I’ve been lucky enough to have had this entire week off work for the purposes of rest, relaxation and general hermetic convalescence. “Ah, what a tender dream that is”. If anything this “week off” has been more demanding than my actual job, owing to my girlfriends drunk related incident that resulted in her restricted mobility and a 4 hour stint at casualty. The injury itself, a twisted ankle, though clearly painful wasn’t as serious as first thought. The positive diagnosis has still prevented us from doing any of the activities we’d had planned for our rare time together due to her interim lack of lateral stability. So with this restriction in mind and sleep a premium thanks to my daughters insistence on waking up at 6 am, bless her, gaming has taken a back seat until the latter stages of the evening. Such is the cruel symmetry of life. It wasn’t until late evening that I was assured of the peace required to engage in such frivolous activities. And even then I had neither the energy or inclination to indulge in anything that required a concerted mental aptitude. Focusing on a screen whilst synchronising simple button controls is about as stimulating and complex as my sleep deprived mind can handle. “Dead By Daylight” provides that simple yet engaging notion that can casually assimilate a player with minimum fuss. Dead By Daylight is an asymmetrical horror game where 4 survivors have to escape elaborately themed stages by activating randomly conjured generators scattered precariously throughout the map. All while trying to evade the pervasive stalking of a perusing murderer with a penchant for hooks that sacrifice the souls of those impaled to some ethereal, malevolent being. Whether you are the hunter or the hunted you will have to adapt your strategy to accommodate the varying environments and the distinctive variations of perks utilised by the prowess of these demented monkey farts. Sometimes the difference between winning and losing can be measured in seconds or inches, zigging when you should’ve zagged. Or in some instances a crippling glitch rips success from your grasp. Next time I think I’ll just go to bed. Enjoy.
Alien, the seminal horror classic from 1979 is easily one of my favourite movies. Alien terrified generations with its dark temperament and gratuitous oral penetration, which incidentally culminated in one cinemas most brutal, nauseating scenes: a deadly Alien bursting through John Hurts now convulsing body, spurting blood through his exposed chest cavity, which is still the series most defining moment. Every scene, however trivial had a purpose. Whether it established chemistry amongst the crew, the occasional division between shipmates, the claustrophobic ambience of the Nostromo, the commercial towing vehicle carrying 20,000,000 tons of iron ore, or conveying the desolation of the vacant planet that accommodates adverse weather conditions seldom seen outside the UK and the now infamous reveal of the derelict alien spacecraft. Not to mention H.R Giger’s exquisite artistry that was the core inspiration for the ferocious, acidic blooded parasites; the Xenomorphs. It was conceptually bold, startlingly audacious movie that without the exuberant direction of Ridley Scott could’ve been a lambasted B movie, forgotten by critics and audiences alike. Alien spawned five sequels, one prequel, a host of comics books and further novelisations as well as merchandise, video games and innumerable parodies that have solidified Alien as cultural icon, thus creating an endearing legacy that has endured despite the economical inferiority of its proceeding attachments. After a 30 year absence from the series, Ridley Scott returned with 2014’s much maligned prequel “Prometheus”. With a vaguely defined story and abject crew of dumb scientists that treated obvious threats like a child would treat a puppy, Prometheus ultimately failed to resonate with any coherent investment. Scott, seemingly aware of the of the fans desire for a more affectionate consort to his original material sought to rectify this by not only including the parasitical organisms that sought refuge in John Hurts rib cage back into the movie, but include Alien in the title. What he achieved however is to prove that he could make the same movie 3 times, with various degree’s of success.
Alien: Covenant follows the terraforming crew of the eponymous ship destined for a planet suitable for human colonisation. Of course they intercept a distress signal along the way, things go wrong and are passively forced to land on a neighbouring planet that accommodates conditions even more perfect for human habitation. The expedition goes awry, people get infected and aliens begin bursting through every naturally occurring orifices and some fashioned through devastating force! The problem from the off is the sheer number of passengers on this ship. There are 15 or so, but only 5 or 6 of them will have more than a couple of lines of dialogue. Whereas the crew of the Nostromo felt like an ensemble, here most of the crew are there purely to die in the most gratuitous way possible. Nothing but mere subsidiary characters in metaphorical red shirts, that act as disposable cattle, bleating and mooing with as much depth as a puddle. Ridley Scott also has a penchant for killing marriages in this film? As well as lovers in an obligatory shower scene. Because motivations are so fleeting and people are dispatched just as quickly there isn’t really sufficient vigour amongst the cast to establish a report. Tennessee is probably the most affable character, with his interactions with others feeling more affluent and natural. Daniels, the main thrust of the female cast is certainly no Sigourney Weaver, but does an admirable job to a point. I just found her attempts to convey vulnerability were a little inconsistent and jarring, alternating between a scared infant to an embolden soldier a little too readily. What elevates the movie beyond the inept banality of Prometheus is Michael Fassbender’s performance. Or should that be Michael Fassbender’s?
