Playstation 4 Game Review “Alien: Isolation – Nostromo Edition”

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Rated: Mature
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Platform: PlayStation 4

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I am always a sucker for anything spawning out of the “Alien” franchise. “Alien: Isolation” promised to be the best of the recent attempts at a good game in the series. The game puts you in the in control of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley, as she searched for her mother. The story takes place 15 years after the events of the first movie and another 42 before she is found in the sequel. What I liked about this game the most is that there is only one Xenomorph that hunts you down. Now even though it is just one doesn’t mean that she is not still one tough bitch. I think literally, I died about 25 times in the first 5 minutes of playing this game. This is it horror fans, if you are looking for a great “Alien” video game adaption, look no further.

Official Premise: “Alien: Isolation” is a first-person survival horror game which captures the fear and tension evoked by Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic film. Players find themselves in an atmosphere of constant dread and mortal danger as an unpredictable, ruthless Xenomorph is stalking and killing deep in the shadows. Underpowered and underprepared, you must scavenge resources, improvise solutions and use your wits, not just to succeed in your mission, but to simply stay alive.

The game play itself is quite impressive. The campaign itself runs a very solid 15 hours, so there is plenty of content included in the primary compaign. There are at least five to seven additional missions planned to be released from now till 2015. So even if you beat the game already, there will be some great new content available to fans. If you are a horror fan, then most importantly, you will be happy that this game definitely scared the shit out of me. There is some great sound design in this game and it really created some great tension when playing, which lead to a few solid jumps as well throughout. The design of the game just looks stunning on the PlayStation 4.

I know there are tons of scary games out there like “F.E.A.R”, “Dead Space” and “Resident Evil” but this game definitely had you pausing and running for a quick change of underwear. What I loved about the Xenomorph is that it is very effective based on your moves and your actions, it responds to you and you need to be able to act very very fast or get ready to start the mission over.  Sega really did a great job here. There are a few small issues like the story is a little light and some of the missions get a bit repetitive but it gets quickly overlooked in my eyes when you find yourself hiding in a locker waiting for the Xenomorph to pass you and hopefully not find you. You better cut your nails before you play because this is a real nail-bitter.

Now if you are excited to get to play a Ripley’s daughter, you are going to love the two bonus missions that were included with pre-ordering the game. In this “Nostromo Edition” of the game it contains the“Crew Expendable” expansion pack, which features the voices and likenesses of movie’s stars like Sigourney Weaver and Tom Skerritt. It allows you to play as either Dallas, Parker or Ellen Ripley from the original film as they try and get rid of the Alien. There is also a second expansion called “Last Survivor”, which was included in “The Ripley Edition” of the game, which again allows you to take control of Ellen Ripley, as she is the last person alive on the Nostromo. There are still a bunch more expansions planned for this game, so stay tuned because the fun (if you call getting the shit scared out of you fun) to be had.

Ron Shusett talks about writing films “Alien” and “Total Recall”

Ron Shusett is the writer/producer, along with Dan O’Bannon, for the original “Alien” and “Total Recall”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ron about creating the scripts for these iconic films and also got to chat about recent “Prometheus” and “Total Recall” reboot, which was based on his original stories.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got involved writing the original story for “Alien” with Dan O’Bannon?
Ron Shusett: Yep, I co-wrote that with Dan O’Bannon after he brought me the concept that he has from when he was in film school. We met and shared ideas.  I showed him a script I had done and he liked it.  He said “Your damn good, I think you can help me.  For two years in film school, no one has been able to help me get past the first act”.  I looked at the first 30 pages, which is basically what you see on the screen and he said he needed help finishing it and asked if I wanted to give it a shot.  I told him that I also had the rights to the Phillip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, which turned into “Total Recall”. The short story is only one act and then it ends though. He said “you help me get the second and third act of mine (“Alien”) and I will help you with your second and third act” (“Total Recall”).  And at that moment both movies were born. We worked together on what became “Alien”.  We didn’t an agents or an attorney. We had nothing. The first place we went accepted it, Fox and it was a miracle. And the rest is history.

MG: Where did you get the inspiration for the Aliens?  Did you work a lot H.R. Giger?
RS: Those all came from a Swiss artist that has never worked on a movie, Hans Giger.  Dan found his paintings and thought he was the perfect guy to do these creatures. As we were writing the script, we would send him pages. He wanted to get into Hollywood and be a designer.  So he would design them for us as we were writing the pages. We would think up an idea, send him some pages and he would design them.  Then we reduced them and put them into the script.  They ended up looking exactly like they did in the script, which is very rare. Originally, they didn’t want to go with a first time designer.  But Ridley Scott, the director, looked at Gieger and said that his concepts were so unique that he wouldn’t want to make the movie if they didn’t use him. Ridley said “I can’t do the movie without this guy because I would always know how good it would have been”. Giger ended up winning an Oscar for special effects.

