Let's not be too quick to forget the sins of Colonial Marines, argues Toby.
By Toby McCasker on January 8, 2014 at 3:07 pm
There are certain combinations of things that fill the hearts of men with a nameless dread: The end of the month and bills. Testicles and fences. Sega and Aliens games. Because that worked out so well last year, they’re at it again. Inexplicably, most might think. This time they’ve given Creative Assembly the keys to the ransacked city. Good boys, but dare I say that while the concept at the guts of Aliens: Isolation seems promising, so too did the signed, sealed and under-delivered fanboygasm that gripped Colonial Marines’ FUBAR.
Like said fustercluck, Isolation extrapolates a curiousity from a passing detail and makes it into something big: Remember how Ripley had a daughter she’d outlived via the chronological whackiness inherent in extended hypersleep? Sure you do, they show you her picture as an old lady early in the Aliens piece. Name’s Amanda, and it is not entirely unreasonable that she might’ve woken up one morning and thought, “Hey, haven’t seen mum in a longer while than usual.” That’s where this one’s going: Ripley jnr. gets a small crew of four including self together and heads out to find the Nostromo’s black box on a remote station. Which she does.
Tell you what’s immediately cool before that even happens: In this quartet of soon-to-be-deads, three of them are women and there is instead a token guy by the name of Samuels. Being that this is a kickback to the estrogen triumph of Ridley’s original and not Cameron’s “get some!” man-fest, that seems an apt subtlety that implicates a potential non-turkey cooked by defter and more dedicated hands than Colonial Marines.
Could this one finally be the one? I think I wonder that every time I see a new Aliens game getting put together, and every time the answer is always “lol nope.” While the Amanda idea is interesting, it’s also one of those dreadful sort of retroactive devices that’s hamstrung by its lack of mystery. We know Amanda survives, reaches old age, and dies peacefully in an intergalactic rest home. We know that whatever she finds out aboard the Nostromo is of little consequence. It’s not as if she found mum out there, or had much if any impact whatsoever on Weyland-Yutani’s corporate xenomorph designs. They’re all still just confused as ever when Ripley snr. finally floats into that boardroom in Aliens.
The solution, Creative Assembly seems to think, is to not to conveniently forget all that but circumvent it with an event: This is not an FPS or even an actiony game at all per se. It is – gasp – survival horror. There will not be many aliens, only one – and it cannot be killed. It will hunt you down mercilessly throughout the Nostromo (and beyond?), and all you have is the steady ping of a motion tracker for company. It’s a game of senses. The alien can see you, it can hear you. It probably can’t smell you but don’t cut any space brie just to be sure. What this means is that Amanda and whoever else you come to play as will spend an inordinate amount of time walking, not running. Hiding, not fighting. It’s a recipe for an unreplayable slow-burner and is a gigantic-ass risk, much like Alien itself was.
Speaking of risk, Creative Assembly are also doing that thing where they add independently to the lore, which is not something that has historically gone down very well even when Ridley himself did it with Prometheus. Amanda’s venture in some way involves Seegson, a synthetics manufacturer whose interest in things is likely closer to Weyland-Yutani’s than Amanda’s herself. Hey, where would we be without a surprise artificial person on board?