Alien is one of the most beloved and enduring franchises in movie history, and its influences are hard to deny. In regards to video games, Nintendo’s famous Metroid series heavily references the original films. But when it comes to games that officially use the intellectual property, there is a serious lack of quality. This is unfortunate, because Alien fans are passionate and, after a few decades of trying, it seems like the video game industry should have figured out what it wants from a game.
To date, there are around 20 separate Alien video games. The only one that might be considered good is the recently released title, Alien: Isolation, which currently has a “generally favorable” review score on Metacritic. I generally just found the game acceptable, but that was refreshing because, well, I had never actually had a satisfying gaming experience with the franchise. What it did right was create this sense of impotence, with a creepier, stealth-based gameplay. While the story wasn’t great, which is in stark contrast to the first movie, the gameplay was at least reminiscent of Alien’s atmosphere. That said, that same feeling has been done better in other sci-fi games like Dead Space. Hell, even the early encounters with the antagonist in Metroid Fusion, a platformer for the Game Boy Advance, came closer than other Alien games. The bar was just that low.
What Alien: Isolation did was give gamers hope that the gaming industry had finally keyed into what makes an Alien game decent. That was a monumental task because, ahead of its release, a lot of people were expecting Gearbox Software to do a pretty good job with 2013’s title Alien: Colonial Marines. Gearbox was, at the time, a studio that a lot of people believed in. So when the game came out and was, frankly, terrible, it was a bit deflating. That game did everything wrong. It looked bad, sounded bad, and, despite featuring Aliens, wasn’t at all like Alien. It was a subpar first-person shooter in a console generation absolutely full of first person shooters.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Alien series is on the upward trajectory and, for now, Alien: Isolation might be an anomaly. It seems like a single moment where the franchise managed to ascend beyond mediocrity. That’s the feeling gamers seem to have about the upcoming title, Alien: Blackout, anyway. The long rumored, recently revealed, title is upsetting people because it will be a mobile game.
Now, I’m not wholly against mobile games by any means. There are certainly a ton of them that I like, and I believe they can be handled well. I even took the stance that gamers should maybe calm down in regards to Diablo Immortal and, while I maintain that belief, I can now better sympathize with them. I’ve been waiting for a good Alien game for a while. I am not sure if the same feeling that Alien: Isolation created can work well on mobile.
There will be elements that are carried over from Alien: Isolation, but it’s mostly narrative which really wasn’t that game’s strong point in the first place. Thinking about this optimistically, I am hoping that Alien: Blackout can help build out the character of Amanda Ripley a bit more. That’s about as high as my hopes can get at this point, though. I don’t usually binge mobile games and horror is a genre that benefits from long sessions. It also looks like the gameplay in Blackout will be reminiscent of the indie title, Five Nights At Freddy’s, which was a popular game to stream and talk about, but its novel mechanics didn’t exactly grab me. I can’t imagine it’s what fans of Alien are looking for either.
Maybe it’s presumptuous of me, but I think gamers are at a point where they want more Alien: Isolation, but better. That game came so close to totally nailing it and should be considered a textbook for use on future projects. Maybe the overwhelming sense of disappointment I’m currently experiencing is a result of not knowing what’s next on the horizon for the series. I shouldn’t sweat the fact that a mobile Alien game is going to exist, because I can simply ignore it if it’s bad. That’s the rational stance, anyway. I sure am getting restless, though, and I hope E3 2019 might offer a little bit more for fans.