Alien: Isolation Preview
Let’s say you show someone the original “Alien” film, and then ask them— “Into which genre should the video game fit?” What would be the logical response? First-person shooter? Probably not, no. It’s a perfect fit for the ailing survival/horror genre and yet, over the past fifteen years or so, we’ve only received action games based on the iconic movie franchise. Now, developer Creative Assembly attempts to create a survival thriller that pays appropriate respect to the sci-fi films.
The designers have already said that we should expect a pure survival/horror title; if you’re looking for a slam-bang FPS, you’ve come to the wrong place. This is all about fear, tension, urgency and trembling fingers. You play as Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s daughter, who hasn’t heard from her mother in 15 years. When she finds out that the flight recorder from Ellen’s missing ship has been located, Amanda sets out to discover the truth behind her mother’s disappearance. The environment is disturbingly empty at times and at other times, it’s horrifically invaded by the iconic Xenomorph.
Based on what we’re hearing from the designers, this is going to be a challenging game. It’s going to task you with survival, and you won’t have a massive arsenal at your fingertips. It’s going to be even more difficult because they’re focusing on producing formidable AI, the kind that adapts to you. Creative Assembly calls it “behavioral suspect response” because the enemy will dynamically adapt to its surroundings. If he hears something, he’s going to investigate. If he senses movement, he’ll advance. On top of which, he will act and react depending on your movements and strategy.
The audio is always a big part of any absorbing, immersive atmosphere. For that reason, the team has created a soundtrack that will mirror the on-screen tension. They’re even using the London Philharmonic Orchestra (not ironically, the same group that produced the original “Alien” theme). The sound effects, from the telltale clicking and hissing of an approaching alien to the unbalanced radio communication, will solidify the chilling experience. Unsurprisingly, this is precisely the sort of audio presentation that epitomizes the word “isolation.” The score and effects will combine to make the player feel very alone, and very vulnerable.
Resources will be limited and you must take advantage of anything you can find. Occasionally, hiding might be the best course of action, considering you’ll often be ill-equipped to face a full-grown Xenomorph. The game will rely upon your tact, timing and stealthy capabilities. This doesn’t mean you’ll be hunting aliens Metal Gear Solid-style; it just means that caution is your best friend. Take care when exploring and when you catch sight of a nasty foe, don’t panic. If you’re in a strategic position, sit tight, appraise the situation, and act accordingly. This is exactly what makes survival/horror unique.
Yes, we all remember the disaster that was Aliens: Colonial Marines last year. But of course, Isolation is a very different game, and Creative Assembly took note of the poor response to Colonial Marines. They saw a great many fans saying they wanted an Alien experience that’s actually like the game; i.e., a survival/horror adventure. Although the team has been working on Isolation for a while, they were encouraged to see that response, because it means they were headed in the right direction. Now, all that remains is to nail down the technicals and mechanics, and we’ve got a winner! …right?
2/10/2014 Ben Dutka