He doesn’t just carry this movie, he’s heaving the languid script like Ripley carries Newt away from the Alien queen; with triumphant fervour. He can go from sincere to psychotic with the same intensity and fluidity as Anthony Hopkins in Silence Of The Lambs. He’s that good! He reprises his role as David, the egotistical synthetic with a proclivity for human experimentation, exhibiting all the traits of a deranged sociopath with aspirations of divination. Since Prometheus David has dedicated much of his time at his procured evil residence trying to create a new species of alien derived from the same space cobras and Hug O Squid from Prometheus. Why? Well there’s a labouring, vaguely defined reason for his Frankenstein incentives, but it’s negligible really. Needless to say his ambiguous intent in the previous movie has distended into pure madness, delivered with devious relish by Fassbender. Though doesn’t murderous artificial intelligence sound strangely familiar? That’s because the biggest problem with Covenant is crucially evident in its familiar routines.
If I was being severely critical Covenant is really just a stylised “Alien” remake with Prometheus aesthetics and most importantly for Scott, Prometheus mythology. There’s certainly a leniency in terms of coherency and convoluted storytelling that impeded the fluency of Prometheus, and it does attempt to try new things such as the way the Aliens gestate, but it does so without ever really standing out. There’s such a reliance on the what’s come before that it all feels reconstituted. You have a crew member’s body, who is killed aboard the Covenant, jettisoned into space. A distress signal from an unknown source that must be investigated. A psychotic synthetic. Derelict ship. A stupid person putting there heads right over the top of obviously dangerous eggs. A female lead who bears an uncanny resemblance to original kick ass heroine Ellen Ripley. And an ending fight that extraneously amalgamates both that of Alien and Aliens final conflicts with a shrug. It becomes painfully obvious that Scott really doesn’t know where to take the franchise without compromising the integrity of his original classic. And it’s a shame because the imagery and visual style of both Prometheus and this are exceptional to look upon. The environments, the ship, the way he contrasts light and shadow, particularly in scenes with Fassbender, channelling some Shakespearean villain, it’s stunning. But so is Megan Fox, doesn’t mean I want to hear her discuss the science of alien genetics!
Alien Covenant represents the over inflated hubris of a man who has dedicated years trying to distance himself from this franchise. Its ambitious, yes, but don’t mistake that vision for anything profound. It seems so concerned with expanding a mythology that it forgets to be scary or even interesting. It’s essentially dumb scientists doing absurdly dumb sciencey things, devolving further into intellectual aberration and becoming at points unintentionally comedic. From the slapstick humour of two separate characters slipping over a pool of blood at crucial moments, to Michael Fassbender teaching “Himself” how to play the flute by erotically cooing “You blow. I’ll do the fingering”. You have to wonder whether the script was written by someone distracted by reruns of “Benny Hill” and “Carry on”. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much considering the steep, downward trajectory the series was taking with the blasphemous Alien Vs Predator tangent. With potential followup’s like Alien Vs Superman. Alien Vs John Wick. Alien Vs Marvin The Martian. Alien Vs Alzheimer.
Alien Covenant isn’t a bad film, but it’s not a great one either. The characters are underwhelming and extraneous, the plot meanders like my Nan trying to recite a joke she’s forgotten the punchline too, before accelerating off like a fart in a hurricane (the story, not my Nan). It culminates in a predictable ending that even M Night Shymalan would dismiss as derivative and stupid. Alien Covenant may well be the third best in the franchise, but by the same extension “Attack Of The Clones” is the third best Star Wars prequel.
Have you seen Alien: Covenant? If so what did you think? And what is your favourite Alien movie in the franchise? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
Fear is the degenerative maelstrom rooted in the hearts and minds of humanity. Sucking the sanity from your very soul! You can see why horror is so popular? I’m not hear to philosophise or contradict what compels humanity to endure such feats of narcissistic endeavour. Other historians can philosophise what fear is and why we crave it, but I’m more concerned with how games can “maintain” that sense of fear. The installation of fear as well as the total loss of faculties that leads to bouts of decrepit senility, such as wetting yourself and screaming is the most base human instinct. And the emotional fragility associated with it is seemingly what the human condition thrives on. The thrill of the chase, the palpitations that sends the blood coursing through your veins at the very notion that at any moment you could die is exhilarating. With movies your observing interpretive perception of what a character is feeling, simply a distant spectator observing instances from an interpretive perspective. With literature your more involved, yet restricted by your own depicted conception of fear. But with gaming YOU are there. It’s you placed in these perverse locations. But due to the exposure of horror in gaming you’ll inevitably develop an immunity to its persistence. Once the overtures of a game and the suspicion of fear dissipates, what’s left? It’s difficult to emit a sense of ambient hysteria when you’ve inherited the terrifying fixtures of identically veneered dull grey walls and polyester drapes. So how do you retain fear?
