Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Alien Isolation: An Underrated Video Game Masterpiece

Alien: Isolation, released in 2014, was a game that was surrounded by a level of major hype. Given the utter flop that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, there was a major negative focus on games based around the Aliens franchise. Upon release, Alien: Isolation was polarising. Many praised it as a game masterpiece, while others were less generous, calling it mediocre. But was Alien: Isolation a misunderstood masterpiece, or just another cash in on a popular franchise?
The game sold reasonably well, but was not the smash hit developers Creative Assembly hoped for. The game had been a risky endeavour in many departments, and some gamers didn’t know what to make of it. Featuring a heavy stealth focus, a minimum of actual shooting enemies, and a heavy leaning on unscripted horror, it was certainly not what many were used too.
Let’s take a closer look at the game that may be the most underrated technological video game creation of all time, as it is as exciting and enthralling as the online pokies NZ have to offer.
Flight Not Flight
In terms of video games, there are certain rules that are universally followed by developers, to create an enjoyable video game experience. One of the rules is that the game should be fun, fair, and cathartic. In other words; modern video games are overwhelmingly designed to make the player feel in control, powerful, and capable. Alien: Isolation flew in the face of this rule, going in the exact opposite direction.
In the game, the player takes on the role of Amanda Ripley, daughter of the famous Ellen Ripley character form the movies. As Amanda, the player must face off against the notorious alien. But, the player cannot kill the alien, cannot defeat the alien, and will die, instantly, if spotted by the alien. In terms of game design, this should have been a recipe for disaster. Although other games are designed around the idea of the player hiding from enemies, Alien: Isolation would be the first major game to make the alien a one hit killer. Or, an enemy that kills simply by touching the player a single time.
Ultra-Advanced AI
What made the game playable was the fact that the alien in the game had some of the most advanced AI in gaming history. The alien can be tricked, misled, distracted, hidden from, and even confused.
AI in video games is generally simple in most regards, but the alien in Alien: Isolation was a key focus of the development process, making it possible to engage in a battle of wits with the creature, in order to stay alive. It is is an endeavour never before undertaken in a video game, and feat that developers Creative Assembly deserve recognition for.
Why No Mega Success?
The game did succeed financially, but only just barely. What was it about the game that kept it from reaching the mega success it surely deserved?
The pacing of the game was slow, aiming to create gradual dread and tension in the player, much in the same way tension is achieved in movies. The alien did not even become a major element in the game for the first hour. Sadly, many modern gamers, used to pulse pounding fast paced action, did not respond well to the slow tension, and purposeful feelings of helplessness. Plus, given that the game relied heavily on the player learning without being prompted, many gamers were left feeling lost.
Hopefully, should the game ever get a sequel, it will manage to appeal to a broader audience.

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