The original Alien is an incredible film. Arguably the granddaddy of space horror, it took the 70's corporation paranoia into the black, littered flawed and earnest characters throughout a floating factory and gave birth - quite literally - to one of the most terrifying creatures in cinema history.
Alien has developed a rich and varied franchise, with somewhere between 2-7 films (depending on what films you choose to ignore - I'm looking at you, Alien 3), books, comics, toys, and of course, video games to flesh out its world.
And it wasn't until Develop's ‘An Audience with Alien: Isolation' last night that it was made clear to me how far away from that original vision the franchise has snowballed. Creative Assembly - the team behind the new IP Alien: Isolation, showed us what the Alien originally was, rather than what we think we remember. Appearing in the original film for only 3 minutes, he was a tall, hulking, and crafty, stalking, hiding in shadows and even occasionally sleeping throughout the Nostromo, not the superhuman quadruped killing machine he evolved into in later years.
I'll be with you as soon as I finish this level of Angry Birds guys. Talk amongst yourselves.
It's this Alien - Ridley Scott's original vision - that Creative Assembly are re-introducing in Isolation. Set 15 years after the events of the first film, you play as Amanda Ripley, Ellen's daughter, trying to find out what happened to her mother and the Nostromo on the edge of space. Things obviously take a turn for the terrifying when everyone's favourite Xenomorph turns up and tries to murder you to death in a number of horrible ways, and Amanda is forced to fight to stay alive in a degrading space station.
While that simple description may cause gamers to jump to thoughts of Dead Space let me assure you, this is different. There's only one Xeno throughout the entire game, and you won’t be lining up a tasty headshot as soon as he pops out - you'll be running for your sweet, screaming life at the mere suggestion of his presence. As much as Hollywood might make you think teenagers can handle anything, Amanda is grossly under prepared for any kind of combat with the living embodiment of hot death, so you might want to try diving into that nearby locker and praying for spare space pants rather than challenging old melon head to fisticuffs.
Come on son! Let’s have some!
Creative Assembly took the time to show how pants-wettingly scary this game is going to be by explaining the Alien's behaviour. Not patterns - behaviour. The Alien isn't scripted, it's not going to pop out of the same hole every time you play through. He thinks, learns and acts from sensory input - noises alert his attention, movement draws his eye. He assesses the situation - has it been too long since he saw you and he's given up? Does he know you're here somewhere and accelerates his search? Does he think you've bested him too many times so decides to take it personally and go all out bonkers? He's got free roam of the multi-pathed levels and could be anywhere, and I do mean anywhere; behind the next corner, curled up in the ceiling, slinking beneath the floor, standing right behind you...
And that's what made the Alien so iconic in the first film, despite being in it for a mere 3 minutes - he was everywhere, without being on screen. The greatest fear of all is the fear of the unknown, and that's what Isolation has in spades - you don't know where he is. Creative seemed to have gone to great lengths to capture that bone chilling fear in what they described as "the Alien game we always wanted to play."
Their presentation was clear, informative, entertaining, but mostly, terrifying. This game is actually scary to watch, let alone play. These guys seem to really know what they're doing and what they want to achieve, and it certainly seems like they're going to succeed. The product is so strong, in fact, that it may be good enough to completely erase the throbbing disaster that was Alien: Colonial Marines from history completely.
Colonial Marines; the answer to the question "Could anything be worse than Alien: Resurrection?"
My trembling, sweaty fingers are crossed in hope that it is, as I weep uncontrollably from my cupboard and pray he doesn't find me.