Sure I’ve been scared. I’ve tossed my controller and ran from my room like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, but so many horror games squander their creative conceits in favour of cheap scares. Many horror situated games possess the innate capability to terrify its user, but with many falling prey to the inured monotony of routine. Jump scares, the otherwise dedicated proxy of video game anxiety expedites the dramatic tension with expository routine and plodding mechanics. The quantifiable mass of hysteria generated by jump scares does provoke a sudden brown tinge to accumulate on your undergarments, which arouses anxiety effectively. Jump scares are an arbitrary implementation and merely an illustration of fear not explanations. It is an effective substitute in inflicting terror, if used efficiently. Yet the juvenility of some proposed scares becomes an irksome plagiarizing of popular troupes. The regularity of jump scares obviates that instantaneous panic that causes a shuddering convulsion of your faculties. And herein lies the problem. That a games predictability results in content treating the audience as if they are stupid. As if the genre in any of its various forms has alluded you? Devs seem to forget that the majority of us have well established prescient for what to expect from the genre. Sure determining specifics that apply to the venerable breadth of horror franchises is like categorising the number of women Tiger Woods has slept with, but the general thematic is fairly stunted in progressive variation.
Okay I’m perhaps getting a little argumentative, but there does seem to be a conscripted inference that we as gamers require a ponderous dalliance of ubiquitous exposition to elaborate on very general plot points, forgetting that the genre itself is suggestive enough. It’s going to scare, or at least attempt to provoke intermittent fear. The simplicity in brevity seems to elude developers who had at one stage created something truly special. Resident Evil for instance established impressively eerie concepts under elaborate circumstances then waste it’s intriguing, if not subtle premise on convoluted stories. Its like sitting behind a cool fan on a hot day, your just wasting all of its intended potential! To add narrative complexity in addition to zombie pandemic mutes the entire cohesiveness of the series, as you waste hours attempting to understand what the hell is going on! It was always laced with ebullient B-movie ascetics, but now it’s a desolate vial regression. Some games forgo subtlety altogether, emphasising the situation with dramatic cacophony of masonic balladry which actually diminishes the impact of the situation, as if it’s trying to stimulate shock by prodding you on the shoulder to remind you that what you’re playing is scary. “Look, look. This is scary guys!” I mean what’s wrong with transience? Allowing your environment and your own anxiety to perpetuate your fear?
There’s something to be said for silence, the enunciated howl of some distant beast. The eerie plod of footsteps on creaking floorboards or the external ambivalence of your ambient surroundings as branches on aberrant tree are coerced by the nocturnal breeze, lightly tapping the window that then elevates the perception of dread to heightened, pant staining degrees. The perception of what you think you saw, or did you? Of course continually facilitating such fastidious practices of disciplined fear without the effect becoming contrived and scripted as any cheap ghost ride is almost impossible. Alien Isolation modulated the direct threat (the Alien) in the overtures instead utilising the darkened, ambient crevices of the ships cerebral structures that would dictate the level of fear. Reducing the visibility lowered exposure, nullifying your trusted sights to fleeting glimpses of identification meant that every inanimate utility posed a potential threat. You were questioning the validity of your surroundings, slinking through corridors, laterally skirting around precipices and getting scared by our reflective shadow! Everything was intent on causing respiratory failure, seemingly aghast at everything as you develop a mild case of Tourette’s! “Strange noise! Shadow! Nodding Duck! Toilet!!” Alien Isolation was also so clever in the way it’d utilised the clunking music to imply imminent danger, even though the benign environment presented no discernible danger. As a result your fooled into hiding into a locker for 10 mins as some technician who worked on the game is somewhere in the world chortling “he fell for it”. Eventually as you progress the game begins allocating predictable convalescence. Due to the overexposed regularity of the dangers, fear diminishes the once intimidating scenarios. Again maintaining perpetrated fear is difficult, instead generating involuntary nuisances.
