What came first – the chicken or the egg? Who shot JR? How do you solve a problem like Maria? Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me? All big questions, but none quite as big as how do you rescue the Aliens franchise after the apocalyptic brainfart that was Aliens Colonial Marines? How can you possibly convince someone to part with their money after the drivel that was served up last time? How can you get someone to be excited by the developers you have on board when Gearbox had their hands on Colonial Marines? How can people trust reviews, previews, or even their own eyes when the game being reviewed is, technically speaking, not the same one that they are going to buy?
Sega – You’ve got one hell of a job on your hands.
Well. Sega appear to have taken the sensible approach, and have started off with a list of things NOT to do. Firstly, if rumours are to believed, they chose not to discuss their new title at E3; something they were apparently planning on doing before the sheer magnitude of their balls up with Colonial Marines became apparent. Good move. Can you imagine if they’d rocked up with a new game while that was fresh in everyone’s mind? There would have been pitchforks.
Secondly, they’ve said thank you and goodbye to Gearbox and TimeGate Studios, upped sticks and toddled over to Creative Assembly to put the game together. Whilst using someone with pedigree is no guarantee of success (Gearbox proved that), the team behind Total War would not be a bad place to start.
Thirdly, and possibly most interestingly, they have gone back to the franchises roots and let slip this very interesting looking picture to wet people’s appetites.
Looks good doesn’t it. You will note from this immediately recognisable picture that that is not Sigourney Weaver in the space suit, but who is rumoured to Ripley’s daughter Amanda. The suggestion is also that the storyline is a bit closer to the first Alien film; a different tack from Colonial Marines which, predictably, had more in common with the second film. Talk is of a single space station and just a single alien; no charging hordes that can be taken down in a blizzard of rifle fire, just one big bad monster waiting for you.
This of course, suggests that a very different game is being dreamed up. With just the one alien, this will not be an average Aliens shooter. No Colonial Marines spraying fire sporadically killing off dozens of seven foot lizards, and none of the Aliens Versus Predator nonsense either. It does however beg the question; what will you actually be doing?
Again, due to the lack of confirmed information speculation runs rife, however the talk is that you’ll find yourself shooting at soldiers and clones, as well with a much greater emphasis on stealth as you find yourself hiding in lockers and vents rather than running headlong into a room all guns blazing.
Sadly, that is about as far as the information that is in public domain goes, as Sega have taken the very sensible step this time of refusing to comment on ANYTHING. Allow me then, to speculate. Using the films as a model, the most recent was Aliens vs Predator Requiem, which was a dreadful action film. Aliens vs Predator, whilst better than its sequel, was not a horror film. Alien Resurrection was science fiction action, as was Aliens 3. Aliens (as in the second film) was again not a horror film, it was an action film full of big guns, American rhetoric and the strong matriarchal character that Ripley had evolved into. Alien, the original, was and still is the only film in the series that was a true horror film. Slow burning, claustrophobic, riddled with vulnerability and enveloped deep in a world of aural stimulation that borders on sensory overload; it really was a true horror film and one of those rarest of things, a horror film set in space (think about it, other than Apollo 18 I couldn’t think of any others).
Unfortunately the franchise has taken a hit to its credibility from which potentially it may never recover. This would however be a real tragedy, as what the world of gaming really needs is a properly good Aliens game. We’re getting a new Star Wars game this year, Rambo is on its way any time now; this could be the year that classic movies get a classic game to go with them (except Rambo – that one really doesn’t look too pretty).
I know it will be hard to let go of the mess the franchise is currently in but I’ll tell you what – I really really want this game to be good, so I’ll go first, tell you if it’s safe, then you can come join me.