And neither do the developers, at times. “The thing I really didn’t expect was the fact that, as a team, we’d all still be getting caught out by the alien. Even towards the end of development we’d still die and jump and yell and be surprised by it. Even now I can play it and my heart will be thumping away.”
As if delving into that amazing archive wasn’t enough, Alien: Isolation also gave The Creative Assembly the chance to work with, and even write new dialogue for, the original film cast. This started with their reconstruction of the Nostromo. “When you start a project like this you have all kinds of crazy ideas,” Hope tells me. “Because the first stage of development was deconstruction of the film, our creative team was tearing the Nostromo apart to find out what makes it feel like the Nostromo. This was so we could build new environments that were true to that style.
“We ended up thinking, man, I’d love to walk around the Nostromo. Then you wonder what it would be like to face the original alien in there. Then you wonder if you can get the original cast together to reprise their roles and play out some of those scenarios again.”
Which, incredibly, they did. “We told them the game was about survival, not killing. They saw the care and attention we put into the atmosphere. It was really exciting that they said yes. Sigourney Weaver would be playing Ellen Ripley for the first time in a videogame. That was something really special.”
Hope says the actors had ideas about the script and their characters—especially Weaver. Ripley has been a crucial part of her career, and she doesn’t treat the character lightly. “We really got a sense of that. She did a lot of work reprising her role.”
Playing the game, I couldn’t help but think about the scene in the director’s cut of Aliens where Weyland-Yutani stooge Carter Burke tells Ellen that Amanda died of cancer at age 66. I ask Hope if this was ever in their mind as they made the game. “If there’s one thing we know about Burke, it’s that he’s an extremely untrustworthy character. The one thing he needs to do is get Ripley to go back to LV-426, and there’s a chance he’s going to tell her whatever he thinks he needs to say.”
Isolation is an incredibly brave game. It goes against everything that defines a mainstream, big budget release, relying on steady pacing and systems rather than instant gratification and broad appeal. “It did feel like a risk,” says Hope. “But when we first pitched it the response was really positive. It seemed to be in line with what we wanted from an Alien game. Something different. Four years later, having finally released the game, it’s great to see there’s a large audience out there that’s open to something like this. Who knows what we’ll do next?”