In space, no one can hear you scream. Unfortunately the same is not true on Earth, and our E3 2014 preview of Alien: Isolation concluded that gamers who strap in for this sci-fi horror may end up embarrassing themselves in front of flatmates, significant others, neighbors and… anyone who happens to be walking by their house.
Set on Sevastopol, a remote trading facility, Alien: Isolation puts players in the quaking boots of Amanda Ripley. Amanda is attempting to find out what happened to her mother, Ellen Ripley, who disappeared two decades previously after an incident onboard mining vessel the Nostromo. Unfortunately, there’s one very big, very dangerous, “almost sentient” problem standing between Amanda and the answers she seeks.
Speaking in an interview on The Angry Joe Show, Creative Assembly lead game designer Gary Napper explained that the game takes a huge amount of inspiration from the original movie, with the team having set a rule for themselves that they wouldn’t include any tools or weapons that couldn’t have been built as physical props on set in 1978. Amanda’s ability to track the alien is limited to a very crude motion tracker that is only in 2D, and only ever shows what’s right in front of the player. In other words, the alien can sneak up on you.
The limited tech coupled with intelligent, randomized AI sounds like the perfect recipe for sustained horror, but how long can the horror be sustained for? When asked about the game’s length, Napper said that it will vary depending on the player’s approach.
“The game’s actually about 15 hours long because we’ve got so much to do with the narrative and all the different mechanics of the alien. On top of that we have the other threats about the station, we have a big long story that folds out. Also it’s a bit like a Metroidvania game where you have a linear story you go through but you can also go back and explore areas you’ve been to. You can go back to areas and find new things, explore and open up new areas. There’s a lot to do in the world.
“The difficult thing is nailing a time because people can play for absolutely ages without even seeing the alien because they’re being really careful and really stealthy, they’ve done nothing to call him down or there have been no explosions that he has come to investigate. Those people can get through it fairly quickly.”
It’s a surprising change from the norm. In most games where stealth is an option, carefully sneaking around instead of blasting through any obstacles usually extends the gameplay time significantly. As to the estimated gameplay length of 15 hours, it sounds about right for a game like Alien: Isolation – long enough to indicate plenty of environments (and narrative) to explore, but not too long that the gameplay might start to get grating. For context, BioShock and System Shock 2 had similar running times, while recent indie horror hit Outlast was about 6 hours long.
Alien: Isolation‘s environments are going to make Dead Space look positively cuddly. There are no nice enemy-free rooms filled with vending machines and tool benches to have a breather in here. As Napper puts it, “You’re never safe from the alien, but you might be able to buy yourself a few minutes.”
Alien: Isolation releases October 7, 2014 for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
Source: The Angry Joe Show