by Patrick Greene
Fandom has been buzzing about what “Alien: Blackout” could mean ever since Fox applied for the trademark back in November. We’ve known about an in-development shooter from Cold Iron Studios for nearly a year now, and speculation about a sequel to the legendary Alien: Isolation has been running rampant for years.
And just days ago, Fox began releasing a series of teasers saying “Amanda Ripley” and “Read. Play. Watch.”
With the release of today’s official Alien: Blackout trailer, we know what the “play” stands for: a mobile game.
Developed by D3 Go in conjunction with FoxNext, Alien: Blackout is set to release on January 24th at a price of $4.99 (you can preorder it today on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon Appstore).
Wait: it’s a mobile game?
Yeah, it’s a mobile game. This is either totally “meh” news or completely devastating, depending on who you are and what you’ve been looking forward to. Speaking personally (this is Patrick’s opinion, not necessarily the opinion of PO in general), I think this is totally fine. Fox is being very clear that this is a small piece of a larger picture (they even highlight the “play” in “Read. Play. Watch.” at the end of that trailer). If this were the only thing happening in our franchise this year, I think it’d be pretty upsetting. But the reality is we still have a Cold Iron game in development (which looks from all angles to be a marquee-level enterprise on consoles, PC, etc.).
We’ve already spent years being consistently told that a direct sequel to Isolation isn’t happening (which is awful news, considering it’s an unimpeachable masterpiece). Fox isn’t marketing this as “the” Alien: Isolation sequel. It’s probably healthier in the longterm to look at this as a nice little side experience. If Creative Assembly announced last year that they were working on the official followup to Alien: Isolation, and then announced at a major event that it was mobile-only—this would be a different story. But as it stands, this is just a little side product that fits into the bigger picture and offers another chance to engage with Amanda Ripley.
To that end: the basic mechanic here is that we are playing the role of Amanda, who is guiding a crew through a crippled WY space station using emergency controls on a holographic map. Similar in appearance (and apparently in practice) to the “rewire system” sequences in Alien: Isolation (see below), the gist is that we’ll be making decisions about which doors to open, which resources to conserve, and which risks to take as we help this crew escape a xenomorph.
Another bit of personal opinion here: the best mobile games are the ones that feel built from the ground up for a mobile experience. A reason Pokémon Go is so popular is because it uses inherent strengths of mobile phones—their mobility—as a core mechanic. Angry Birds took off because it could be controlled easily with a single finger, and its design was simple enough to work cleanly and fluidly on basically any smartphone processor. The only mobile Alien game I play with any regularity is a freakin’ pinball game, and it’s brilliant because it is absolutely nothing more or less than what I want out of a mobile gaming experience. It’s a few pinball tables that I can pick up and play for ten minutes while waiting for the commuter train in the morning. I get a chance to immerse myself in Alien for a few minutes, and it’s just engaging enough to make me turn the music in my headphones off (but not so engaging I miss the train).
I personally think Alien: Blackout will work. The concept is simple, the functionality won’t strain processors, the mechanics don’t depend on dexterity (which goes to hell the second you play on a mobile device), and the game is relatively short but built to be replayable (seven levels, with different outcomes each time based on choices you make). In that way, it sounds quite a bit like that Offworld Simulator Amazon Echo game we reviewed last April: it’s simple, repayable, and fun, and it’s a chance to have a little more Alien in our lives.
What about “read” and “watch?”
We still have “read,” which could be the about-to-drop Aliens: Resistance (coming January 23, i.e. a day before Blackout releases). Resistance is set to star Amanda Ripley, so that’d make a lot of sense—and it’s closely tied to Aliens: Defiance, which was a hit for Dark Horse critically and commercially. There’s also an Isolation novelization coming from Keith R.A. DeCandido (which of course is another Amanda-centric product).
And “watch” could signify many, many, things, but will most likely center around the long-rumored streaming series. A film announcement is unlikely given the state of the Fox/Disney merger, and last year’s short-film competition entries are likely still in production, so a web series (animated or otherwise) would make quite a bit of sense.
All this is to say: there is A LOT coming this year for Alien fans. Whether or not you’re thrilled about Alien: Blackout, rest assured that this is the first of many upcoming announcements.
It’s going to be a banner year for us.
Even if it kicks off with a mobile game.
Check out what Patrick and Jaime have to say on the news in this exclusive Rumor Control Video Update episode.