Alien: Isolation may not be entirely perfect — the way the final sequences change the tone of the adventure doesn't sit well with many players — but anyone who thinks it's not the single best video game interpretation of Ridley Scott's iconic film probably needs to lie down and sleep off their confusion. Slow-paced, atmospheric, and above all tense, Isolation manages to do something wonderful. It restores the Alien to its rightful place in sci-fi lore: A daunting, unstoppable monster.
Isolation offers a welcome contrast to the past 30 years or so of Alien games, which generally treat the creature as some of mindless beast to be slaughter by the dozen. While it's hard to imagine developer Creative Assembly returning to the story of Amanda Ripley without it feeling contrived, that's OK: There's a whole Alien universe out there waiting to be explored. Better yet, there's an entire series of films that have yet to be given the loving treatment Isolation applies to the original Alien. Could the other Alien movies make games as good as Isolation? Indeed they could — and here are some thoughts on how they might go about it.
As the template for three decades of action genre works, you'd think Aliens would make for a pretty amazing video game, right? Well, I suppose it has — it's just that none of them have been called "Aliens."
Sadly, the "legit" take on the movie, Colonial Marines, is widely regarded as the worst first-person shooter of the decade. And this is the decade that finally gave us Duke Nukem forever!
The mistake a lot of Aliens adaptations make is to treat the xenomorphs as cannon fodder. Although there is an awful lot of carnage in the movie, it's never some breezy, effortless slaughter.
The first big shoot-out in the movie involves more than half the colonial marines dying horribly and retreating desperately to safety, while the next big action sequence features the team watching anxiously as their limited defenses run down before ultimately being overwhelmed by waves of monsters.
People are calling Alien: Isolation a survival horror game, but it's really more of a stealth title; Amanda Ripley can't take on the Alien, period. But Aliens would definitely work as survival horror: Taking on vast armies of Aliens with limited ammunition would make for a tense, difficult adventure.
Use the "zapping" system from Resident Evil to switch between squad members in an open, monster-infested colony. Decide how much ammo to devote to automated defenses and how much to carry for yourself. And make it even better by borrowing the squad permadeath idea WayForward used in Alien: Infestation for DS, causing team members to be lost forever when overwhelmed by Aliens — or worse, captured and turned into egg incubators.
I mean, man, this game is pretty much the template for modern AAA games, all the way down to Newt. She was the original Ellie (you know, from The Last of Us)! Turn Aliens into a series of team-based mission a la Left 4 Dead, with one player always taking the role of Newt (defenseless but able to hide, scout, and forage). Each mission would vary in purpose — build barricades, extract Marines, kill the Queen — but would always be hard-fought and fraught with peril. Why does this game not exist yet?
Although Alien 3 tends to be wildly unpopular, it's the only other film in the entire franchise to attempt to recapture the futility and helplessness the Nostromo crew felt in the original Alien. Please go back and watch the "assembly cut" version of Alien 3 and develop a new appreciation for it. I'll wait.
OK, done? Cool. So, there was a 16-bit action game based on Alien 3 that actually was pretty decent. But it was a typical action game, with hundreds of Aliens to shoot up. Not true to the film at all! There was only one Alien in this film, besides the one in Ripley's chest, and Ripley and the prisoners barely had any weapons to speak of.
I could see an Alien 3 adaptation going a few different ways. First, try to make a faithful game of the movie, but draw heavily from Starbreeze's Riddick games. Maybe that's a little obvious, since both Riddick and Alien 3 were set in futuristic prisons, but the ability to interact with prisoners and form alliances or barter for goods could send the story moving in interesting alternate directions.
After all, the prisoners themselves were an even greater danger to Ripley than the Alien itself. On the contrary, the Alien didn't want to kill her, which could create an interesting game dynamic: How do you make a tense and challenging game when the big monster wants to protect you?
For variety, offer some what-if scenarios as well: What if Hicks had been the one to survive the life pod? What if it had been Newt? What if you were able to repair Bishop? Alien 3 would make for a fantastic Way of the Samurai-style adventure, less action or horror and more like a brief but endlessly variable and replayable choose-your-own-adventure.
Alternately, rather than recreate the film itself, explore the aftermath. Cast players in the cleanup of Fiorina 161 as Weyland-Yutani scours the prison in search of any lead on the Aliens that Ripley destroyed. Make it a straight-up sequel to Alien: Isolation as one last Alien straggler survived to rampage through the prison and go after the clean-up crew, taking them out one by one. Your mission would simply be to survive long enough for the Weyland-Yutani detachment to return to the planet and retrieve the Alien. Yeah, you'd be playing one of the corporate "bad guys" — a much-needed change of pace for the series.
Ah, Alien Resurrection. What a disaster. A movie based directly on Resurrection would be exactly the sort of dumb shoot-em-up that Isolation attempted to get away from. So the further we stay from Resurrection, the better.
Instead, why not take a page from Isolation and create a sequel to the movie? There's no salvaging Joss Whedon's script or Jean-Pierre Jeunet's directing, so let's just gloss over those and skip ahead to Ripley's life as a clone on a planet she barely knows. Whedon intended the final act of Resurrection to take place on Earth, and that makes a perfect starting place for a follow-up game.
What if an Alien survived and got loose in a major Earth city? What if players had to take the role of the vulnerable android Call instead of the superhuman Ripley clone? What if the unstable Ripley clone herself were the threat to humanity, driven by her Alien DNA to conquer and assimilate?
The concept of an Alien invasion of futuristic Earth has been explored in comics and other expanded universe material, but never in the films. Granted, a game is still expanded universe, but if the result turned out to be as good as Isolation... I wouldn't complain.
Alien Vs. Predator
Actually, the original Alien Vs. Predator for Jaguar was way better than the AvP movies. Just give us an updated remake of that classic, where players can take the roles of either a human, a Predator, or an Alien, and we'd be totally happy, thanks.
Yeah, good luck.