Should We Be Worried About Alien: Isolation?

Should We Be Worried About Alien: Isolation?

The Alien franchise has gone through so many sticky periods that it’s a wonder it’s still profitable. From the production hell that was Alien 3, the comedy styling of Reconstruction, and the god-awful AvP flicks, you’d think that would be enough to kill the brand. The franchise hasn’t done all that great in video game form either. There hasn’t been a truly great game featuring the humble Xenomorph since Alien Vs Predator 2. There have been many attempts to capture the tone of the films, mostly of Aliens, but the majority have failed.

The most notable failure is easily Colonial Marines. Misleading previews, PR dark tricks, and a barely finished final product, all truly battered the Aliens brand to the point where many thought it would be years–if ever–before we saw another crack at the franchise. Then came the announcement of Alien: Isolation, an entirely new take on video games based on the Alien franchise.

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After the resurgence of the survival horror genre, Isolation was announced at the right time.  With no Marines, no big guns with plenty of bullets, just the player’s wits and the odd weapon, it pits the player against a lone Xeno in a space station, It’s clear that Isolation is more akin to the tone of Alien. The hype train quickly rolled around with promises of a deeply intense atmosphere, devilish AI, and a true survival horror experience were made early on. This was all well and good, but as time has continued to tick by, and more details gameplay have been shown, things have started to look a little scripted. A little too scripted.

While the gameplay videos do display decent examples of the game being intense, there’s a suspicion (perhaps a gut feeling?) that everything looks too scripted. It’s difficult to tell just how scripted the game is without playing a demo multiple times. This is where the notion of trust comes in. Do you take the word of the developers? They’re trying to sell you the game afterall, and given the lies fed by GearBox during the Colonial Marines marketing, it’s hard to trust anyone involved with the franchise.

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Isolation looks beautiful, that’s for sure, but the idea of pure survival horror seems to take a dent with each new video and screenshot shown. Androids have slowly made their way into gameplay videos and screenshots, as, too, have weapons. The single stalking Xenomorph and the lone player was an interesting concept; throwing in androids and flamethrowers slightly taints that idea. Combine this with the suspected heavy use of scripted sections, and Isolation doesn’t sound quite as good as it once did.

The developers have talked up how smart the Xeno’s AI is. Adopting to player positions, hunting the player in clever ways, aiming to out-move and out-smart the player. That’s all good, as long as it’s legitimate and not just spiel to hype the game. Isolation remains a curious title, worries aside. It’ll be interesting to see how well the game does in terms of retail release. Given the apparent lack of traditional first-person action, will the masses adopt, or even try, a mostly weaponless game? While Outlast performed well, it didn’t have the burden of being published by a company going through a rough patch or being under the pressure of the big-budget retail release.

 

Sean Halliday


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