Feature Article

Alien Isolation: Is This The Alien Game You've Been Waiting For?

Survival of the fittest.

by

Perched high above the desks of the artists, designers, and programmers of Creative Assembly are two screens. For three long years, they've been playing Alien on loop, and the motion trackers, burst chests, and exploding air locks of Ridley Scott's seminal sci-fi classic are being ingrained into each and every pixel the team produces. There are rooms where the film's original score is augmented and morphed into new melodies, and the screams of a xenomorph are meticulously tweaked for just the right amount of gut-wrenching terror. Walls are covered with original prop schematics and costume designs, photos of the cast are littered around desks, and old VHS copies of the film are stretched and played with a jiggled scart cable to create a lo-fi look.

It's a reassuring sight for any fan who has been burned by the likes of Aliens: Colonial Marines and Aliens vs. Predator. That Alien Isolation is based on Alien rather than the more obvious choice of the gun-happy Aliens is a refreshing move too. The claustrophobic corridors of the game aren't stacked high with flamethrowers and plastic explosives, nor are they packed with dozens of canine-like xenomorphs of the kind seen in Aliens. It's just you, armed with nothing but a motion detector and a prayer. Alien Isolation is survival horror in its most lean and terrifying form: there's not even a HUD overlay to break immersion--and if you actually see the alien, chances are it's the last thing you do.

Alien Isolation started life three years ago as a small demo that lay the concept bare: few weapons, a focus on the lo-fi sci-fi aesthetic of the original film, and a single, terrifying alien on the hunt. It's a testament to the strength of the original demo that Isolation has strayed little from its original concept, although naturally, things have been smartened up a tad. There's a story featuring Ripley's daughter Amanda, who, 15 years after last seeing her mother, is sent by Weyland-Yutani to recover the flight recorder of the Nostromo aboard a remote trading station. The visuals are sharp too, being suitably dark and moody, yet paying great homage to the film's stark set designs. There's even a fuzzy, VHS-like grain to get the nostalgia juices flowing.

Alien Isolation is survival horror in its most lean and terrifying form.

Much like the film, the action's all very restrained; the tension is maintained with a rising orchestral score, the mechanical clunk of a door, and the looming threat of a xenomorph attack. Exploring the station means keeping a watchful eye on the motion tracker (which also acts as a guide towards mission goals), with its sporadic beeps raising the heart rate far more than an alien onslaught and a flamethrower ever could. Objects from the station's missing crew litter each room, with a toy robot's random musings providing a brief respite from the horror. Many of the objects can be collected, and while they had no use in the demo, I'm told that a crafting system is in the works to let you create small weapons and traps to solve puzzles and launch the odd counterattack.

Without the luxury of a weapon, stealth was the only option in the demo; I went from solving a plasma cutting puzzle to experiencing an alarming power cut to hunkering under a desk, as both Amanda and I were in a blind panic. I couldn't see the alien at this point, but the hefty clunk of its feet on the metal floor and its bloodcurdling howls were paralysing; I simply couldn't bring myself to move from underneath the desk. Only after taking a few minutes to regain my composure did I crawl my way towards a door and try to escape.

Holding the motion tracker out in front of me, I tried to sneak away and keep the alien at a distance. But it was clever. Earlier I was shown the impressively complex decision trees used to bring the alien to life, making it actively track a player's position within the world and hunt, rather than just move along a scripted path. Certainly, I never had the same experience twice, and a single misplaced footstep or an overeager glance would cause the alien to come hurtling towards me. This is an absolutely terrifying experience when it happens. A certain panic set in as the beeps of the motion tracker got closer together; I wanted to do nothing more than run as fast as humanly possible to get out of there. Naturally, the alien was faster.

When faced with a 10-foot xenomorph (increased from 7 feet in the movie) and absolutely nothing in the way of defence, panicking is a natural reaction. That very reaction is precisely what makes Alien Isolation so terrifying, and so different to anything else that has come before in the Alien franchise. That feeling of utter helplessness, of knowing that you're completely outclassed by a superior being is at the heart of the film, and is skilfully re-created here. Hiding in lockers as the alien presses its horrifying face up to the vents and peeking over cover to catch a glimpse of its spindly tail are incredibly tense moments. So tense, in fact, that I'm not eager to experience them again in a hurry.

