The Average Gamer

Alien: Isolation Revealed for late 2014

Alien Isolation - Xenomorph
The new survival horror games based on the Alien franchise has been confirmed for 2014. Alien: Isolation is being published by SEGA, developed by Creative Assembly and a load of games journalists who aren’t me got to play a segment of it in December. Their previews went live today and by all accounts, it’s a tension-filled experience that’s inspired far more by the original 1979 film than its action-filled sequels.

The game places you in the role of Amanda Ripley, daughter of the film’s protagonist, Ellen Ripley. Set 15 years after Ellen Ripley left her daughter, Amanda learns of a message that may reveal her location.

Cara Ellison at The Guardian talked about the new setting, the Sevastopol.

Watching the original 1979 film, you notice how silence is used to unsettle, to create a sense of waiting, of dread, and of uncertainty. Creative Assembly have noticed too. To wake in the game on the Sevastopol, in the belly of a place so like the Nostromo, the vast universe peering back at you through the portholes and from behind dust motes, it’s overwhelming at first.

The doors are familiar thanks to 20th Century Fox’s set designers meticulously recording their shape and size. The gentle flutter of a familiar Jerry Goldsmith-penned flautist drifts notes over your shoulder. Everything looks as if 20th Century Fox merely left the fully functioning Nostromo drifting in space until Creative Assembly opened it back up one day and rearranged some rooms and pickups so it has became more like a puzzle.

The level designers tell me a large part of the game is performing tasks under duress of fear, solving puzzles in an environment where you know your movements draw attention to you.

Rob Crossley at CVG spoke to lead designer Clive Lindop about the AI of Creative Assembly’s xenomorph.

“The alien is trying to figure out the best way of getting to you without being spotted,” says Clive Lindop, lead designer.

Alien Isolation - Sevastopol Airlock“He’s trying to figure out an ideal position to pounce from. He’s not always going to take the direct route. The way most predators survive and control their territory is, although they are aggressive, they naturally try to avoid damage. They don’t want to run incredibly long distances to kill you, they would rather capture you by surprise. They would rather hit you from the side.”

“Whereas on a typical shooter you would have an AI that only lasts twenty seconds – come out, shoot, take cover, drop dead – this alien has to enter your world for ten, fifteen, twenty, even thirty minutes,” says Lindop.

“We want him to be unpredictable, dangerous, an unknown quantity. We want your interaction with him to be instinctive, almost animal like. Because he’s unpredictable, we wanted you to work on instinct.”

John Robertson at The Telegraph talks about the fear.

Impressively, the alien doesn’t simply repeat the same patrol patterns ad nauseam. This is evidenced by dying and loading up the same sequence and seeing (or not seeing) the alien in different places at different times and looking for you in different ways. This takes away the option of simply learning a route through trial and error and then simply running through a zone freely once you’ve perished enough times to work out where is safe and when. Of course, that not knowing where the alien is can be just as daunting as being face to face with it.

Alien Isolation - Squarehead Robot“We’ve found that players are scared when they can see the alien, because they recognise the danger and the threat it poses,” says Hope, “but we’ve also found that players are equally, if not more so, scared when they can’t see the alien, because there’s no info on what it is doing. There’s a good conflict there in terms of not wanting to see the alien, but kind of wanting to see him at the same time.”

Of course, most Alien fans have been burned too recently by the disappointing Alien: Colonial Marines to treat these previews with anything but caution. Still, it sounds promising.

Alien: Isolation will be available in late 2014 for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC.