Alien: Isolation puts the more terrifying aspects of the franchise directly in front of the player, but how will that translate into mobile platforms?
The Extraterrestrial The franchise is one of the most unique entries in the horror and sci-fi genre. At its core, the films explore human nature to meddle with the unknown and how that can lead to dangerous results. Personifying these findings, the Xenomorph, an evolutionary perfected creature that can survive in space and seeks only to feed and reproduce. To the terrifying aura emanating from these beings is added the cold atmosphere of space. For decades, the franchise struggled to create a game that could properly capture the phrase “In space, no one can hear you scream.” But everything changed when Sega released Alien: isolation in 2014.
Located 15 years after the original Extraterrestrial, Insulation is a first-person survival horror title that puts players in the shoes of Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley. Never losing hope of finding Ellen, Amanda travels to Sebastapol, a space station containing the last known flight recorder left by her mother. However, what she finds is a station in disarray with a Xenomorph lurking in its hallways. On consoles, the game uses many unique features to immerse the player in a realistic environment. It was recently announced that a mobile port of the game is on the way, but the atmosphere that made the game such a success may be hampered by the transition.
Playing Alien: isolation on consoles, there is an immediate shift in the spirit of the real world to the game world. Players are transported to a distant future created in the first film, where lo-fi technology can make the difference between life. And the dead. The game also features little to no sound, making ambient noise a soundtrack in itself and the only way to know what’s going on in the immediate area. The tone in the atmosphere can change quickly, and a slight vibration followed by the sound of the motion detector, breaking the silence, is enough to surprise even the most hardened gamer.
Insulation demands the full attention of a player, and if that atmosphere is broken, an important moment can be missed, resulting in untimely death at the hands (or teeth) of a Xenomorph. Players can also use their controller to look around for objects. However, the more exposed a player is, the more likely they are to be spotted by the Synthetic Androids, the Xenomorph, or the humans on Sevastapol. When these factors are combined, the result is an almost perfect reproduction of the atmosphere that has made the movie franchise so beloved. To successfully translate this into a mobile game would require the same attention that is required in the console version. However, by the very nature of how mobile gaming works, this could prove to be problematic for gamers.
Since smartphones are often used for gaming on the go, it’s hard to find the time or place to devote the necessary attention to gaming. Alien: isolation. Playing in a noisy environment, surrounded by people, or just somewhere where your attention is divided can easily spoil the immersive horror and moody experience of the game. Add to that the limitations inherent in mobile gaming control schemes. Gameplay will need to be reworked or condensed to account for the lack of buttons, something that can make or break an experience rich in interactions like Insulation.
Alien: isolation is a unique experience that embraces immersion by creating a frightening atmosphere through the circumstances of the story rather than the place itself. Coupled with the innovative controls, the title feels more like a living entity than a game, which makes its inhabitants even more intimidating. Playing it on mobile will draw more attention to the title, but in doing so, the atmosphere of the game will lose key factors that make the experience so memorable.
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