Alien Isolation isn't for the faint of heart. It's hard, unnerving, and utterly ruthless, which is exactly the way it should be. After years of battling endless streams of aliens with a pulse rifle, it's nice to be reminded exactly how scary they can be. Granted, SEGA and Creative Assembly certainly aren't strangers to an impressive demo, only for the final product to wind up a little disappointing. But with three years of development already under its belt, Alien Isolation is off to an impressive start--one that's mostly enough to make me forget about the shambles that was Aliens: Colonial Marines. Mostly.

Discussion

286 comments
PCgameFan
PCgameFan

Rule number one:Demo means nothing.

Nickolai1979
Nickolai1979

VHS has grain? Film has grain, like you mentioned in the Video Preview, Mark. Anyway, I am looking forward to this game. Nice preview, Mark.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

Looks intense. I actually enjoyed aliens vs predator, it could have been better, but I thought I got my monies worth. I hope this one turns out as great as it sounds.

Freboy
Freboy

I really hope this game turns out well... People should be rewarded for trying to make an Alien game that isn't an "Alien hunt" game.

Samslayer
Samslayer

Whoa, that preview looks impressive! However, I did have roughly the same feeling when A:CM was announced.

HowlPendragon
HowlPendragon

Damn, I was feeling a bit scared for him when he started peeking at the alien.

Looks promising.

killip
killip

Graphics look really great. This looks like it's going in all the right directions, but I'm still going to proceed with caution. A:CM was one of the worst games... ever.


I'm also curious to see how they'll spawn an entire game from the material they have. It looks like a tense, fun demo, but can they create an entire game from it? It could fall prey to some serious repitition if they're not careful.

And it's a shame they had to use Ripley's daughter. Couldn't they have just used a new character?

Still, it looks promising.

lfebaggins
lfebaggins

I don't even care if turns out good, it has a shot, they still find a way to wreck the legacy more.  Why do all these newer Alien games have these hack writers who come up with the idea to tie-in to the movie lore.  They ruin Hick's character in A:CM, hard to believe it could have gotten any worse than getting killed off 5 min. into Aliens 3, but they managed to find a way.  Now they will find a way to mess up Ripley's kid.

egger7577
egger7577

Wait, wasn't this ship destroyed in the original film? How does her daughter come back to it 15 years later and why by herself? Still looks really cool though.

Nev3rtime
Nev3rtime

Looks good. Not sure how it'll play. A more sophisticated variation of that sender man game?

Once you get the hang of the game, and learn the limits of the monster, will you be able to sneak up behind the alien and poke it with a stick?

Will you forever be hoping you don't randomly make a wrong turn?

Will the motion sensor ensure the majority of deaths are though your incompetence or impatience rather than chance?

We'll have to see how it pans out, but it looks like a great move for the franchise.

TheSerpent
TheSerpent

Finally they are making the alien game that we fans have been waiting for years and years. One single tall alien drone. Pure AI. Retro sci-fi scenarios. Its you vs the alien, nothing more was ever needed. 






 

Gravity_Slave
Gravity_Slave

Can't be any worse than that garbage Gearbox left us.  Colonial Marines should of been CoD killer.  They could have had the best SP campaign (its already there!).  Then they could have had a MP side that was based off (Not a direct translation) of the Aliens Universe.  Think Counter Strike/Day of Defeat did with Half Life.  The MP could have branched into all different directions keeping things fresh.  But noo...Randy Pitchford decided he was going to ruin yet another legacy franchise (ala' Duke Nukem)

ecurl143
ecurl143

Colonial Marines has a lot to answer for - not only by ripping me off with a craptastic game but the legacy it leaves behind it regarding anything Alien(s) related - yeah, unfortunately, that sort of experience tends to leave you tarring every other developer with the same brush but thankfully, this preview has re-kindled my interest.

Hell of a lot of pressure on CA to deliver on this one though, given the travesty that was ACM.

meatz666
meatz666

Bad news.

Already saw TV and Internet Ad for this game. 

Again, more money on marketing, less in gameplay.

What a shame.

