Last year brought us the travesty that was Aliens: Colonial Marines. Between Ridley Scott being involved with storyboarding the game and developer Gearbox Software being given license to make the game canon, potential was vast, but execution was deeply flawed—the game launched as a buggy, derivative, universally panned mess, rather than the tightly focused piece of survival horror gamers were hoping for. This year, developer The Creative Assembly took a stab at getting the IP back on track, taking E3 by storm with Alien: Isolation, and early word is this game does not disappoint.
Oh, and did we mention they reunited the cast of Alien for the game’s first DLC? Bet we’ve got your attention now.
Alien: Isolation is set 15 years after the Nostromo’s disappearance, as Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, volunteers herself for a mission to retrieve the ship’s black box in an attempt to learn more about her mother’s disappearance. That this game is titled Alien is telling, as it’s very much influenced and inspired by Ridley Scott’s original film in both premise and atmosphere. Alien: Isolation boils the franchise down to its core essence: a protagonist stranded on a space station with an alien, trying to escape before they’re discovered. Indeed, in this way, The Creative Assembly seems to have taken a page from Rebellion’s 1999 masterpiece, Aliens versus Predator—the motion tracker makes a triumphant return as both your lifeline and a constant source of panic, and the player is almost always hopelessly underpowered against the alien. You’ll find weapons and other things to craft around the station, but they’re more likely to be of use against the other human survivors or wandering androids—each of which can either be of help or a hindrance as you try to stay alive.
The most notable aspect of gameplay thus far is how much weight every decision you make or action you take carries. There are repercussions to everything. You can sprint from one room to another to get to a safe zone more quickly, but you run the risk of bringing the alien to you by making more noise. You can use your motion tracker to track where the alien is in relation to you, but if you use it too often, the lights will attract the alien. Leave a door or air lock open? The alien’s going to take a closer look to investigate. You can use weapons to take down hostile human survivors and androids, but the noise will—you guessed it—bring the alien right to you. And while weapons will serve you well at points in the game, the best they’ll do against the alien is slow it down for a while. Maybe.
You can check out some incredibly atmospheric stealth gameplay footage from E3 here to get a better sense of how various environmental factors and different characters color the nature of the game, and alternately help and hinder you in your escape.
All this and we haven’t even gotten to one of the best aspects of Alien: Isolation—pre-ordering the game gives you access to what might just be the coolest DLC pre-order bonus ever: the Nostromo Edition. These missions take place shortly after Brett’s death in the original Alien, and Ripley, Dallas, and Parker are all playable characters. Best of all, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, and of course, the inimitable Sigourney Weaver are all back to reprise their roles. Missions play out as “what if” scenarios, allowing gamers to explore what else could have happened during specific film-based scenarios, such as when the crew attempts to flush the alien out of the vents and into the air lock, and the climactic sequence where Ripley must activate the Nostromo’s self-destruct sequence and escape via the Narcissus shuttle.
Alien: Isolation launches October 7, 2014 for PC, PS3/4, and Xbox 360/One.
In other gaming news this week, another Civilization game is on the way, Gods Will Be Watching forces you to kill everyone you’ve ever loved, and a little slice of gaming history is returned to its creator. Read on!
- If you’ve been itching for a new Civilization fix, listen up: Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth finally has a release date. The new Civ takes place in, well, space, and is a sci-fi themed entry to the popular series. The game launches for PC on October 24.
- You’ll be glad to know that the impending launch of Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 Remix is not holding back development on Kingdom Hearts III, according to game director Tai Yasue. Were we the betting sort, we’d say it’s very likely we’ll get a glimpse of KH III at next year’s E3.
- Gods Will Be Watching, a 2D throwback to the Sierra adventure games of yore, places you in the shoes of a space captain forced to make a series of gut-wrenching moral decisions to save the universe. Check out the first gameplay trailer below.
- The Zelda preview we saw at E3 looked like an open world game and played like an open world game, but is it an open world game? Not in the strictest sense, according to creator and gaming legend Shigeru Miyamoto, but the term is close enough for his purposes.
- Microsoft’s Kinect hardware is hitting PCs next week, which potentially paves the way for a renewed burst of interest in motion sensing development.
- Any fan of the Sega Genesis or of Sonic the Hedgehog owes it to themself to read Heidi Kemps piece in the Atlantic about first discovering, then gifting, a lost piece of gaming history back to its creator.
- Xbox One exclusive third-person action game Sunset Overdrive was one of E3’s surprise hits this year. The game launches this October, but in the meantime, check out the mutant murderin’ mayhem in the gameplay trailer below.
- Beyond: Two Souls, developer Quantic Dream’s follow-up to the surprise hit Heavy Rain, will reportedly receive a remastered Director’s Cut on PS4.
- BioShock Vita was awfully close to being a reality. Series creator Ken Levine opened up about the game that almost was on Twitter this week, describing his vision as a “Final Fantasy Tactics style thing set in pre-fall Rapture.” Unfortunately, plans fell apart and the subsequent closure of Irrational Games is likely all she wrote on the subject.
- What has Gearbox Software been up to since pushing off the next entry in the Borderlands series to Telltale and publishing the colossal failure that was Aliens: Colonial Marines? Check out the debut trailer for Battleborn, a first-person loot-driven shooter with comic book stylings (wait, are we sure this isn’t a new Borderlands game?)
- Finally, developer Cliff Bleszinski, of Gears of War and Unreal fame, is back in the industry after a lengthy sabbatical. Bleszinski opened a new studio called Boss Key and announced his first game this week, a free-to-play sci-fi shooter titled BlueStreak.