Alien: Isolation Dev: Working with Original Cast ‘Absolutely Magical’

The developers at The Creative Assembly already have described Alien: Isolation as something of a dream project — “the Alien game we’ve always wanted to make.”

And that was before the company announced the addition of downloadable content that will include almost the entire original Alien cast reprising their roles for from the 1979 film, creating two levels in which players can literally rewrite the events of the movie.

Speaking at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, Creative Director Al Hope said he thought so much of the original cast returned to provide voices for the game — everyone, in fact, save Ian Holm, who portrays Ash in the film — because of the kind of experience CA was trying to provide.

“It really was a kind of testament, I think, to the work that the guys had done, that they had built a space that really was evocative of that time,” Hope said. “When we were able to put the game in front of those guys, and say, ‘Look at what we’re doing, this is the approach we’re taking, it’s about survival, it’s not about killing, look at the level of fidelity we’re putting into the world and the kind of care and attention,’ I think it made things easier for them to kind of say yes and want to participate and be part of it. And Sigourney Weaver, obviously, to reprise her role for the first time in video games as Ellen Ripley is just unbelievable.”

The DLC package includes two missions set on the Nostromo, the ship originally portrayed in the film, and once again pits the original crew against the alien. The first scene, in which the characters attempt to drive the alien toward an airlock with flamethrowers, ends in the film with Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) being dragged away by the creature. The second scene immediately follows the deaths of Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) in the film, and follows Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as she attempts to prepare the escape shuttle to leave the ship before it self-destructs.

In the first scene, players can take on the role of Ripley, Dallas or Parker as they attempt to kill CA’s procedurally controlled AI alien; in the second, they play as Ripley.

Alien: Isolation takes place 15 years after the events of Alien, which is part of what relegates the Nostromo scenes to the realm of downloadable content. But Hope said as soon as the CA team started working on Alien: Isolation, which draws heavily from the look and feel of the original film, ideas were popping up about the possibility of returning to the ship and crew of Alien.

“The pre-order bonus content isn’t a beat-for-beat recreation of the movie,” he said. “The movie does a better job of that — we can do something else. So we’re coming at it with the approach that, the situation is the same, and the plan’s still the same, but as to how it goes down and what happens, it’s kind of up to the player. So it’s kind of like a what-if scenario, you know. Say the Nostromo crew could try it again, and maybe someone else took charge, maybe it would be different. And that’s kind of approach we’ve taken.”

The studio behind Alien, 20th Century Fox, supplied a wealth of material from the original film for CA’s use in creating Alien: Isolation, and Hope said the development team was able to draw on a great deal of technical information to help recreate the Nostromo in the game.

Items like continuity headshots of the cast allowed the team to create digital scans that were true to the actors’ faces in 1979, he said, and Fox supplied things like measurements and metrics on the actual physical Nostromo set that was built for filming, allowing the team to faithfully recreate it.

Publisher Sega originally announced both DLC Nostromo levels as pre-order content, which stirred up a bit of controversy when it was made public. Many players voiced their frustration that they’d be forced to lay down money at GameStop in order to get full access to the additional levels. Sega has since announced players will be able to purchase the content (eventually).

The choice to package the Nostromo missions as DLC was more a marketing decision than a creative one, but Hope said he thought players would find a lot of value in the additional content.

“I’m just pleased everyone was able to pull this together, and bring back the cast and take them back, and from a creative point of view I think that’s pretty amazing,” he said. “No one’s ever done that before. And the fact that if you pre-order the game, that’s some pretty amazing content to get. Secondly, the important thing is, at some point it will be available to everyone, so you will be able to access it. Like I said, to me the most important thing is the creative — that’s my job, so achieving what, I think, when we started, might have seemed like the impossible, I think that’s amazing.”

Alien: Isolation hits stores on Oct. 7 for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3 and Playstation 4, and pre-orders in-store or on Steam can land players the Nostromo Edition content. Sega hasn’t released details on when the content will be available for purchase after the game’s release.

Check out all the rest of GameFront’s San Diego Comic-Con coverage right here.

Phil Hornshaw is senior editor at GameFront. Read more of his work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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