MG: With “Total Recall”, you wrote the screenplay off Phillip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, how was this process different adapting from the short story?
RS: It is a totally different process and I am lucky enough to have done both in my career. It is probably a lot easier to adapt since it gives you a springboard to the start.  It gives you a gigantic creative push forward. If you have a blank page, it is harder to start from scratch even if you have a great idea. So it was hard for both of them but I enjoyed them both.  Phillip K. Dick has seven movies created from his work.  Only two of them were a success at the box office, they were “Total Recall” and “Minority Report”, both of which I worked on the scripted and produced. Not including films like “Blade Runner”, which was not a box office successful when it came out, though later becoming a cult classic. Like I before short stories, only have one or two acts tops.  So if you can’t get a great third act to match him brilliance than it is bound to fail. That was the hardest part.  It took about two/three years, just to get a proper ending for “Total Recall”. The whole “Alien” script was written faster than that. Dan and I got the first two acts of “Total Recall” writing by 1981 but we couldn’t get the third act. Then we got Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger on board shortly after.

MG: Also having worked on “Dead & Buried”, “King Kong Lives” etc; what drew you to the horror genre?
RS: “Dead and Buried” was a complete original.  Obviously “King Kong” was a sequel – the third sequel in the series.  “Dead and Buried” always surprised me because it didn’t make money original but like “Blade Runner” became this cult classic after a few years.  I guess it was ahead of its time.  It was the only zombie movie, where the zombies didn’t look like zombies. I think only one thing really draws me and that is the fact that you have incredible flexibility. Anything you want to say create…you can, even whether it is believable, realistic or not. It just comes down to good craftsmanship. That is why I love the genre.

MG: With “Alien” getting “Prometheus” and “Total Recall” getting rebooting this year; can you reflect on these?
RS: Both of them were not very successful.  I didn’t work on either of them but was still awarded a story credit by the Writer’s Guild. I had no input either.  We had to use humor mixed with action for “Total Recall”, since that was what Arnold was known for. This time around they tried to do it without humor.  I guess what happened was that the audience wanted to see what they loved about the first one. With the humor stripped, even though the stories were similar, they didn’t seem to embrace it.  I did feel honored though that 22 years later, they are still using my ideas and spending over $100 million dollars on them.  “Prometheus” was 30 years after “Alien” and they still uses our ideas, we got credit for original story elements. I was also very disappointed in that film though. Like I said earlier, also touches on “Prometheus”, I think where they lost you on this film was that the first two acts are visually stunning but they couldn’t come up with a good third act. They left too many open answers that they claimed they would answer in the sequel. But you can’t do that if people don’t like the first one there will be no sequel.

Book Review “Alien – The Illustrated Story (Original Art Edition)

Author: Archie Goodwin
Illustrator: Walt Simonson
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: October 30, 2012

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Product Dimensions: 13 x 0.7 x 16.9 inches

When I first heard that “Alien – The Illustrated Story” was being released by Titan Books, I was sure excited because I am both a fan of Ridley Scott’s film “Alien” and also comic book artist Walt Simonson. But I got much more than I expected (in a good way). This good in the words of Buddy the Elf is “GINORMOUS”. But that is the charm of it I think, it clocks in at 13.8″ x 1 x 19.9″. If you can’t imagine it…just take my word its oversized. Though there is a reason for it, since it is scanned directly from Walt’s original art and reproduced at the same size. Since the pages are in fact scanned from the originals they even include all the corrections, paste-ups and even coffee stains. I was blown away that they would release this and very impressed.

But wait there is more. The story itself is only 64 pages. Also included is Archie Goodwin’s original script for the story, as well as Walt’s two page try-out for Fox (which actually featuring a very different alien). There is a great interview with Walt and letterer John Workman and closing with an afterword by Walt. If you don’t want the GIANT hardcover edition, then you can opt out for the totally not as cool softcover “Facsimile Cover Regular Edition”, which is also in color. I highly recommend this “Original Art Edition” it is an amazing companion piece to this movie book.

The book was written by the late Archie Goodwin, the comic book writer, known best for his Warren and Marvel Comics work. He was also the chief writer and editor of landmark horror anthology titles Creepy and Eerie. On a graphic novel, the illustrator is really the star of the show. Walt Simonson is the man behind this one and he has written, penciled or inked Batman, Fantastic Four, The Hulk and Superman just to name but a few!

Premise: Vacant. Two space helmets resting on chairs. Electronic hum. Lights on the helmets begin to signal one another. Moments of silence. A yellow light goes on. Electronic hum. A green light goes on in front of one helmet. Electronic pulsing sounds. A red light goes on in front of the other helmet. An electronic conversation ensues. Reaches a crescendo. Then silence. And when the silence is broken… the crew of the Nostromo must grapple with a terrifying life force they cannot leash, nor even comprehend – the Alien!

