Develop’s An Audience with – Alien Isolation

Alien-Isolaton-Artwork-14

On February 12 at the Ray Dolby Theatre in Soho (London), part of the team behind Alien: Isolation stood up before an assembly of fans to give them a behind the scenes look at Creative Assembly’s upcoming game. Our very own Valaquen was part of the public attending this lecture event organized by Develop Online.

And so just over a week ago I took the long, exhausting overnight journey from Scotland to London to have a peek at Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation – all courtesy of AVPGalaxy. Here’s my report at AVPG. Have a read and let us know what you think: fears, hopes, concern, relief or even your nonchalance!

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Develop’s An Audience with – Alien Isolation

  1. Matt

    Great read, this is the first I’ve heard about the game and I have to say I’m quite excited! Thanks for posting.

  2. Gaius

    Having read the document and watched a few YouTube videos, my reaction, at this point, could best be described as cautiously optimistic.

    I am encouraged by the fact that the developers appear to be walking that wonderfully fine line between fidelity and pragmatism. They are adhering closely to the used-future aesthetics of Alien, but their comment about changing the leg design indicates that the developers are willing to give the game breathing space where necessary.

    And it is necessary. It’s not 1979 anymore; audiences know the xenomorph, we know its capabilities, and many of us spend entirely too much time scrutinizing this strangely addictive entry within the science fiction-horror genre. Once again, the comment by the developers that they do not want audiences drawing hints from the soundtrack is an encouraging one; if this awareness extends to cliches, we might have a chance.

    At this point, I have three principal worries:

    1). Over-reliance on nostalgia.

    Alien derived much of its power from a unique cocktail of components: the novel psychosexual, biomechanical horror of the monster; the novel approach to science fiction horror; the exquisite craftsmanship of the film at every level (from dialogue to editing to production); the relentless pace of the film and its logical progression; and the socio-political-economic context addressed by the film (women in the workplace, corporate ruthlessness, the representation of women in film, etc.).

    I feel that this game must either strive to break new ground or transparently refuse to be anything more than a (well-crafted?) survival-horror thrill ride set within the Alien canon.

    2). Gameplay.

    The xenomorph is a monster with a limited and well-known arsenal of tricks. There are only so many devices we can fix, fetch quests we can endure, and jump scares we can take before it grows stale, and we grow bored.

    The question is: how creative are the developers? How well can they function within the limited constraints of a monster on a space station? Their decision to narrow the utility of the motion sensor by blurring out the environment when it is in use is an encouraging one — as is their decision to limit its precision.

    It is somewhat heartening to consider that theirs is the same dilemma faced by Ridley Scott and the Alien production team all those years ago when filming Alien: they, too, had to work within constraints.

    Let’s hope Creative Assembly rises to the challenge as well as their predecessors did.

    3). Horror.

    As the Dead Space franchise demonstrated, it takes more than jump scares and graphic violence to be truly horrifying. Dead Space was scary and often very intense (so much so that even I couldn’t play it for particularly long periods of time — the threat of a jump scare tested my nerves), but it wasn’t horrifying;. Indeed, as Yahtzee pointed out during his Zero Punctuation review of Dead Space 2, the most awkward moments in these games were when they were trying to horrify you, insisting that you be horrified.

    Now, I liked Dead Space, and I liked Dead Space 2 even more — I felt the decision to give Isaac Clarke a voice in Dead Space 2 was an excellent one that allowed the character to stand on his own and allowed the audience to empathize with his vulnerability far more easily than they could when he was anonymous.

    Also, both games actually had horrifying moments! I vividly recall the audio log of the worker in Dead Space sawing off his own limbs in order to render himself a non-threat when he finally died and succumbed to the necromorph plague. Likewise, the final moments of Dead Space, in which a (hallucinated?) Nichole necromorph attacks Isaac in the shuttle scared the hell out of me. And in the sequel, the moment where Isaac almost stabbed himself in the eye with a needle (followed by Nichole’s mocking whisper, “Isssaaaaac”) will live forever in my memory.

    So Dead Space and Dead Space 2 were solid, tense, relentless games, and for all their inability to consistently horrify me, they did have isolated moments of horror, as well as moments of cold beauty.

    If Alien Isolation does what it does as well as these two games did, it will be solid. Not memorable, but solid.

    To be more than solid, I feel it must truly horrify the player as much as Alien horrified its audiences. And that is something much more difficult to do on a consistent basis.

  3. John D.

    Great report thank you! I work just beside soho and would love to have attended this! (Around this time last year my birthday night out was a trip to see a special showing of Aliens at GLasgows GFT – preceded by comedian Robert Florence slating Colonial Marines, which I didn’t know anything about at that point..). Was this event invite only?? Cheers, JD. Ps first time commenter but I discovered this blig a few months back and love it.

  4. Alex

    Idea for future article: a feature on the existence of androids and aritifical intelligence. Calling back to Prometheus maybe? I know the first comic incorporated a bit of this with a group of marines that were in fact androids who were unaware of being androids.

  5. Johnny6666

    Firstly, this is a terrific blog – likely the best ‘Alien’-themed site on the Net. Many thanks! :)

    Secondly, my concern with a game based upon ‘Alien’ is the necessity to inject Giger’s alien with speed and dynamic movement. Nowhere in ‘Alien’ does the creature move with speed (outstretched hands to Dallas a mild exception); indeed, the creature unfolds gracefully into physical space and with a very studied sense of movement appears to elegantly display itself before its victims (i.e. Brett, Lambert – even Ripley in the shuttle). As can be seen in the Bolaji test footage, priority is given to economy of motion – an approach completely discarded by the subsequent films (which favour speed and agility). And therein lies the issue: I’d argue that a good amount of tension and suspense in ‘Alien’ is the result of what the creature doesn’t do – it doesn’t chase, stalk, lunge, jump, etc. as movie monsters are ‘supposed’ to do, which is at least partially why the Giger creature was so uniquely terrifying. This seems to be the wrong fit for the FPS gaming genre, which turns mostly upon gun play and rapid visual cues.

    • Gaius

      I’m of three minds on this subject.

      On the one hand, I agree with you: the alien in the original film did demonstrate a graceful fluidity of motion that was largely abandoned in the later films. Aliens was largely an action film, and for that, they needed monsters that could run, jump, and skitter with blinding speed, something they largely accomplished by stripping down the alien suits to the bare essentials and adding golden highlights (see: Superior Firepower, the documentary on the making of Aliens). I recall reading somewhere that the monster suit for Alien was simply incapable of rapid movement, which might have had something to do with the fact that Bolaji Bodejo’s movements were so slow, calculated, and fluid — he didn’t want to break the suit!

      On the other hand, even in Aliens, the fluidity of movement can still be seen at certain times: when the aliens are just waking up in the hive prior to the first engagement, for example, or when the queen is waving them off from the eggs.

      Consequently, the question remains: if the xenomorph from the first film could have moved faster, would he? How much of its movements were the product of the limits of the suit?

      On still another hand, from the footage I have seen of Alien: Isolation, the alien is mostly moving slowly: hunting you, stalking you, searching for you. It is only when it is actively chasing you that it moves fast, and for most of those times, you don’t see it doing so, because you’re running the opposite direction. Indeed, the footage I’ve seen indicates that when it catches you, it looks (and sounds) very much like that moment in the first film when it caught Dallas.

      So, digitgrade legs aside, I trust the developers on this one.

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