ZXspectr
ZXspectr

As a truly alien 1 fan I can safely say that this game looks very scary and promissing! but so was A:CM preview. Don't fail me again... Sega.

diskotheque
diskotheque

If they truly want to scare you why in the world would they give you a motion tracker that reveals the location of the alien? The game looks like it borrows heavily from Amnesia and Penumbra, but what made those games so great was that (aside from a few scripted sequences early on) you had no idea where or when a creature was going to show up.

TheSargeGuy
TheSargeGuy

Your works are good Creative Assembly don't fail me now.

jer_1
jer_1

Wow, I watched the vid last night and was pleasantly surprised at how good this looks. Please don't fail me now CA! :D


Bhemont
Bhemont

Hah, gameplay looks impressive.  You got my curiosity CA.  

vadagar1
vadagar1

warning warning *sirens going off in the back ground* you have 10 minutes to reach minimum safe distance *sirens*

bottaboomstick
bottaboomstick

the article has me excited. it's exactly what alien fans want. but i will be hesitant with my purchase.

skipper847
skipper847

There not getting any of my money after they lied about Alien Colonial Marines. SEGA Should be Shut Down and give the rights to some one else..

altairdarius
altairdarius

colonial marines was a piece of garbage !! but this looks fun. kind of outlast but escaping from an alien. can't wait

Printul_Noptii
Printul_Noptii

looks awesome :D Will this be also available for PC or just consoles ?

gamefreak215jd
gamefreak215jd

First time Creative Assembly's doing a horror title.Looks interesting so far.

cousinmerl
cousinmerl

this sounds really interesting. could it be the alien title that breaks the chain of failures?

Dougsmoog
Dougsmoog

Still a bit delicate after Colonial Marines, wound is healed but I'll be scarred for a while.  The video review looks awesome however, what platforms will it be released on and when?  Oh and great 'Mostly' reference :^)

Tao_and_Zen
Tao_and_Zen

Wow, looks awesome! It's gonna be a long year (if release date is accurate).

silverwings21
silverwings21

For the love of god, don't let this be a linear, scripted experience. Please Creative Assembly look to Alien vs Predator for the Atari Jaguar for inspiration: where you can freely explore a giant ship (3 if you count the alien & predator ships); where all the items & enemy placements are randomized so it's a different experience every time you play; and also no boring, tear-the-controller-from-your-hand scripted events.    

John Dettman Jr.
John Dettman Jr.

This game is gonna be epic well if u like slenderman type of game and dark environments anyways.

C-THREE
C-THREE

looks good but people are going to be wary after that colonial marines burn.

trucker84
trucker84

Finally a TRUE survival horror game coming to consoles and pc's everywhere. I'll be looking forward to this game !

fallin75
fallin75

This game actually looks cool, I don't know how anyone could think Aliens: Colonial marines was going to be any good, the gameplay of that game looked like shit in the trailers and the final game actually ended being worse. It really wasn't a surprise to me.

stev69
stev69

@egger7577 Read the article mate, it clearly states you are at a "trading post" to recover the flight recorder of the Nostromo, not aboard the Nostromo itself.

meatz666
meatz666

@ecurl143 Why did you buy ACM, after so many bad reviews?

McDog3
McDog3

@diskotheque It fits exactly with the theme of the movie.  Hearing those bips get closer and closer (without knowing exactly where it will come from) would be more frightening honestly.  Without the tracker, by the time you see the alien it'd be too late to go run and hide or grab something to defend yourself.  Sidenote, the creatures in Amnesia/Penumbra are completely scripted - they show up in the exact same spot and follow the exact same path every time you play, so after a couple of failed sequences you can predetermine where you need to be and when to stay hidden.

meatz666
meatz666

@diskotheque The motion tracker might malfunction or stop working... That would be a nice twist.

ziproy
ziproy

@skipper847 They publish it, Creative Assembly makes it.


They also made the excellent Total War series. Not much experience with anything other than RTSs so it'll be interesting to see if they know what they're doing.

jer_1
jer_1

@skipper847 Does Sega have anything to do with this game other than in name? I frickin' hope not, they suck at all things gaming these days. Hopefully they have zero input in this games development.



Carpetfluff
Carpetfluff

@silverwings21 The Alien is A.I. controlled and set to hunt you. It's not on a path, so other than for specific story beats, I don't think there will be a lot of scripted gameplay moments.