There haven’t really been any video games based on “Alien”… until now.
That might seem like an odd statement, because we’ve had those creatures skittering across our computer monitors for decades – but really, every computer game to feature them so far has been based on “Aliens,” with an “s.” The James Cameron sequel was a masterpiece in its own right, to be sure, but it’s more of an action movie. It pretty much set the template for sci-fi / horror / action films, and it lends itself very well to first-person-shooter videogames. Some of them have been fairly intense, especially during the early rounds, when you spend a bit of time creeping about and waiting for the Aliens to strike.
But these guys have something different in mind. They want to put you in the middle of the first film. There’s one Alien in this game, and you’re the prey. You evidently don’t have weapons. You have a motion tracker, a flashlight, and sneakers. Good luck with that.
There’s been a bit of a renaissance in horror video games lately, with more of them aiming to simulate a real sense of run-and-hide terror, rather than being exceptionally gory shooters. Designers are experimenting more boldly with the notion of unkillable monsters and objectives that can’t be reached through run-and-gun combat. After all, in a first-person shooter, the player is – by definition – the baddest creature in the game world.
Tension can still be created by skillful designers under those circumstances, but this new “Alien” thing looks like it might actually give me a heart attack. I’m a great fan of that first movie – I went to see it with my dad, and neither of us slept a wink that night. I’ve been afraid of this scenario since I was 10 years old. I can’t wait.
Incidentally, the setup for this game makes an enormous amount of sense: the main character is the daughter of “Alien” heroine Ellen Ripley, who was mentioned in passing during a deleted scene of “Aliens.” She grew up, lived her life, and died while Ripley was frozen on her escape shuttle for 50 years. It makes sense she’d go looking for Mom, and the evil company would have every reason to help, wouldn’t they? Ridley Scott should be forced to sit down and play this game before he makes his “Prometheus” sequel, because he seems to have forgotten what these designers remember.
Update: Another reason this project caught my eye is that it echoes one of my first big computer programming projects, way back in the day. (The day I speak of was the day in which computer monitors were black voids covered with scrolling green or amber letters.) One of my advanced programming classes in school presented each student with a simple pre-written program, chosen from an assortment of a dozen or so. We spent the semester streamlining, revising, and expanding upon our program. I picked a simplistic “Hunt the Wumpus” game, in which you roamed through a small maze of rooms trying to find an exit and avoid a monster, and determined to remake it as “Alien: The Game” in honor of my favorite movie. I probably owe Sir Ridley an apology for the results, but hey, I was twelve years old at the time, and I tried.