Give It A Whack: Alien: Isolation’s Clunky Tech

By Alice O'Connor on April 18th, 2014 at 3:00 pm.

A whole galaxy of planets to hack in the year 2137

They knew how to dream of futures, those film makers of the late 1970s and early ’80s. The dusty leather of Mad Max, rain refracting flickering neon in Blade Runner, and chunky busted technology in Alien. What are we teaching the next generation to hope for, Google Glass and cloud computing? It’s all too clean and too tidy, covering up the inevitable doom. Thankfully The Creative Assembly are putting an awful lot of work into recreating that analogue “low-fi sci-fi” vibe with Alien: Isolation, as a new video developer diary thing shows off.

The TCA gang are on hand to gab about analysing the film’s concept art, trying to emulate prop-making techniques of the era, and committing VHS vandalism to get a fuzzy UI. It is very pretty.

However, we’re still at a point in the marketing campaign where publisher Sega will only hint at Isolation’s combat. They’re not yet willing to say what we’ll be fighting, with what, and how often. It’d be odd if they put this much effort into atmosphere–and from what I played, Isolation has bags of the stuff–only to turn it into an arcade-y shooting gallery but worse things have happened in licensed video games. We’ll only know for certain when it arrives in October.

The Alien: Isolation we’ve seen so far is not how the final game will look. But it is pretty:

, , .

60 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Ham Solo says:

    I like that idea of keeping similar to it how it looked in the original movie. That adds alot to the atmosphere.

  2. DanMan says:

    Is that an ingame screenshot? It looks great.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      I love great graphics, and I agree that this looks lovely.
      However: X-Rebirth’s screenshots and pre-release footage looked amazing. Just saying.

      I have my graphics-induced-hype-suppressor set at 7.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Rome 2′s screen shots looked great too, before release. They showed an infamous clip of the siege of Carthage that the final game never came even remotely close to matching.

        That may not happen here because space ship interiors are easier to render, with fewer elements. But it’s worth remembering that CA is better at marketing than they are at releasing polished games.

      • secuda says:

        And dont wanna be sound like a broken record here, but so did Colonial marines.

        • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

          ‘dont wanna be sound like a broken record here’

          Oh no, please do – that sounds very authentic.

  3. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    First time I saw that top screenshot I thought “70′s in space <3 yay!" I hope the haircuts and sideburns will match the era.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      This game better feature upgradeable flares

    • LionsPhil says:

      One of my favourite things about Moon is how well it got the ’70s/’80s sci-fi aesthetic.

    • Turkey says:

      On the alien? Cause I’d pay to see that.

      • Turkey says:

        To be serious: The cantina and the “Mother” room are some of my favorite sets in a sci-fi movie.

  4. SillyWizard says:

    Is, uh, RPS talking a half-day, today? Is Good Friday an observed holiday in the UK?

  5. spaced says:

    If you look closely at the video, you can almost see the gun being held offscreen as they force the interviewees to pretend to be excited about a game they know won’t be any good.

    • sPOONz says:

      Haha, I felt sorry for these guys being dragged into a useless promotional video.

  6. Maxheadroom says:

    I am excited for this, and it does look cool, but these developer diaries smack of the ones doing the rounds for Colonial Marines where they’d bang on about how much they loved the films and wanted to recapture that essence and that this was going to be THE Aliens game.

    Lets hope history doesn’t repeat

  7. The Random One says:

    I feel like if I hold Y this will happen.

    I posted this video just last week for a completely unrelated reason. It’s a good month for Anaconda.

    • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

      Yes! Add some atari classics for the puzzle mini-games element of your sh*tty game, dear developers.
      Most of us obviously want it.

  8. JFS says:

    Isn’t it lo-fee, sci-fee? I know -fy sounds cooler, but both fidelity and fiction aren’t pronounced that way. Next thing, the USMC will adopt Semper Fy, hm?

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      There once was a baker from Slough
      Who baked all the bread in the borough
      But he screwed up the dough
      So the bread was too tough
      And gave everybody hiccoughs

    • P.Funk says:

      I think that while english has many poor rules that find themselves contradicted, an ‘i’ alone after a single letter with nothing following it will be pronounced like ‘eye’, much the same way an ‘i’ at the start of a word is mostly pronounced shorter like in the word ‘interest’ or ‘id’, but then you find that contradiction again in words like ‘idea’.

      But can you imagine a bunch of marines running around saying “Semper FEEEEEEE”, that’d be so dumb, and Marines are already dumb enough.

  9. Muzman says:

    In the Alien re-release commentary Ridley Scott talks about some original plan to have the displays be flat pieces of glass or perspex with the readout projected on it, to have a stab at ‘future screens’. But they didn’t have the time to get it right.
    Even though what was projected would probably have been pretty low res anyway, it would have made a pretty big difference to the legacy if they’d pulled it off.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    I was excited for this until I played the demo at Rezzed. Now I’m not so much. It looks right, just like the original film and they’ve nailed the atmosphere, but that was about all.

    Game play wise it felt like a game from the pre Half Life 2 era. There was no evidence of physics. All the scenery was static and immobile. Interaction was basic. Anything interact-able was highlighted with button prompts. Highlighted piles of collectible junk or items would get magically hoovered up when you tapped the right button. Pick up a cutting torch then proceed to the designated door and press A to interact to watch the animation play out. The hacking thing as shown above was very trivial. Again hit button to interact at the designated location to enter the simple hacking mini game. All the interactions were location specific. You can’t use the cutting torch on any door or hack any computer.

