Alien: Isolation PS4 interview – “A horror game with checkpoints that’s scripted just isn’t going to be scary”
Unpredictability: that’s the defining quality that makes Alien: Isolation‘s Xenomorph so damn terrifying. Three decades of games following James Cameron’s Facehugger-meets-Vietnam movie have done their damnedest to turn H.R. Giger’s iconic beast from sexually-suggestive stalker of the shadows to depressingly vanilla foot soldier. Well, thanks to the advanced systemic AI in The Creative Assembly‘s survival horror, the Xeno is about to rediscover its bite.
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“You always reference the fact that the player is one of the things that is really unpredictable and you can’t always tell what they’re going to do,” says Isolation’s lead game designer Gary Napper. “So we’ve got an alien that can act in a nice way and support that.”
Rather than merely be the sort of wall-crawling nuisance seen in Colonial Marines, Isolation’s's Xenomorph should at last last reclaim its horrifyingly murderous mystique thanks to some seriously clever coding.
“I think going back to the systemic alien, he is unpredictable”, lead artist Jude Bond tells us. “There’s a lot of elements of the game that are systemic and it’s not scripted. Very early on we realised that a horror game with checkpoints that’s scripted just isn’t going to be scary.”
“It’s just as much about the alien not being there as the alien being there”
That is what’s lead The Creative Assembly to crafting a relentless enemy that is completely adaptable in its behaviour, as it learns from Amanda Ripley’s hide-and-seek antics. “We wanted this unpredictable alien that can turn up at any point in the game”, says Bond. “It’s just as much about the alien not being there as the alien being there. It could be a shadow in the corner, we don’t know, you don’t know, but you have to go and see what is in the corner.”
If you’re that inquisitive, we imagine slavering death awaits you in the corner. Naturally, these ambitious AI claims are being met with a degree of cynicism, though Napper says the recent press demos of Isolation have already started to convert the doubters. “One of the guys today was sceptical about the idea of a systematic and dynamic alien that would react to you. He got killed by the alien, died, came back, walked round the corner and it wasn’t in the same place. He suddenly felt very alone and isolated, and like ‘uh oh’.”
There’s no denying focusing on Ridley Scott’s masterful 1979 haunted-house-in-space is a genius idea. If the developer can manage to iron out the pacing to create a consistently involving 7-10 hour ghost ride, we should be in for one hell of an Alien game.
Having just filled my eyes with Giger goodness for the last week rewatching the Anthology on Blu-Ray, I’m more excited than Bishop playing a game of ‘lets stab Hudson’s fingers to ribbons’ over Alien: Isolation. Also, Alien 3 is brilliant: deal with it.