Friday 04th December 2020,
XP4T Brave.Bold.Banter.

32 Years of Alien Games (Part 3)

acm 1

Another picture of you-know-what. I hope we can finish with this game soon, because I’m running out of screenshots for it.

The game was finally released in February 2013, as Pitchford had said it would be. If it had been as mind-bogglingly good as it was made out to be, this would probably be a very different paragraph. Unfortunately, of course, it wasn’t that good. Even if you didn’t buy it, or play it at all, you probably know that it was in fact a complete piece of _______. (You can add your own favourite word there). The A:CM-buying portion of the Internet exploded like an atmosphere processor full of nukes, and that’s when things got really interesting.

It turned out (according to an anonymous Redditor who seems to have been subsequently proved correct) that after being put off or temporarily shelved by Gearbox many times in favour of other projects (including Borderlands and Duke Nukem 3D), with significant do-overs each time work was resumed, Gearbox was finally so far behind that they started outsourcing the work. TimeGate Studios, a Texas-based studio known for the original two F.E.A.R. expansions, Perseus Mandate and Extraction were given the single player campaign to do, whilst Gearbox would handle multiplayer, and two other teams, Demiurge Studios (who ported Mass Effect to PC) and Nerve Software (lots and lots of work on id Software titles) would handle the DLC. But time ran out on the project, and Gearbox were dismayed to discover that the contracted work was dismal and broken and laughable. At the last second, they did whatever they could to scrape the whole thing though testing and certification, and watched as A:CM was finally released as a gigantic joke of a game. While SEGA initially denied all such claims of outsourcing, they were eventually taken to court in the US in a class action suit in April 2013 (the same month they finally announced that no, there wouldn’t be a Wii U port) for misrepresentation of the product. They finally settled the thing for USD 1.25m, thus bringing what I like to call The Colonial Marines Saga to an end. More or less.

Well, that’s the nutshell version. If you want to, you can read all sorts of hilarious mud-slinging, accusations and counter-accusations between the four studios involved online. And apparently Aliens: Colonial Marines has been significantly patched since launch, which presumably means that the Aliens who once would circle you, sniffing your bottom menacingly before mincing off again, are now again the vicious killing machines we all know and love.

13 Alien Isolation (1920) ALT

People, we have come full circle, back to the 1979 start of this three-battle campaign. It’s time for some Isolation.

In much the same way that the first film unfolded languidly, lurched into terror and then ran screaming toward the final confrontation before peacefully drifting off to sleep for fifty years, I sort of feel that this series has done the same thing. If A:CM was the final bed-wetting mayhem at the end, it then comes as a great relief to me to announce that chronologically, we are now in Sigourney Weaver’s peaceful 2014 hypersleep knickers with the thoroughly un-controversial, utterly brilliant Alien: Isolation.

The Creative Assembly (the article is actually part of their name), another team of Brits, was founded in 1987 and spent its first decade porting Amiga hits to MS-DOS. By 1999, they had enough money, clout and experience to attempt their own, original project, and thus the seminal Shogun: Total War was born. The rest, as they say is history – very much so in TCA’s case, as they went on to give us a whopping nine of their brilliant historical TBS/RTS Total War games, plus a bunch of expansion packs and spin-offs, which even earned their own TV game show.

Since 2005 though, they’ve been owned by SEGA, which partly explains why they went the Alien route. The game actually began as an in-house project by six of the team, following the release of their 2008 action-adventure Viking: Battle for Asgard. They made a small, multiplayer thing and pitched it to SEGA, who completely fell in love with it. This would have been around the time of their initial panic with Gearbox and A:CM, so it’s not hard to imagine them jumping on it with glee.

Most of you reading this will probably know all about the game – it’s dedication to having a single, un-killable Alien that operates on exceedingly cunning AI, the scrupulously atavistic recreation of Ridley Scott’s film’s visual and aural aesthetics. It’s a complete return to the Alien’s roots as a thing of mystery, horror and male rape. Most of all though, like Rebellion’s original, classic Aliens vs Predator a decade and a half earlier, it’s just a damn good game. Since I wrote the introduction to Part 1 of this series about four weeks ago, I’ve bought and played a bit of it, and I can now confirm that yes, I will probably have to stop playing it very soon for fear of damage to the trouser department. Now that’s what makes a good Alien game.

This is Neurotic, XP4T502460H, Features Writer, signing off.


If you enjoyed reading about the history of Alien games, you might also enjoy some of our other history articles. Fans of open-world crime sims can click here for our 3-part history of Saints Row developer Volition, while military shooter fans can aim here for our look at the evolution of the Battlefield series.

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About The Author

Old London geezer, now resident in the Polish hinterland. Linguist, committed Trekker, old-skool D&Der and gamer since the Colecovision was cooler than yo-yos...

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