Your curiosities to open a door for instance should feel like feats of gallantry. Fear and loathing are inexplicably linked. Fear is generated by the idea of death, not death itself. There’s no conclusive finality in simulated death, in fact if the game doesn’t provide enough resources to derive a feasible escape, then even the fear of death is diminished. Too much, and the same effect applies. There’s no negotiable parity insuring assertive fear as so many games generate varying philosophies when achieving it. For me though you shouldn’t be able to regenerate health or cure ailments through combative absence. Amenities and ammunition should be limited. Or in the case of Outlast, should be non-existent. Outlast presented a new challenge, negotiating through an insane Asylum without any defences to protect you from the innumerable patients in all there mutilated forms. It sustained anxiety with tempered moments of respite, thus instilling complacency in your safety with the adept profusion that–at least for the moment–everything is fine. The repository passivity counters the insistent trepidation, without negating the fear completely. Allowing moments of terror to resonate as much as it did at the start. Of course once you’ve adjusted to the scripted mechanisms, Outlast does struggle maintain this same fear without it turning into a Benny Hill sketch. And I think that’s the problem; you can only contribute so much before you’ve assimilated with such immersion that you begin to actualise and perform without the restrictions of fear to subvert you.
The purest essence of fear is derived from the connection you have with the situation. Now despite Resident Evil thematically imploding on itself and Silent Hill seeping deeper into vacuity, the likes of Alien Isolation and Outlast prove that games are still scary, without referring to the recycled excerpts from horror 101. Yet they also corroborate my theory that no matter how frightening, no matter how many times you poop yourself through every orifice, naturally games can only retain fear for so long.
What games have scared you from start to finish? Let me know. Cheers.
“Whats that? Oh no!! Theres a deadly disease viciously circulating throughout are fair city, well damn and blast, I suppose we’d better make a hurried exit before we transform into flesh-eating mutants”. This is a very common scenario in the world of gaming horror and the foundation for which many survival horrors originate from, trapped in an impossible situation where you are forced survive in an utterly hopeless circumstance, so is Amy any different? In a sense, no, Amy still retains the tried and tested routine of a ravaged city overrun by zombie type creatures ready to disembowel you at any given opportunity, but where Amy stands out to its contemporaries is in its distinct approach to a very repetitive concept.
You play as Lana, an unfortunate individual trapped in the chaotic fictional locale of Silver City, accompanied by a minor known only as Amy. It’s your duty to escort this innocent (or so your lead to believe) child through the ravaged city, which is now inhabited by hordes of zombie-esqe creatures, so far, fairly undistinguished, but saving Amy isn’t just for Lana’s enormous sense of self-satisfaction but also for her own well-being. Lana has rather unfortunately contracted the infection which is rife within Silver City, but Amy is totally immune to the disease and acts as walking vaccine for Lana, as long as she’s within close proximity. Stray to far away from Amy however and something rather extraordinary occurs. Lana is capable of harnessing and utilizing the viral by impersonating the creatures which are rampant throughout, and avoid any unpleasant encounters with the snarling residents, but be wary as deviating for an extended period of time could lead to the virus taking over entirely.
Amy is a survival horror in the truest sense, totally stripped back. No guns with vast amounts of ammo, but rather pipes and 2×4’s will be your weapons against these unholy beasts. Amy is available for download in the Autumn. Click the link to watch the impressively creepy gameplay footage.
What are your first impressions of Amy? And do you think it’s a mistake to release it as download only? Let me know your thoughts, cheers.
Aliens vs Predator was a great concept, that was very sadly, poorly executed. From the static and monotonous locations to the cumbersome controls (specifically with regards to the Alien missions), AVP was a throughly underwhelming game for 2 movie monster legends, but redemption maybe at hand (for one series at least) in the form of Aliens: Colonial Marines. Continuing where James Cameron’s spectacular Aliens left off, you take control of a select group of Marines sent in to uncover the paradox of the disappeared colony and the former rescue team, which opens up the possibilities to explore familiar locales featured in the blockbuster movie. You can scout the air ducts where Vasquez and Gorman sacrificed themselves to save their teammates, do you want to explore the area where Bishop’s entrails saturate the floor of the docking station after the brutal attack from the hands/tail of the Alien queen? You can, it’s even possible to locate the derelict ship which housed the Alien embryos from the original film.
But one of the most exciting ventures in Colonial Marines, is the proposition of co-operative play, bestowing you and your friends the unique opportunity to share the trepidation experienced by the franchises marines. From the pulse rifles to the now infamous motion tracking, they all assist in recreating the anxiety you felt witnessing this sci-fi classic. It’s difficult to believe that with such an abundance of familiarities and nods to the movies that fans and gamers alike wont be eager to destroy hordes of Xenomorphs, but will it be worth waiting for?
Aliens: Colonial Marines will be released next year, click the link to watch the trailer.
Could this be the Alien game we’ve all been waiting for? Let me know your thoughts.