Game developers must overcome aliens

I like aliens. It’s one of the best action movies ever made. A masterpiece of its kind. James Cameron killed him. But I’m sick of Aliens video games. At Summer Games Fest 2022, Focus Home Interactive revealed Aliens: Dark Descent, which developer Tindalos Interactive describes as “inspired by our favorite CRPG games and packed in harrowing real-time action”. After a long cutscene, we see about five seconds of gameplay, revealing that this is a team-based tactical shooter.

I’m not dumping Dark Descent itself. I haven’t played it. It could be awesome. The mention of CRPGs intrigued me, and I’ll definitely check it out whenever it comes up. But I sincerely wish that developers, publishers and all those who propose these projects broaden their horizons. There is a whole world beyond this film. I don’t know if anyone has ever told the industry this, but you’re actually allowed to make Alien games based on movies other than Aliens.


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Look, I get it: This is a movie that features hordes of aliens, an arsenal of neat sci-fi weaponry, and wisecracking marines. A video game fits perfectly into this format. You don’t have to change anything. But my problem is that it was done. So many times, and not just in Aliens games, but in countless other sci-fi shooters. I know putting on the combat boots of a Colonial Navy veteran and mowing down xenos with a pulse rifle is a powerful and enduring fantasy. But it’s time to move on.

In 2014, Total War creator Creative Assembly had the courage to buck the trend. He developed Alien: Isolation, a slow-burning horror game that finally did HR Giger’s creature justice. The silly cannon fodder of Hollywood’s scariest freak was no longer pouncing on your shotgun; he was fearsome, terrifying, intelligent and could kill you in the blink of an eye. This developer looked away from Aliens for once, and the result is easily the greatest horror game ever made.

But there’s more to Alien than the original film. Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, Prometheus, and Alien: Covenant – whatever you think – all bring something new to the mix. They’re still basically movies about a giant penis murdering people in a hallway, but each has its own perspective, aesthetic, and flavor. That’s why it’s such a shame that a new Alien game is being announced, and once again it’s imbued with the familiar feel and visual design of Cameron’s sequel.

It was incredibly naive of me, but I quietly hoped that Disney would acquire Fox, and in turn the Alien series, might give video games a creative boost in the arm. But between the co-op shooter Fireteam and now Dark Descent, it’s clear the series has been stuck in the same rut for decades. Those Creative Assembly heroes threw a ladder at her, but Sega knocked it back before she could get out. He described Alien: Isolation’s 2.1 million sales as “low” and essentially gave up. I’m still angry.

I hope Dark Descent is good. Despite everything I just said, a good Aliens game is still better than a bad Aliens game. God knows there’s been enough. But devs, please watch another Alien movie. It’s a series you can take in any direction. Look what Ridley Scott did with Prometheus. Sure, some people hated it, but it was surprising. It wasn’t just more soldiers taking down xenomorphs. There’s more to this series than that, and I’d like its games to reflect that.

Next: Desperate for another alien: isolation? Try its spiritual successor

About Cedric Lloyd

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