5 Developers Who Would Make a Really Good Aliens Game
by Ryan C.
No matter what your preferred form of entertainment is, be it video games, books, movies; disappointment is a common factor and some hit harder then others. I mention this because Aliens: Colonial Marines launched last week to overwhelmingly negative reviews. Besides ruining the continuity of the films, reviewers reported that the gameplay is just not up to snuff and tons of visual glitches. I’m a huge fans of the films and I wanted to have a great Aliens game. Regulars in our very own chat room should be sick of me talking about this game so I dedicate this article to them, because they clearly want to hear me talk about it more (also to get it out of my system).
For this article I picked five developers who I think should make an Aliens game. I’ll talk about what games they developed that made me pick them and talk about how their specific talents can craft a unique and atmospheric game to do the brand justice. Most importantly, there are tons of talented developers out there so don’t take this list too seriously and just have fun. So, in no particular order, here are five developers who should handle the Aliens license.
Most people know the company Ubisoft, but what many may not know is that their in-house development teams are named on where they are based out of, such as Ubisoft Montreal, Paris, etc. One of my personal favourites is Montipeller, known for there work on Rayman, Beyond Good & Evil, and most recently, Zombi U. If there is one major studio left who understands how to make a real survival horror game it is these guys. From perfect balance of resource management, slow tense moments, jump scares and false moments of horror, Zombi U just knows how to get under your skin.
Gamers take control of common every day people dealing with the zombie apocalypse while scavenging all the weapons and health they can. Players can only hold so much equipment, so excess items have to be dropped in a metal box to be saved for later or for future characters. Similar to Wayforward’s Aliens Infestation for the DS, once a character dies they are gone forever and need to be hunted down to reclaim the items they have. I can imagine a crew similar to the Nostramo in Alien; players can switch on the fly to other crew members to make use of their skills. Some characters could hack doors or craft special weapons like a flamethrower or combine two weapons into one. If done right, the game could be finished multiple ways similar to the old RPGs in the 90s like System Shock 2 of Deus Ex; focusing on combat, electronic skills, or surviving long enough for a rescue team.
Another game of theirs that is similar in a way to the overarching Aliens narrative is Beyond Good & Evil. The setup involves a company conspiracy involving an alien invasion, they appear to be fighting them in the public eye but has a secret agenda for them. One recurring theme in the movies is the Weyland-Yutani company’s secret desire to obtain the aliens for their bioweapons division. Beyond Good & Evil’s story is exceptionally strong with mystery, strong characterization of its female lead and conspiracy. Sounds like a good Alien story to me.
The main reason why I picked Valve is that they mastered both single player campaigns and multiplayer. Despite the fact I only beat the first Half Life a few months ago, it still blew me away and remains a finely craft, well-paced campaign. On the multiplayer side of things they got co-op (Left 4 Dead) and tactical death match variants (Team Fortress 2 and Counter Strike).
Looking back on my time with Half Life, there are elements of a good Alien story. It’s not really surprising though since James Cameron’s classic can be felt throughout the entire industry. The game involves Gordon Freeman trying to escape his laboratory that has been invaded with creatures from another dimension. Part way through the escape, soldiers from another corporation are found killing all surviving scientists to keep the incident a secret. Sound familiar? Besides similar plot points, the game itself is well-paced with action, puzzles, exploration and the occasional set piece that never seems overwhelming ala Call of Duty. The environments themselves are are well designed and despite being primarily set in a laboratory, are varied and never get repetitive. It is sad to see most mainstream shooters these days become nothing but linear, pop-n-shoot roller coaster of set pieces, but if anyone can do it tasteful, it’s Valve.
For multiplayer, it’s pretty self explanatory. Of all the reviews I read of Colonial Marines, most of them agreed that the game mode Escape is one of the best aspects. It teams up four marines who must reach point A to B before they are overwhelmed from the opposing Xenomorphs team. With Left 4 Dead and its sequel, Valve has a great grasp on the formula and I’m positive they can balance this mode up even more. In fact, “balance” is a fitting word as Valve is known for creating some of the most balanced competitive shooters ever. From team deathmatch on the surface of LV-426, Escape mode in the corridors of Fury 161, meaningful character classes in multiplayer and balanced weapons, I wish I could see Valve do an Aliens game. The only bad thing would be that it would take 10 years for them to make it.
Who says 2D games can’t be atmospheric and forebode a sense of dread? With the limitations of creating worlds in a 2D space, developers have to be really creative to force emotions into a player; horror being one of the hardest. PlayDead’s Limbo may not be the most scary game, but it is effective in making the player themselves feel like a small insect in a big malevolent world.
What makes Limbo so effective is its smart use of shadows. While some objects may be difficult to distinguish, parts of the scenery can actually turn out to be a giant spider that immediately gives chase. This reminds me of the part in Aliens when the marines enter the hive and the aliens themselves kind of blend into the walls before attacking. Aliens Infestation proved that a side scroller can offer a tense and sometimes scary experience. The first Alien movie featured truckers in space with no weapons (besides a flamethrower) and it was terrifying. A game set in a space ship featuring a character with no combat training with amazing uses of shadows could offer up great scares.
