Ever since filling my pants over an early 8-bit take on the Alien universe, I knew this day would come. Various sequels and reboots have occurred since then, with mixed success. While they were, for the most part, hugely enjoyable action thrillers, it’s hard to forget just how scary it is when all you’re trying to do is just avoid ever seeing the bad guy. Like EVER. In case you don’t know it, the 8-bit screen-cap was one of the most terrifying events of early gaming. You lived in hope that nothing happened. And it was fun! Now SEGA have brought things back to their roots with a taught, bordering on claustrophobic, survival game based loosely on the first film. The game’s developers Creative Assembly, have demoed Oculus Rift support at E3 and this just might have shot straight to the top of my must-play VR horror games.
Update: I’ve played it for 2 hours in DK2 and it is RIDICULOUSLY SCARY! If you can play this all the way through on ‘Hard’ without crapping your pants, you have cannonballs for testicles. I have had to switch to normal monitor as it gets a bit queasy for me after an hour or so, but the lights are off (big man, eh?) and it’s fraught with so much tension you’ll whimper more than once. The creature stalks you, learning your methods and adapting, lying in wait and quietly, patiently shadowing you around the station. When it strikes, it’s bloody quick! If you’re as much of a pansy as me, you’ll spend two thirds of the game hiding under desks or in cupboards (that’s really your only option unless you are a tactical genius and quick with the weapons building). Weapons will buy you time, but you won’t kill it. The acid blood looks wicked as it eats the walls away, though – that is, if you’re lucky enough to catch it with your IEDs. It really is superb how they’ve captured everything about the film and brought it to life in a new way.
Ripley’s, believe it or not
As you may or may not know, Ripley had a daughter. 15 years after the events of the film ‘Alien’, she’s working for the corporate titan of Weyland-Yutani and comes to investigate a distress beacon on board a space station. You arrive in the medical facility and that’s about as good as you’re going to have it for pretty much the rest of the game. There are no heavily-armed marines to back you up, no BFGs to splat the xenomorph and no one to hear you scream. Oh wait, there are actually quite a few survivors dotted around, but you can’t scream because they’d shoot you for giving away their position. There’s a terrific sense of alienation, in fact, they pretty much all hate you and will shoo(-t) you anyway to protect themselves. Awful behaviour, but with such an every-man-for-himself attitude, who’s to say that we can’t use them to distract our double-dentured friend? Sometimes, survival means throwing a flashbang into a crowd of people and running away quietly. There is no shame in this. OK, so that’s pretty much the epitome of shameful acts, but who’s alive to tell on you? Hmm? The station is largely deserted and has the same style and ambience as the original film with gorgeous visuals and attention to detail.
They’re inside the room!
With such a formidable foe, your only option is to stay clear, or if (when) it finds you, buy yourself time to get away. You can find weapons scattered about, but that’s really just going to piss it off, so you’re better off thinking strategically and hiding when you can (there are even buttons for ‘hold your breath’). Cupboards, tables, vents and dark corners are all your friends as you play cat-and-mouse with a creature that probably eats lions for breakfast. Your prized asset is your motion sensor, which will alert you to movement in your area. The creature is quicker than you think, so you’ll need to constantly update your idea of safety as you progress through the station. When you hear that ‘ping’, it might too late. Learning the different sounds it makes, as well trying to read its state of mind is key to avoiding it and making progress. This is so much harder when you’re trembling, trust me.
They mostly come at night..
.. but space is 99.999999% night, so you should be scared 24-7 (you know what I mean). Seriously, keep on the move when you can, because smiler won’t give up the chase easily. You can craft devices to provide distraction and/or protection along the way, such as flares and molotovs. You’ll need to use these on unruly mobs of survivors as they maraud and loot the same items that you need. Well, there can be only one. Attempting to avoid confrontation can get you killed, especially if you’ve caused a scuffle and piqued the creature’s curiosity. Ninja skills would be very handy in this game, but guerilla warfare can be more effective at times. The game is out on October 7th on PC, Playstation and Xbox, so whet your appetite with this gameplay video (or not, if you want to go for maximum thrill-power).
Alien: Isolation is probably the best looking game I have played and I’m looking forward to seeing future Creative Assembly games using this engine (apparently built in-house for this game – as assertion I can well believe as it’s phenomenally pretty). Despite the fact it is so bloomin gorgeous, you’ll spend most of it, like this:
Please Note: SEGA decided to launch without official Oculus support. Theories are a) someone died of a heart attack while playing it, b) VR is hard and they gave up, c) it is so bloody terrifying (it really is) that they feel bad for you. I think it’s a combination of A and C; my own theory is that they know it is going to kill someone and didn’t want it weighing on their conscience.
Now, despite the fact that it’s not ‘officially’ supported, it is, in fact, supported. You can get it running with your rift in a few easy steps (by easy, I mean, you might get lucky and these work first time, it took me about 11 goes, but I was excitable and screwed things up). Here’s a really handy walk-through for getting it working from the lovely people at Internet: