A New Alien Game: Should We Bother Hoping?

It would be appear this particular dead horse is still holding together just enough to beat on some more. The recent news rumor mongering this week is that not only is there a new Alien game on the way, it’s a) a first person shooter, b) an FPS being done by Creative Assembly, who are best known for real time strategy games, and c) is going to feature Ripley’s daughter, Amanda.

Those are all rumors, as cited by Kotaku, alongside claims that this is actually inside knowledge gleaned from an anonymous source. However, there is an important fact here, and that is that 20

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Century Fox recently filed a trademark for a game called Alien: Isolation.

Basically this is a call to all fans of the Alien franchise to look up, furrow brows in anxiety and wring hands together in worry about whether this latest attempt to make an Alien game will fly or, like other projects, fall flat on its face.

Sega secured the license to make Alien games back in 2006. They then announced that multiple titles were in the works. One of those, from Gearbox was a first person shooter called Aliens: Colonial Marines. Another was an RPG by Obsidian, the same people that made Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Alpha Protocol and the upcoming Southpark: The Stick of Truth RPG. Now we find out that in addition to those two projects (which went badly in their own ways, one getting canceled, the other tanking badly at retail) there was this new game. According to rumors, it was allegedly far enough along in development that Sega was considering a reveal at this year’s E3, but changed their minds after the near unanimous critical scorn of Colonial Marines. There are even rumors of a major post-mortem to find out why things went so badly and what can be done to avoid squandering such a valuable franchise in the future.

The Alien franchise is, to be fair, a venerable one, but that’s largely because of the first two films. Despite the iconic sci-fi/horror status that Ridley Scott and James Cameron lent to the series, the actual quality of the franchise as a whole has been spiraling downward since the third film. In the world of games, there has NEVER been an exceptional Alien game, though the aliens themselves have been well represented in the occasional  Aliens vs Predators games in the past.

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Amanda Ripley

With this kind of bad history behind it, it’s hard to get excited about a new possible Alien game, especially one with a rumored premise of starring Ripley’s daughter Amanda. True, continuity-wise, this doesn’t necessarily violate canon, since all we know about the woman is that she died while Ellen Ripley was still in cryogenic suspension. But to have her somehow come into contact with a rare and deadly xenomorph simply because she’s related to the central heroine of the franchise stretches credibility to the breaking point. Jaws, for example was a fine film. But when sharks kept attacking not just Police Chief Brody (repeatedly) but his wife and his sons later on in their lives… Unless we’re talking magical swords and mystical destinies, it’s difficult to accept in a science fiction setting that an amoral life form that feeds and kills simply to survive would somehow hold a collective, species-wide grudge against a particular family line.

Despite all that, most Alien games, regardless of financial failure still manage to get a few things right. The classic Giger-designed alien is still a sight to behold the first time in any game, and even Colonial Marines finally gave fans the ability to wander the famous “Space Jockey” chamber and check out the details in first person. The rumors surrounding the new game are that it will focus on only one alien and one area—a space station. The rumors also claim that this will be more about stealth, hiding and evasion rather than straight up combat. This might actually be a good move, since it returns the alien to a more prominent, lethal position rather than just cannon fodder on the business end of a pulse rifle. It’s difficult to remain optimistic about this game in the face of past precedent but even if Isolation is just another failed franchise game in a long chain, if it manages to create some actual tension and/or fear from being stalked by an Alien, then it will added something to a franchise desperately in need of a lift.