Alien Blackout: Could it be redemption for a tarnished License?

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For Alien/Predator fans, video games have always under-delivered on their promise to provide an interactive insight into the regularly expanded and refined universe which encompasses both races of iconic antagonists.

Whilst Alien-licensed strategy and platforming games released in the 80s and Predator beat-em-ups and side scrollers from the 90s satisfied some of these fans, none of them stood out as generational classics, and the plethora of licensed games released in the 2000s and more recently in the 2010s can be considered mediocre charitably (with some exceptions).  

Enter the recently confirmed upcoming Alien game, Alien Blackout, which was hinted to be receiving a reveal imminently at TVGA (The Video Game Awards) 2018.

With Twitter accounts @AlienBlackout and @Alien_Blackout existing since September and a trademark filed for the title by franchise license owner 20th Century Fox, eagle-eyed gamers were previously aware of the game’s existence, yet the hype train recently reached its peak with tweets from both @thegameawards and show producer @geoffkeighley tweeting on the subject earlier this month.  

Both tweets included potential tagline “WORLDS WILL CHANGE”, one of which in response to video game creator Hideo Kojima’s visit to 20th Century Fox and the other in image format. Fans easily deduced that the image from Keighley referenced the game, with it featuring a tagline not dissimilar to that of the Alien series’ villainous corporation Weyland-Yutani (“Building Better Worlds”) and a “W” logo confirming this theory. 

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With little information on the game itself released to the gaming public, one can only speculate on what genre of gaming Blackout will fall into. Whilst unconfirmed, rumours within the media suggest the game is likely to be an FPS title, potentially in the same vein as either of the last two Triple-A Alien games, Alien: Isolation or the critically panned Aliens: Colonial Marines.  

Even though Alien Isolation (developed 2015 by Creative Assembly) is considered an excellent and immersive horror game, Aliens: Colonial Marines (released in 2013 by developer Gearbox Software) is considered a downright broken and vacuous mess, making many gamers and game critics’ list for the worst games of 2013.

Fans of Isolation have yearned for a sequel since the final DLC release for the game, yet the likelihood is low that Blackout will be a pure horror experience, with rumours suggesting it is more likely to be an action-based FPS Shooter like Colonial Marines.  

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With many quick to point out the shortcomings of ACM, with a new lesser-known development team (Cold Iron Studios) who are unencumbered by other projects (as Gearbox was with Duke Nukem Forever and Borderlands 2 prior to Colonial Marines release), Blackout is likely to have a better chance of being released with decent quality control. Cold Iron Studios has not released a single other game so it is impossible to predict the quality or format from the studio aspect alone, thus gamers may effectively be going in blind, save for the normal pre-release material.  

Fans of the Alien universe are by and large satisfied with the news of a possible gem on the horizon, but few share my optimism about what the success of this game could theoretically do for the Alien series.

The series has had its high points within gaming, with the excellent Alien vs Predator games (particularly AVP 1 and AVP 2) being examples of first-person gameplay being done right for all three playable races (Alien, Predator and Marine). Being a versatile series, the Alien license has had games in various genres, including strategy (Aliens Vs Predator Extinction) and lightgun (Alien 3, Alien: The Gun) games, which could be popularised if Blackout reinvigorates the franchise.  

Having been dormant for far longer than most franchises, the Predator series could also benefit from this potential success, as the race of Predators exist in the same universe as Aliens, often clashing in other mediums such as comic and film. The recent box office figures for The Predator film whilst not being stellar, show the series to still be profitable, yet despite being arguably as iconic an antagonist as the Aliens, Predators have only received one standalone title, the flawed yet popular Predator Concrete Jungle, released in 2005 by Sierra Entertainment. 

The Alien/Predator universe is detailed and notable enough to still receive attention from gamers, and much in the same way as the Star Wars, Star Trek or TRON series deserves high quality games to draw from and build on its rich lore. For developers, the possibilities are endless and hopefully Alien Blackout will make the most of an long-abused yet promising license. 

Philip Gallagher

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