The best Alien game is currently free on PC
The majority of video games neglect what made Alien such a spectacular scary movie: stillness and fear.
The Ridley Scott-directed Alien was a haunted home in area, while the follow up, James Cameron’s Aliens, was a war movie. Cameron made an allegory about the Vietnam War, with a team of soldiers dressed up in the current equipment getting their asses handed to them by a low-tech opponent with a proficiency of the environment. Cameron’s method is far more matched to computer game, for the apparent factors, and it tends to be what we obtain from video games embeded in this world.
Among the uncommon exceptions is Alien: Seclusion, a 2014 survival-horror video game unbelievably starring Ellen Ripley’s child, Amanda Ripley. The video game is presently complimentary through the Legendary Games Shop, and this is a fantastic reason to leap back in and see what makes the video game tick.
Secured with fate
Seclusion occurs in between Alien and Aliens, and it explores what took place after Ellen Ripley went missing out on. The stakes are odd, as they constantly remain in prequels, since we understand from the movies that Amanda Ripley passed away of cancer in 2178.
We comprehend where she eventually winds up, which suggests she canonically makes it through whatever takes place in the meantime. And it ends up a minimum of one circumstance that took place in the meantime was quite dreadful.
The setup of Seclusion is harsh in its simpleness: Amanda is tipped off that the flight recorder from the Nostromo has actually been discovered after 15 years, and she signs up with the salvage group in hopes of discovering what took place to her mom.
What she discovers is that the flight recorder wasn’t the only thing recuperated; there appears to be a frightening animal loose on the spaceport station. It’s eliminating individuals one by one, and it appears unstoppable. Anarchy occurs, with survivors watching out on their own, the artificial life-forms onboard the ship ready to injure individuals to enforce order, and obviously the alien itself, constantly present, constantly a hazard, constantly keeping the tension of the gamer varying in between “oh god” to “OH SWEET JESUS.”
If you’re in the state of mind for a scary video game, young boy howdy is this ever an efficient scary video game. However if you don’t seem like you can manage a consistent flood of low-level tension increasing into minutes of panic? This might not be the best time to try this one.
Alien: Isolation is, for the love of Giger, an actual Alien video game. It is a haunted house in space, and you are not given an arsenal with which to fight back, nor are you trained to do so. Amanda is capable and smart, but she’s no superhero, and the alien can and will kill her with one hit if she’s not careful.
Alien: Isolation is, in many ways, a hypervigilance simulator. You should always be scared, because you are never exactly safe.
How did they pull this off?
The developers had to balance making the Alien scary enough to be a threat every time it showed up, without pushing the player to the point where they get too scared or frustrated and stop playing.
“To achieve this, the game requires two distinct behavior management systems: the ‘macro’ or director-AI and the ‘micro’ or alien-AI. The director observes the player throughout the game, always knowing your location,” Dr. Tommy Thompson wrote in a Gamasutra post about the alien’s behavior. “Meanwhile the alien-AI is driven by a series of sensors and behaviors that allow it to hunt the player down. The director’s job is to point the alien in the direction of the player periodically, to give it a hint as to where it should be looking. Despite this, the alien is never allowed to cheat: while the director always knows where you are, the alien has to figure it out for itself. You can fool it, you can surprise it and you can escape it.”
The alien reportedly teleports only twice in the entire game, and those two times happen in story-specific sequences where the alien needs to be at a certain point, at a certain time.
Every other encounter with the creature happens because it’s hunting you, and the director AI is nudging it near you every so often. It’s never told exactly where you are, but it’s given enough direction to constantly keep you on your toes.
If most video games are power fantasies, Alien: Isolation is designed to be a powerlessness simulator. Being hunted relentlessly by an unstoppable angel of death is very clarifying in the moment; there is never a good time to let your guard down, and every musical cue or sweeping sound from your motion tracker is enough to begin the paranoia. With a consistent threat, your brain is never given a break to relax.
The Alien AI is fascinating, and Isolation is the very best Alien game ever created. But even with some very inventive AI, the game has trouble standing next to its movie origins. That’s partially due to the fact that it’s easy to stay scared of a monster for an hour or two, but a 20-hour game presents much greater challenges with pacing.
“Alien: Isolation falls prey to the same failing that has come to be a persistent problem in the film universe: overexposure,” Polygon’s original review stated. “While Creative Assembly’s stated goal was to recall the solitary terror and tension of the original Alien film, ironically, Amanda survives more direct encounters with the alien in one day on the Sevastopol than her mother did in her entire life.”
That’s the challenge of the director AI: to keep the pressure up without overloading the player. But once you understand how to hide effectively, the alien becomes less an object of horror and more of a nuisance.
“This overexposure undermines the power and terror the alien inspires,” Polygon’s review continues. “Every time I thought I heard the monster, every blip on my motion tracker, was a cause for a tightness in my chest at first. By the 300th time I dived under a table or into a locker, I wasn’t scared anymore — I was annoyed. Once the alien becomes an irritation rather than a force of nature, much of the horror in Alien: Isolation vanishes.”
Alien: Isolation is a tough game to finish, however a fun game to begin, especially now that it’s free. This is finally the Alien game the franchise deserves, and it never needs to devolve into an Aliens game to make its point. Its flaws may indicate that making a proper Alien game is next to impossible; what works and what doesn’t in games is very different from the same rules in cinema, but this is as close as we’re likely ever going to get, and that’s worth celebrating.
If you want to see how long you can tolerate fear, uncertainty, and yes, doubt, this is a must-download. Alien: Seclusion will be complimentary to download up until April 29, 11:00 a.m. EDT.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.