June 13, 2014 by Vinnie Leduc
A couple years ago at E3, we nearly defeated a team of some Gearbox developers when we got our hands on the impressive multiplayer demo of Aliens: Colonial Marines, the Sega video game series’ latest. But it would ultimately be far from the greatest, as we found out less than a year later when the long-delayed final product was so disappointing, we wish it had been “Game over, man!” and canned instead.
Despite the development trouble and negative reviews, publisher Sega has continued to make use of its electronic rights to the Alien franchise and has tapped developer The Creative Assembly, best known for its computer strategy series Total War, to replace the screams of frustration from Colonial Marines with screams of fright in the next installment, Alien: Isolation.
To accomplish that, The Creative Assembly’s upcoming game returns players to the landmark sci-fi franchise’s horror roots, i.e. all the way back to Ridley Scott’s 1979 Academy Award-winning masterpiece. In the 35 years since, the original Alien tale has grown an extensive collection of sequels and spin-offs via movies, some good and some bad, and games, some good and some bad. But from what we experienced in our hands-on demo of Alien: Isolation at E3 2014, we’re betting that the next chapter of the series will truly resonate with fans and players.
Isolation takes place a decade and a half after Alien, but similarities and connections abound. You play as Amanda Ripley. Sound familiar? She’s the daughter of the legendary Ellen Ripley, only one of the greatest female characters of all time! Amanda’s search for her mother becomes eerily like Ellen’s first encounter with the xenomorphs when one of them begins to pick off the crew of the space station that Amanda is in.
Like her mother, Amanda will have to use her brains and bravery to merely survive the infestation of just one single alien. Huge emphasis on survive. The Creative Assembly’s Isolation is technically a first-person shooter, but your primary enemy is practically invincible. If the alien finds an unprepared or exposed Amanda, death is nearly a guarantee. It’s a constant threat to overpower Amanda every time it sees her, and when combined with the suspenseful dread that The Creative Assembly has made with its impeccable visual and audio design, the alien is one scary mofo.
We heard other players nearby scream out loud several times during our demo, and while we won’t admit to doing the same (besides, in space no one can hear you scream), I will say that I felt like my heart was gonna make like a chestburster all throughout my turns.
Instead of a trigger-happy shoot-’em-up like Call of Duty, this FPS is more like Dead Space and has intentionally been designed to reward stealth and exploration. Ammo and supplies are limited, and scavenging and thorough searching are crucial, especially because Amanda will need everything she can find in order to MacGyver together various items that can be used to help defend herself against the alien or distract it for a few moments.
In the demo that we played, there was an iconic flamethrower in the very first room, but only enough gas for a single blast that could buy Amanda little time to flee an alien encounter. Grab what you can before having to hide or run away from the unstoppable force that lurks somewhere nearby. Quickly check the crafting system to see what’s missing before a noisemaker can be fashioned. And don’t forget about your best friend, the motion tracker.
One of the bonus objectives in the escape mission that we played was not to use the motion tracker. That’s quite a challenging task because the alien is constantly hunting Amanda. It doesn’t just notice open doors and loud sounds; it will investigate. If it spots Amanda down the hall, it may use an alternate path, like an air vent, to get to where it predicts she’ll be hiding. The alien will reportedly learn about Amanda’s tendencies, so the player in turn must learn about the alien, too, such as what each cry or shriek it makes means.
What fans will appreciate the most is the sheer difficulty of the game. Isolation is unforgiving like Dark Souls in space and will have you dying over and over again. Not a single member of our staff was able to beat the demo level no matter how many different tactics we used and attempts we made in our 30 minute hands-on preview. After running out of time to play the intense and heartpounding demo, we can’t wait for the official gaming return to the franchise’s horror roots. Alien: Isolation is set for release on October 7, 2014, on the PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 3.