Easily one of the most disappointing game franchises of the last decade, Alien brand titles were an underwhelming, and downright disappointing, entry in the Xbox 360 and PS3 console generation – a far cry from the high bar set by Alien vs. Predator back in the mid-90s. Despite claims from Rebellion Studios that Aliens vs. Predator was going to serve as a spiritual successor to the early days of first-person Xenomorph-themed shooters, most gamers found the end result underwhelming. Hope was renewed when it was revealed that Sega intended to develop a story-focused sequel to James Cameron’s Aliens – focused on a squad of Colonial Marines facing off against an alien horde. Unfortunately, even with a team full of franchise fans at Gearbox Software, Aliens: Colonial Marines became one of the biggest disappointments of 2013.
Months later, Sega confirmed development on yet another Alien game – with Creative Assembly at the helm. Once again, promises are being made that this time a new developer will finally get an Alien game adaptation right; yet, ignoring all of Sega’s failed attempts, there’s reason to be optimistic. Now, thanks to E3 2014, the publisher has released a slew of fresh details on the upcoming project, titled Alien: Isolation.
First of all, Creative Assembly has put together an all-new gameplay trailer (which you want view at the top of the page) – showcasing their unique approach to developing a story and atmosphere worthy of the Alien brand. Unlike recent efforts, Alien: Isolation does not feature multiplayer and forgoes traditional shooter gameplay in favor of survival horror. Where Colonial Marines threw a brainless squad of alien drones straight at the player, the Isolation developers promise that their Xenomorph is “almost sentient” – an intelligent AI character that can adapt to a gamer’s tactics and play style.
Aiding the studio in their end goal of delivering an interactive experience that’s just as immersive and tense as the original Alien film, Isolation also features a character-focused storyline – one with direct connections to the first film. In the game, players take control of Amanda Ripley – the young daughter of series heroine Ellen Ripley – who, nearly two decades later, is investigating her mother’s disappearance. Amanda’s search for answers leads her to a remote trading facility, Sevastopol, where the flight recorder from Ellen Ripley’s ship, the Nostromo, is being held. Of course, when Amanda actually arrives at Sevastopol, she finds the facility has been ravaged by an unknown entity.
Based on the trailer, it’s clear that Creative Assembly is staying true to their survival horror vision for the Isolation – which, if they pull it off, should make for some truly nerve-racking gameplay. The design philosophy appears, so far, to prioritize atmosphere over action – an approach that will only be made more intense through the power of Oculus Rift.
Confirmation of Oculus Rift support arrived on the first morning of E3 – in a post on the official Oculus Rift blog. While the announcement borrows heavily from an early synopsis for Isolation, a few subtle tweaks definitely showcase why the game is a smart match for virtual reality:
Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation is a new survival horror game set in the Alien universe. A terrifying experience, particularly in virtual reality, Isolation is all about survival.
In the E3 Rift demo, you’ll use every tool at your disposal to escape from a ruthless Alien in the wreckage of your spaceship. Underpowered and underprepared, you’ll scavenge resources and improvise solutions; not just to succeed, but to survive.
Without a doubt, Isolation is poised to be one of the more interesting titles scheduled for fall 2014 but, in spite of atmospheric trailers, it’s still unclear what players will spend the majority of their time doing in the actual game. This isn’t to say that Creative Assembly doesn’t have a plan or won’t succeed in their vision, where others have failed, but most of the footage and images we’ve seen (so far), coupled with the suggestion that gamers will be scavenging resources and improvising solutions, make it hard to comprehend the full scope of the project.
A new PlayStation Blog post offers a glimpse at aspects of the game that have yet to be fully detailed but we still have a long way to go before all of Isolation‘s secrets have been unveiled:
Human survivors – abandoned on the remote space station the game takes place on. They’re in the same position as the player, they too are desperate to survive and that makes them unpredictable. Sometimes they react positively to the player, sometimes they can be aggressive.
Seegson Synthetics (seen in the trailer and the image gallery) – rudimentary, bio-mechanical creations. They too are hard to read. Sometimes their presence is beneficial, but it’s not guaranteed. Built to last, any form of antagonism should be avoided.
Crafting System. This allows items and components found in the world to be combined into rough and ready improved tools and devices that, if used in the right place at the right time, might just improve your chances of surviving. For example the Noisemaker – an unusual, hastily created, electrical device with two speakers on either end. When thrown into the world it creates a lot of noise, attracting the attention of anything nearby and allowing the player to slip past unnoticed.
Check out new images of the game, along with Amanda, the Alien, Seegson Synthetics, and the Noise Maker below (click to enlarge):
Isolation isn’t an indie game, it’s a large undertaking that will need to appeal to a wide range of gamers – and for casual buyers (the ones that help push blockbuster IPs into financial success), it might be a tough sell. That said, strong reviews and word of mouth go a long way – meaning that if Creative Assembly can hook hardcore gamers with a terrifying story set in an atmospheric future sci-fi work, there’s reason to think casual consumers will follow suit.
No doubt, players are interested in a quality game experience set in the Alien (and Predator) universe; however, in the last few years, Sega has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the franchise. If Isolation fails to live up to its lofty ambitions, it might be time for the publisher to let this franchise take a lengthy cryosleep.
Alien: Isolation releases October 7, 2014 for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.