This book has been out of print for over thirty years, so this brand new edition timed perfectly with “Prometheus”, is a welcomed treat. It has been very carefully restored from original artwork in Walt Simonson’s studio and is presented here for the very first time in this definitive artist’s edition of the greatest sci-fi horror ever produced. So if you are a fan of “Alien”, sci-fi or event art…then this is a the book for you. Just make sure you have a very large coffee table – very large – because you will need it.

Book Review “Alien – The Illustrated Story”

Author: Archie Goodwin
Illustrator: Walt Simonson
Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: September 4, 2012

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

From the moment that I opened this book, I was in love. I was immediately transported back to my childhood days of comic book readings. There was just something about this that immediately captured me. I am not sure if it was the design style, the animation or maybe just colors. This book was original done back in 1979 and has been out of print for over thirty years. This edition is brand new and has been completely and meticulously restored using the original Simonson’s original artwork.

The book was written by the late Archie Goodwin, the comic book writer, known best for his Warren and Marvel Comics work. He was also the chief writer and editor of landmark horror anthology titles Creepy and Eerie. On a graphic novel, the illustrator is really the star of the show. Walt Simonson is the man behind this one and he has written, penciled or inked Batman, Fantastic Four, The Hulk and Superman just to name but a few!

I remember watching this film sneaking behind my parents back and being absolutely terrified. I have found that this excitement and terror was immediately brought back after reading this stunning color graphic novel of Ridley Scott’s legendary sci-fi thriller! Overall if you are looking to get transported through time back to your childhood, then this is for you at at a low price of around $10. If you are looking for the Original Art Hardcover Edition, it will also be released by Titan Books on October 30, 2012 timed with the Blu-ray release of “Prometheus”.

Premise: Vacant. Two space helmets resting on chairs. Electronic hum. Lights on the helmets begin to signal one another. Moments of silence. A yellow light goes on. Electronic hum. A green light goes on in front of one helmet. Electronic pulsing sounds. A red light goes on in front of the other helmet. An electronic conversation ensues. Reaches a crescendo. Then silence. And when the silence is broken… the crew of the Nostromo must grapple with a terrifying life force they cannot leash, nor even comprehend – the Alien!

Book Review “The Book of Alien”

Author: Paul Scanlon, Michael Gross
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: May 29, 2012

Our Score: 1 out of 5 stars

“The Book of Alien” was first published in 1978 and has been re-released to match the upcoming release of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”. Let’s just say this book is amazing…if you are compare it back to 1978 standards. The softcover book barely runs over 100 pages and looks like it was made on a photo copy machine. The pages include text that are off-center and almost get cut off the page. There are many of tons of other great making-of “Alien” books and I would recommend you check those out…way before you purchase this.

This book is basically a behind-the-scenes art book for the 1978 “Alien” movie. They give some pretty cool concept art images from artists Ron Cobb, Chris Foss and H.R. Giger but they are low quality and the paper stock is very thin. Like many “art-of” books there is no interaction from the cast, production crew.  The information provided besides the images are weak and if you are looking for an in-depth look into the film’s production, you will be disappointed.  If you are looking for the ultimate “Alien” book check out “Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film”.

Book Review “Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film”

Author: Ian Nathan
Hardcover w/slipcase: 176 pages
Publisher: Voyageur Press
Release Date: September 17, 2011

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

When this book says that it is the definitive story of the making of “Alien”, they were not exaggerating.  This book is extremely thorough and very descriptive. It also comes in a very impressive slipcase, which adds a lot of class to this already perfect homage to the film. Each page are packed with photos, artwork and even Ridley Scott’s own storyboards. There are  also ten reproduced artifacts enclosed in envelopes throughout the book. This brings a whole new aspect to the book.

“Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film” covers from the making of the film to its road to becoming a cult phenomenon.  It is illustrated beautifully and looks very high quality, especially in the photos.  The interviews and stories included are extremely interesting and there is also great insight into filmmaking including the some of the camera tricks used on the production. The general flow of the book also work really well and keeps the book a real page-turner.

I think it is really great that we get to check out not only Ridley Scott’s own annotated storyboards but also polaroids from the shoot and also script pages.  Of course no “Alien”  book is complete with out some concept artwork of the crazy brain of H.R. Giger.  There is also some really cool sketches and construction blueprints for the the crew’s ship, Nostromo and also costume designs by Moebius. If you are a fan of behind the scenes photos like me, they you are going to also really enjoy a bunch of never-before-seen shots of the cast and crew.  Overall this book is a no-brainer and it will easily leave all “Alien” fans 100% satisfied.