply in the 1979 version of the future, or Scott didn't predict our changing societal attitudes toward the habit. At any rate, it's a big part of Alien: Isolation, too. Sevastopol Station is littered with cigarette packs and you can hide behind cases of them during enemy encounters. When I brought it up with The Creative Assembly, they pointed out a fun Easter egg: The in-game brand is a shoutout to Balaji Badejo, the man who wore the alien suit in the film.
In addition to some of these subtler references, Alien: Isolation hearkens back to Alien in other ways.
- For example, while you won't see them until later, flamethrowers are used to keep the creature at bay the same way Dennis Parker's improvised device was used to scare it out of the ventilation shafts. You're not going to be frying up the creature, but it's certainly wary of flames and will avoid it – and you – if you wield it correctly.
- The uneasy relationship between humans and androids is also explored. Seegson Corporation's Working Joes aren't meant to integrate into society; with their obviously phony skin and robotic mannerism, they wouldn't fool anyone, either. Weyland-Yutani's synthetics have long been a source of friction, and that could manifest itself in the game, too. One of Amanda Ripley's crew members, a company man named Samuels, gives off a serious synthetic vibe, though I didn't see anything resembling confirmation in my demo. Even if my hunch is correct, there's no way to know if he'll be like Alien's Ash or the sequel's Bishop.
Alien: Isolation comes out October 7, and you've got homework. After you've played the game, pop back in the comments and let me know if you picked up on any other fun references. And for more on Alien: Isolation and and horror games in general, check out our hub page.