Monday, 27 October 2014

Alien: Isolation - Doing Immersion Right

Here at Swagger, we've been working on a video game for a client of ours (coming soon...) and it got me thinking about my favorite video game and what makes it great. And, since Halloween is just around the corner, I thought I'd share some information with you about the best and scariest game on the market right now. 

For me there are few scares better than the Alien Franchise - and by that I mean the first two movies. A number of days ago Alien: Isolation hit stores and I purchased it for PC. It covers the events between the first two movies. What really got me excited about this game was the fantastic immersion that it creates. Immersion is when you forget your real world surroundings and get so involved with what you are watching or doing that you believe it is your reality. For video game developers this is often one of the major goals they try to achieve with a game.

Creative Assembly, the amazing folks who developed Isolation, hit the nail right on the head as far as capturing the design and atmosphere of the first movie - Alien.  Everything from the interior design to the sounds and lighting is painstakingly re-created in Isolation. There are many environments that are recognizable from the film, but what was amazing to me was how the developers took these areas and connected them all together seamlessly with completely new spaces that weren’t portrayed in the film. 

If you have ever watched the movie (if you haven’t I certainly recommend it), you will be blown away by the attention to detail that is presented in this game.

See that down in the bottom left corner? Mop marks! What kind of developer takes the time to put in janitorial details like that?!?!  In real life we would barely even notice details like this. But, to a developer, small things like that are important, especially if a developer wants you to be as immersed as possible. There are plenty of small things like that throughout the entire game that greatly add to the experience. 

Aside from the spectacular imagery that is presented to you - sound and light play an equally important role in creating immersion. While navigating the giant space station you are stuck in, you're able to hear all manner of things going around you, which is important if you want to survive! There is an alien on board *OBVIOUS SPOILERS!* and its hunting you. You can hear it navigate the vents in the ceiling above you, hear it drop down in a room next you you and rummage for people to eat. Paying such strong attention to the sounds, you get lost in the game.

The alien also deserves special mention, without it the game would lack tension and the ability to make you cry in the corner. The AI that controls the alien is superbly designed. It learns your habits; where you hide, how long you cower in fear before attempting to get across the hall and lock a door, and I’m fairly certain he can count how much fuel you have left in your flamethrower so it can cut you down as it runs dry. The alien will play games with you (and your brain), making you think it hasn’t seen or heard you in a room, and wait for you to start leaving your hiding place before dropping in behind you and taking you out.

If you are looking for a good scare and an amazing immersive gaming experience, I highly recommend grabbing Alien:Isolation. If you are too scared to play it yourself, go make some popcorn then make a friend play it and watch them! 

What has been the most immersive game for you? Are there any shows that really captivate your attention that you get lost in? Do you disagree with everything I've said? Let me know in the comments below.

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