Even though I’ve never been a huge fan of the Alien franchise (I have seen the first & second movies), it was hard for me to miss the explosive reaction a lot of gamers had to the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines earlier last year. And although I didn’t play the game myself, I could understand the reason they were citing for being annoyed. Anyone would be upset if a franchise they loved wasn’t given the care it deserved. But after hearing the news that a new Alien game is in production, I can’t help wondering if maybe Gearbox’s massive goof will unfairly taint gamers’ expectations of what sounds to be a massively different game.
The Creative Assembly, the developers behind the Total War series, announced over that they’re working on Alien: Isolation. Unlike previous Alien games, Isolation is set as a first-person, survival-horror, stealth game. Gamers will take control of Amanda Ripley, who is searching for her mother’s whereabouts after she disappeared fourteen years earlier, after the events in Alien. Amanda’s search leads her to a space station that’s been terrorized by an alien. Armed with only a motion tracker & flashlight in the beginning, Amanda’s tale is one of survival rather than of balls-to-the-wall action.
My first impression of the game is that it’s what you would get if you mixed Alien with Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Avoiding the Alien is really you’re only line of defense. I think later in the game Amanda can craft defensive weapons to give her a momentary edge over the alien, but she has no offensive means. Like any good survival-horror game, the tension comes from facing a threat you can’t defeat & don’t always know where it’s at.
The alien (because there is apparently only one) is an omnipresent threat throughout the game. It’s the obstacle that always stands in the way of your goal. But that doesn’t mean it will always be around. While it very much hunts you in the game (according to The Creative Assembly it can track you by sight, sound & smell) it sounds as if there are sections where it’s not there. This is a step in the right direction, because if you look at what made Amnesia so terrifying, it was never knowing when something was going to pop up. Like a good horror movie, good horror games know when to play the monster card & when to hold back. If you see something all the time, it gets less scary. And that seems to be the direction The Creative Assembly is taking their game.
There’s also supposed to be a group of survivors on the station that may help or hinder Amanda. Fear, selfishness & betrayal are bound to rear their ugly heads, making things difficult for our protagonist. But that’s something that also lends to the authentic, genuine feel of the game. Paranoia thrives in situations like this.
Not a lot of game mechanic details have been released yet. Isolation is supposed to be around ten hours long. Creative Assembly is placing a lot of emphasis on the player’s choices in the game. But at this point that seems to refer more to the path you take to reach your goal (for example, whether to creep around the alien or make break for it) rather than having various solutions to the problems you’ll face.
It’s set to release something later this year on all consoles, current & next-gen.