    The environments for all that they get right in capturing the feel of the film, just end up feeling lifeless and static.

    The Alien was also disappointing. Forget the sleek stealthy ninjas from the the films that practically flowed over their environments with liquid grace. The one in the game stomps about loudly like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk. Yes it is tense when you’re out in the open with it, but only because you know it’ll insta-kill you if it sees you.

    That was of course all based on their January demo, but I can’t honestly see it change that much before release. The demo was very linear and objective based. If the full game ends up being more open and free, then that might go some way to mitigating some of those other shortcomings. Of course I didn’t get to see the crafting or anything else like that either. Although judging how dated and basic the other mechanics felt, I’m not expecting much from that side of things.

    It still might yet surprise me and pull it out the hat, but my expectations have significantly lowered now.

  11. Premium User Badge

    El_MUERkO says:

    is she earned $80 an hour then she worked over one hundred and ninety-four hours, that’s loads, that’s like twenty-four eight hour days

  12. goettel says:

    Looks more authentic than, say, Prometheus. I am excite.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Prometheus, the movie in which a god gives fire to man, and man says HURR DURR I WONDURR WOT HAPPENS IF I PUT GLOWY FING IN MAH EYEEE in order to make a plot

  13. WJonathan says:

    So it’s a developer diary simulation? Well those certainly did seem like very realistic programmers giving themselves very authentic pats on their backs.

  14. jaguar skills says:

    “This trailer uses pre-alpha footage, and represents a work in progress.”

    Well if I know my Alien games, this means you can expect the team to need a year or so to get it looking much worse.

    On topic, it looks really good. Though I’d want to wait and see what the actual game is before I get too excited.

  15. SomeDuder says:

    yet more non-game crap. how you guys manage to deal with all this bullshit is beyond me. “Look, here, have some minor thing of this game!” and it shows up everywhere. Great marketing, shame that the actual game is usually shit

    • HisDivineOrder says:

      They usually do this stuff to keep people from seeing how the game isn’t really dense with actual gaming materials or perhaps to cover a short game.

      My guess is this game will be short, highly repetitive, and/or devolve into something closer to more conventional gameplay by the end.

      They cannot sustain what they’re suggesting they’re doing in this game for more than two hours without really changing things up.

      • P.Funk says:

        They plan to change it up by adding derivative FPS gameplay.

  16. DickSocrates says:

    “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” An alternate timeline where 70s tech was the tech that we took wtih us to alien worlds is as valid a setting as any other fantastical world. Late 70s/80s will probably be mined for inspiration in scifi for the rest of time, it’s the perfect mix of computers and mechanics where devices still looked unique and had limitations. Not everything had yet been reduced to generic blocks or tablets. There was still weight, there were still screws and wires and odd shapes that reflected the function. Our modern technology is too streamlined and santissed, there isn’t much for the imagination to latch on to. Everything is a flat rectangle, more than likey everything is literally the one flat rectangle.

    • P.Funk says:

      I think our modern technology is very fitting to the time. Everyone uses a flat rectangle to pour their soul into in the hopes that somewhere inside is the answer to the emptiness in them. These people themselves are identically flat and rectangular. The tech matches the people.

      The 70s, well, now that was a time when men and women were truly rhombuses.

    • El Mariachi says:

      The tech we use on Earth is not the same set as what we’d take to space. Sure, lots of flat rectangles and unadorned touchscreens and minimalist furniture in a 21st century boardroom or expensive condo or Apple Store, but take a tour around a modern warship or space vehicle and things are a lot less sleek. Still plenty of toggle switches and hand-cranked valves and whatnot. It will be a very long time before those things go away.

  17. HisDivineOrder says:

    “I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Concave screens on CRT’s off the shoulder of Ripley. I watched VHS tapes blur in the dark after the birth of the Genesis Planet. All those… futures… will be lost to HD displays, like The Tape from The Ring posted to… Youtube. Time… to die. Be kind… rewind…”

  18. Premium User Badge

    JamesTheNumberless says:

    I spent a lot of time in the 80s playing with old discarded (and often broken) tech from the 70s like old TVs, stereo equipment, radios and tape recorders, pretending they were parts of a spaceship.

    So now that my generation is in creative control of movies and videogames, this regression surprises me not one bit :)

  19. Megakoresh says:

    Meh, I prefer myself some high-tech action tbh.

  20. waltC says:

    Alien has never seemed like “analog tech” to me–I think that’s a very wrong way to look at it…;) Nostromo was a deep space mining rig designed for cyber sleep and long voyages–the instrumentation had to be tough, tough, tough and as rugged as it would be possible to manufacture. Not to mention reasonably practical and economical at the same time. These people were drudge miners–not fancy-pants cream-of-the-crop space cadets a la’ Star Trek, etc. The tech has always seemed perfect to me–almost weird it seems so realistic in terms of how such ships would likely be built if they are ever built at all. It’s not so much “analog” as it is strong electronics shielded to the max against solar flares and other EMP events, deep-space radiation, and so on. Not retro–probably exactly right…;) It’s one of the reasons I’ve liked the series so much–no dazzling philosophy and military spiffyness here–just dull, tough-as-nails circuitry designed for multi-decade mining expeditions into deep space…;) Yea…;)