[Feature] In Cyber-space, everyone can hear you scream.

Published on February 9th, 2014

It seems lately that the roller coaster ride of trade shows and conventions are a year round occurrence. No sooner has one ended than speculations about the reveals of the next one begin. Not usually the place for big gaming related news, The Consumer Electronics Show still contained a few nuggets of interest for the gaming fraternity. The first trade show of the year was the chance for Sega to introduce us to the next stage in the Alien franchise that so many, myself included, thought was now deader than a marine exploded by an exiting chest burster.

Alien: Isolation by Creative Assembly, The team behind the hugely successful R.T.S. Total War series, will see us in the space boots of Amanda, Ellen Ripley’s daughter as she goes in search of her missing parent. Promising to return us to the classic survival horror of the first movie, the team are focused on a single Alien Nemesis. This, they say, will show the intelligence that the previous games Xenomorphs have been lacking. There will be no weapons, except those you craft yourself, and the Alien will be all but indestructible, interesting if they can actually pull it off. Stealthing around a nine foot tall ball of death and destruction could be amazing for a few hours but can it carry a whole game?

Here I should declare a vested interest.

I love Alien. I mean I really love Alien.

I remember walking past our local Odeon cinema back in 1979 (I was 10) and seeing that greenish looking egg on a black back ground and reading the immortal tag line “In space, no one can hear you scream” and being mesmerised. As soon as I possibly could I watched Ridley Scott’s imagining of a haunted house in space and loved it.

7 years passed until James Cameron returned us to the world of Ellen Ripley vs the Xenomorphs with an action twist, another fantastic movie and, for many, the peak of the franchise. They are wrong of course. Ripley, placed in the role of unwilling advisor to a bunch of gung-ho, over confident, marines, faces off against multiple Xenos and corporate greed, a foreshadowing of things to come?

From that point on, with two lacklustre sequels (and an eventual cash-cowing of the franchise by melding it with Predator for two more lacklustre outings) all I have wanted to do is scream.

In gaming the Alien franchise has fared no better as this highlight of its history shows.

In the late 70’s film studios had been rudely awoken to the power of merchandising. A certain Mr George Lucas surrendered a large portion of the profits in his little independent sci-fi space opera to 20th Century Fox but maintained 100% of the merchandising. The rest is history.

By 1982 Fox had its own game studio, the imaginatively titled Fox Video Games, and so Alien found a home on the Atari 2600. With only a North American release I have never got to play it. In fact many early games never made it to a European release.

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1

Alien Trilogy, Acclaim, 1996

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My first memory of a good alien game was 1996’s Alien Trilogy on the Sega Saturn. Based, (oh so), loosely on the first three films, this was a corridor shooter complete with motion tracker, pulse rifle and spitting Xenos. I loved this game. Also released on Playstation and PC this game evoked some sense of the action from Aliens but could not quite give the horror of the original.

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2

 Alien vs Predator, Rebellion, 1999

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In 1999 Rebellion remade their 1994 Atari Jaguar game, Aliens vs Predator for the PC. Based on the colonial marines and Xenomorphs from Aliens it also threw in the Predator as a third enemy. Another corridor shooter, it had interesting mechanics such as igniting emergency flares to illuminate the rooms or a night vision mode and it is easy to see how this game evolved in to the 2010 Xbox 360, PS3 and PC of the same name. A whole new campaign for each of the three species, this game is probably the best so far but again still could not reach the horror of the original film.

2013 arrived and I was full of hope. Ridley Scott was back at the helm and a (sort of but not quite) Alien prequel was slated for release and Gearbox Software, creators of the amazingly good Borderlands franchise, were bringing us, what was billed as, a true sequel to James Cameron’s Aliens. It was to feature locations from the film along with the vocal talents of some of the original cast. I couldn’t have been happier. All my Christmases come at once. The ten year old, gazing longingly at that poster, could never have been more excited than I was at the start of that year.

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Alien3

Aliens: Colonial Marines, Gearbox Software, 2013

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Oh dear. Whilst I was one of the few that didn’t hate Prometheus, it certainly didn’t live up to the hopes I had. The long, drawn out saga of Aliens: Colonial Marines is documented elsewhere. Developers quickly passing the buck like the proverbial hot potato. It was, and after numerous patches still is, a turd. Not even a well-polished one at that. The A.I. is laughable, the graphics at release wouldn’t trouble a PS2 never mind a top end P.C. I have seen Xenos dancing a jig, walking through walls, even dying and floating in mid-air. This, by no stretch of the imagination, is a bad game. Despite that I have returned to it in researching this piece and have had some fun with it. Maybe it is a lowered expectation, maybe just a need to be in that universe. I can now overlook the faults. Of course it helps that I picked up the Collector’s edition, complete with Loader statue and artwork for the princely sum of £2 unopened from a local CEX, a set that retailed at launch for £80.

After last year’s disappointments, I swore I was done. No more would I be laying down my hard earned cash just because there was a new Alien something. My first reaction when the news broke about Alien: Isolation was, “please just let it float off in to space much the way Ripley did at the finale to Alien”. Just like a misguided Scully though, I want to believe! Will this finally be the game they promise? Will it give me the sense of terror that must have ran through Ripley’s very soul?

 

I will let you know because, you guessed it, just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in and I will be first in the queue at this year’s Rezzed when the first playable demo will be available for the general public.

Will I never learn?

Darren Lissaman: One of the few authors to brave it through our editorial checks. If you’re interested in more of his content, you can search for him under : t0xic5h0ck, or check out his twitter here: https://twitter.com/fazer_dazliss

All images reproduced under fair use terms and for illustration only. All rights remain with the owners.

 

 

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