Do I really need to explain why Retro should make an Aliens game? If anyone played Metroid Prime 3 until the end should know why. Towards the end of the game gamers find there way onto the G.F.S Valhalla that went missing months prior to the start of the game. It was raided by Space Pirates and left to drift endlessly into space. Travelling through it is one of the most tense and scariest moments in any Nintendo game. Dead bodies are left drifting in space, Metroids are seemingly everyone, and corpses are frozen in the last moments of trying to open a door before crumpling away to ash as air fills a once empty vacuum of space. If this doesn’t sound like the perfect setting to an Aliens game then you should take a good long look in the mirror at yourself.
The beauty of the G.F.S Valhalla is that it is strikingly similar to the premise of Colonial Marines, i.e., a bunch of space marines has to board the USS Sulacco to find out what happened to the crew featured in Aliens. Another common trick that Retro effectively uses is finding documents that detail what happened as the crew were being overwhelmed. It is common for horror games to have notes lying around the flesh out the setting and this would also be useful in an Aliens game such as (for example) what was going through Private Hudson’s mind as he was slowly losing his sanity.
Other then just Metroid Prime 3’s memorable sequence, Retro studios is known for creating a realistic otherworldly environment. Tallon IV in Metroid Prime remains one of the most creative and well detailed world in any game. I would love to see them make a unique planet in the Aliens universe that can be as remarkable as LV-426 or Fury 161.
One major criticism to Colonial Marines was the A.I., or lack thereof. Sure they can fall from the ceilings or burst out of wall vents, but Retro Studios also made awesome looking enemies that were intelligent and could navigate the environment wonderfully. Space Pirates flew to ledges for a clear shot, enemies pop up from underground when they sense your movement, and insects attack when their hive was in danger. I’m sure they could make the xenomorphs stalk the players and scale the environments in awe inducing ways.
Seriously Sega, please let Retro make it. I would totally forgive you for everything, even Sonic 2006.
I was initially going to pick the Nintendo EAD group who made Pikmin but ultimately I picked Platinum games as their upcoming Wonderful 101 looks to be great. When people think of what genre of games would fit the franchise, first person shooters seems to be the main one, but looking at my game collection I found that the idea of a RTS akin to Pikmin would be surprisingly fun.
I imagine this game would step outside the film universe and just be a stand alone title or even in the Alien vs. Predator timeline. A setup could be that the Predators have created an army of Aliens for their test of worth and eventually gets overwhelmed by the xenos. The aliens themselves are similar in nature to ants, so controlling them in packs just make sense. With the primary enemies being predators, and possibly set on Earth, there is a wide variety of alien types and possibilties to expand the types available for variety. For those who don’t know: Aliens take on traits of the host, so one born from a human is different then one born from a dog. Each type could have advantages and disadvantages in combat and puzzling environments.
Another reason I picked Platinum is because they have a sense of style and cinematic flair. Some may argue that some of their games focus more on style then substance, but the latest trailer of The Wonderful 101 shows that they know how to pick a style and do it justice.
I never knew I wanted a RTS Aliens game, but now that I thought of it I really hope Sega is reading this.
Now before I end this, I do know there are many good Aliens games. Let’s have a quick look at some of the best.
Alien vs Predator (arcade)
Back in the 90’s Capcom essentially ruled the world with quality game after quality game. One game that fell through the cracks of time is their beat-em-up based on the AvP franchise. Forgotten? Yes. Fantastic? Hell yes.
Alien vs Predator (1999)
First person shooters are a pretty big deal these days, but in the 90’s during their rise in popularity we got much more variety in gameplay. AvP (1999) allowed you to play as the Marines, Aliens and Predators, each with their own unique campaign and gameplay styles. Marines play as a more common FPS while Aliens run hilariously fast along walls and ceilings. It may be dated in the visual department, but still remains a compelling experience.
Alien vs Predator 2
If you like AvP (1999) then you should feel right at home in the sequel. With more weapons and a inter-connected story (rather then three separate stories like in the predecessor) that takes play 50 years after Alien 3, there is a lot to fall in love with. Also, class based online multiplayer certainly doesn’t hurt.
I touched on this game in the main article so I won’t waste too much time talking about it. WayForward is known for making great games, even when they make licensed ones. Infestation makes the Xenomorphs scary and hard to kill, and once your colourful cast of marines actually die, they’re gone for good. It may be stressful at times, but that’s what Aliens do man.
With that, my love article of the Alien franchise comes to a close. It’s pretty obvious I’m a big nerd for it, but I’m not trying to come across as a whiny fanboy who thinks Sega owes me, but if they want to take some of my ideas I’ll totally be cool with that.