For the past few weeks we’ve been making our way through “Alien: Isolation,” and it’s safe to say that aside from “P.T.,” the “Silent Hill” playable trailer, it’s one of the most terrifying gaming experiences you can get your hands on right now.
What’s so scary about it?
The latest instalment based on the film franchise from Sega and The Creative Assembly, takes place in between the first and second films. You play as Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) daughter Amanda as she navigates aboard an abandoned dark ship in search of clues to her mum’s location. The catch? There’s an alien on board waiting for you.
The other catch? A lot of the ship is shrouded in darkness.
The object of the game isn’t to see how many cool ways you can kill the alien. It’s quite the opposite.
We recently spoke with the game’s creative lead and director, Alistair Hope, who explained “Alien: Isolation” is primarily a game of survival.
“We don’t give any toys or weapons to kill the alien. It’s about this game of cat and mouse,” Hope tells Business Insider. “Moment to moment [you’re] trying to make the best decision on how best to survive.”
That element leads to many unexpected deaths during gameplay.
Sometimes you’ll just want to save the game only to find Mr. Alien waiting behind you ready to take you out. Sigh. (At least he was polite enough to let us save.)
This is probably one of our favourite deaths so far. Here, the alien popped down from a vent in the ceiling only to join us in a fiery death before getting the chance to kill us off. (What caused the random explosion? Probably a gas leak.)
It’s clear a lot of the game’s fun comes from seeing the many different ways in which the alien kills us off in this “hide and seek” fashion. We’ve been playing on the PlayStation 4 where you can heighten the scare factor by using the PlayStation camera. Any sound picked up by the game will help alert an alien to your location. We’re too chicken — but mostly too loud — to try that out just yet.
We asked Hope how they came up with the concept.
“Before we had anything on screen we talk about what it would be like to try and experience that alien,” Hope tells us. “We kind of had this mental exercise, which is kind of dumb, but we said, ‘If we released the alien in the studio right now, what would you do?'”
“It was a case of … Well, I’ll get under my desk, and I won’t make any noise,” he continues. “I’ll try to make it so he doesn’t see me. Cool. OK, well, that makes sense. OK, so now, you need to get to the fire escape that’s at the other end of the studio. How are you going to do that? OK, well, I’ll see if I can find where it is … and I’ll move to the next desk. (Again, [I] keep looking, and try to be as quiet as possible.) I’ll slowly make my way going from desk to desk to the exit.”
“And we were sitting there thinking, ‘Well, that sounds pretty cool.’ … this kind of game of hide and seek against this terrifying killer and I think that is actually kind of the essence of the game,” Hope adds. “It’s almost like an information war about ‘What do you know right now?’ and ‘What are the risks you’re prepared to take to survive moment to moment?’ … It’s [about] making critical decisions under pressure .. which actually then goes back to what Ellen Ripley is doing in the movie. She’s the one who’s able to make decisions under enormous pressure and is able to keep struggling and striving to survive.”
Hope tells us the scares are all part of bringing fans back to Ridley Scott’s 1979 film.
“The goal really was to take you back to the experience of that first film and for the first time to really experience what it would be like to confront the alien — that specific alien,” says Hope. “One of the thing things we really wanted to do was to reestablish the alien as this ultimate killer that’s something you should be afraid of and that commands your respect.
“We really wanted it to be scary again,” Hope adds. “The alien, over the course of the franchise, its role had changed. And we really wanted to go back to what it would be like to experience that first one.”
Hope says to accomplish that they couldn’t choreograph every moment with the alien on screen because then players could predict what the alien was going to do next and that wouldn’t make the game that scary.
“So we took the decision early on that the alien in the game would just use its senses to drive its behaviour,” explains Hope. “It’s just looking for you. It’s listening for you. What you do — and the things in the world — but especially what you do has a big impact in how encounters play out.”
“That also means that because the alien is this dynamic and reactive creature, no two places are the same so every encounter is very much a live encounter,” says Hope.
Because of that, Hope tells us the “Alien: Isolation” team has had a kick watching live streams of player’s progress online.
“The whole of the studio has been watching people streaming their games because everyone’s taking a different approach to how to survive and it’s massively entertaining,” says Hope.
And the gameplay doesn’t just scare us. Hope says the creative team behind the game gets just as jumpy trying to avoid the alien in the game.
“The interesting thing for us is [that] we still get scared by this game,” says Hope. “It’s kind of amazing because we built it and we know everything about it and we know what’s going on under the hood but because it is unpredictable I could play it right now and my heart would be thumping away because moment to moment, I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I play just as cautiously as anyone else. I’ll yelp and jump in my chair.”
“Me especially, but yeah, the whole team, you do hear people shouting as they get outsmarted and get surprised,” Hope adds. “You know, this thing is pretty unpredictable. If you get a little cavalier, it will get you.”
Check out a trailer for “Alien: Isolation” below. The game is available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC.
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