February 21, 2013 by misterblank22
*Note to reader: This is not a reaction to Aliens Colonial Marines because I have not played it yet so I have no ability or right to judge it. I wrote this simply as an Alien fan who wants to see a different take on the series in video games.
Nothing is more iconic than the “Alien”. It radiates terror with its strange appearance and hunting abilities. Just one of these “Aliens” took out an entire crew and their robot on the Nostromo before it got blown out into space like waste. The species came back with a vengeance in Aliens by James Cameron who I feel ruined the Alien feel for me by making it an action packed movie and made the Alien into a simple ant hunting for the queen, but he gave it its iconic name the Xenomorph and that scary motion tracker.
As the franchise has aged everyone turns to Cameron’s take on the creature which is frankly just expected in Hollywood, the more guns and action the better. But this atmosphere does not transfer over to games very well surprisingly. Fans always want a more frightening experience. The Alien Vs Predator games seem to let everyone down. So how do you make a good Alien game? It really isn’t too hard.
This “Alien” was not spawned by a Hollywood producer with Benjamin’s clouding his eyes it came from a surrealist artists by the name of H.R. Giger. He released a book entitled Necronomicon in 1977 which was filled with his airbrushed nightmares, one happened to be the strange “Alien” we’ve come to love today along with the planet the Nostromo crew goes to in the beginning of the film.
An Alien game must have fear as its spine. The player must be afraid to come in contact with the creature for many reasons. One being its look, imagine being alone in a corridor with flickering lights above you. Apart from the flicker of the faulty bulb black is all you can see. Then you hear the scatter of feet nearby but can’t get a hold on your surroundings. You pick up the only thing you feel could protect you littering the ground and prepare for the worst. Then when you make a turn something darker than the shadows makes an attack. You can barely fight it and have to escape as its rapid feet bang on the ground behind you. The “Alien” is not a weak kid that plays chess it’s a violent Spartan that plays chess. There is a misconception that a few bullets should obliterate the creature manly due to James Cameron’s Aliens, these things are tough. Developers should add a bit of Dead Space to the Alien mix with having to dismember the creature to stop it. The “Alien” is a nightmare not an attraction at an amusement park (well it is now).
The second reason the player needs to fear the “Alien” is because of its hunting and its stealth play. On the Nostromo the shadows played a large part in the Aliens defense. It could hide and watch to make for a quick attack. In a game the creature could adapt to its surroundings instead of charging the player like the ants they have become, the marine has become a picnic for ants to swarm. Without Giger the alien would not be the fear provoker it was and games should bring back his element.
Not every Alien game needs to take place on LV-426 and not every Alien game needs to have a group of marines as the protagonists. Yes it is fun to be a vulnerable marine but as time progresses these marines are not as vulnerable as they should be. A perfect setting could be a desolate planet much like LV-426 but with a much less human touch. The crashed ship in Alien was an amazing touch to the story. This strange spacecraft was dug into the surface of LV-426 and was littered with eggs, eggs from a different species then the one piloting the crashed ship. Let’s make our protagonists weak scientists or simple explorers with minimal weaponry and no idea how to fire a gun. These scientists have to have a reason to go to this planet so let’s say Earth is burning out and this planet is packed full of minerals, let’s say it has all of the factors that could make it behave like a second Earth.
The scientists land on the dark planet ready to find anything. All of their sources say its void of all life so little precaution was taken to be prepared, that’s the human way, so they land with smiles and cockiness and some are even dreading the boredom of what this little excavation will bring. After setting up their equipment for the long boring trip they set out to explore. The sky is dark which leads some to speculate that their sources were wrong about the suns activity leading them to believe that the planet may be dead, the dark soil just adds to their assumption.
Then they come upon a crashed spacecraft. They determine it’s not human so like a human they go right into it. The ship is littered with the bones of an alien race that is slightly humanoid which brings up the question of “Did this species try to leave the planet for some reason and this crash is due to the haste of their escape” or “Are they from another world too?”
As the scientists begin their search they begin finding humanoid corpses with their chests burst open. They find data logs from the humanoid creatures detailing the events of a strange race of aliens appearing on their planet from eggs. From there on out they become prey for the iconic Aliens who have been living on the strange planet since they forced their roommates out with their bad eating habits.
But this does play out much like all Alien games which is a good thing and a bad thing. The good part is that it is a formula that is strong, the explorer getting killed by their nature to explore. But the bad part is that it will become stale. The “Alien” is going to get bored sometime with just waiting around to kill.
An Alien game would be perfect if it followed the simple “Less is Better” philosophy much like early Silent Hill games. The first Alien was so scary because of this rule, the viewer did not know where this dark alien came from and it had no name. Not knowing a single thing of our enemies origin or motives is much more frightening than knowing its entire chemical makeup and what planet it came from and why. It’s just like in a mystery movie, when the killer reveals himself and spills his life story he is no longer scary. Let the “Alien” hide in the shadows and feed on humans along with every other organic thing. Let’s leave it alone and not make it explain itself.