When you think about horror in space there are many different franchises that can be brought up, but there is one license that deserves a great game on the current generation of consoles as well as PC. That is the Alien franchise. Recently, it has suffered huge blows with video game releases. The most recent being the controversial Aliens: Colonial Marines, which promised a lot more than it actually delivered. However, with Creative Assembly now at the helm, can the series be revived?
Alien: Isolation is bringing back the horror in a way that hasn’t been done before in the Alien games. Staying true to the first movie in the series, there is only one Xenomorph in the entire game. This means that you will not have giant hordes to shoot at down a narrow corridor. Neither would you have to worry about the monotonous marine dialogue and you won’t have to deal with boring human enemies in a knee high cover scenario. Just by listing these aspects of the game so far it immediately sounds better. But the problem is, can one Alien carry an entire game?
It only took one Xenomorph to make the first movie terrifying.
In order to answer this question you have to think about what the Alien has to do. The first is have a powerful reveal. Xenomorphs are well known within the series for their dramatic entrances. You can have weird sounds emanating from around the ship, one of your crew mates being taken by a face hugger, or even have the Alien latch itself onto the craft without being noticed. There are a plenty of ways to reveal the iconic foe and present it well. The next challenge however is presence.
In every horror game, presence is necessary to create a truly scary environment. It is not enough to just show the Alien, you have to let it change the world around you. This can be done with subtle noises in the air vents, lights being cut out, emergency power supplies being destroyed and ship wide sirens blaring. The Xenomorph’s AI should be smart enough to randomise how it acts each time you play the game, so that you can never predict what it is going to do and when. To add another element to the creature’s presence, it should not reveal itself much at all. Occasional tail sightings or shadows do more than turning around and finding the fiend staring you in the face like Slender Man.
An Alien can only do so much. The rest has to be left to the player.
As well as the Alien creating a presence for the player, there should be dynamic events that can both help and hinder the player at random. Something as simple as opening the air vents can give your character more air, but leave you open for the Xenomorph to strike. Fixing a broken part of the ship could cause power outages or sirens to go off, alerting the creature to your presence. But, to make the game more interesting, why not also have events that can also affect the Alien? You can attempt to lock it in air locks and set it out into space, cause distractions in another part of the ship to make it go away and also spy on its behaviour via security cameras. Small instances and large game changing events can both create fear and engaging gameplay, which would work perfectly in Alien: Isolation.
These are just my thoughts on the game and I believe that Creative Assembly can do a great job. If some of these examples of mechanics are present in the game, it could certainly be in the running for game of the year, hands down. But for now we will have to wait and see what the developers have in store for us. Can one Alien carry a franchise? I believe it can. Just leave the Colonial Marines out of this one.