Alien: Isolation is one of the best VR games never released. We look back at why the title was so revered by VR enthusiasts and that there’s now finally hope we’ll see an official VR release after all.
One of the best video games based on the hugely popular Alien franchise in many years, Alien: Isolation was taut, tense and just plain terrifying in places. The title was received warmly by critics upon release and seemed to indicate a return to form for a franchise which had suffered a seemingly endless string of sub-par video game entries. Everyone was happy, with the exception of VR enthusiasts.
You see, in the run up to Alien: Isolation‘s release on standard 2D gaming platforms, Oculus had featured the title prominently in its showcase line up whilst attending various gaming trade shows throughout 2014. Then demonstrated on the Oculus Rift DK2, people were treated to a special made-for-VR demo which had the player trying to escape the clutches of our favourite xenomorph, and it was a huge success, reported widely in the gaming press, such that Alien: Isolation‘s became one of the most anticipated VR releases ahead of the Rift’s consumer launch.
And then, nothing. Prior to the game’s release in 2014, Eurogamer asked Creative Assembly what was up with VR support in the full game and the studio stated that “At present, it’s just a prototype and does not represent a game currently in development at this point in time. It’s a truly amazing experience though and brings the game to life in ways we could not have imagined when we started the project. It’s one of the most terrifying demos you’ll ever play.” The title eventually disappeared from Oculus’ showcase list and the game was launched with no mention of virtual reality support.
Many in the VR community were disappointed and some more than a little angry that such a promising VR title, one that could have been such a powerful ambassador for VR as a gaming platform would now not materialise. However, to some community members, it seemed likely that the advanced level of VR support demonstrated in Alien: Isolation at trade shows indicated that a significant amount had effort had been put into the game as a whole to make it work. Therefore, it was pretty unlikely that support would have been removed entirely from the game prior to release and instead it was merely hidden, waiting to be unlocked again.
Sure enough, within just a few days of Alien: Isolation‘s full release, community gumshoes found that altering just a few lines of config files were enough to enable support for their Oculus Rift DK2 headsets. When this was done however, it was immediately obvious that the game’s VR support was even further along than many had hoped. With some minor exceptions, this game was fully playable in VR and what’s more, it looked incredible!
That’s not to say there weren’t problems. The very nature of Alien: Isolation‘s gamepad based locomotion and resulting yaw rotation meant that it could be uncomfortable for some and scripted moments in the game wrestles camera control away from the player, a definite ‘no no’ when it comes to VR comfort. These challenges, along with the fact that consumer VR headset releases simply hadn’t happened yet, would probably be the primary reasons as to why VR support wasn’t included in the released game.
Unfortunately, as Oculus’ development towards a consumer headset continued and their drivers and SDKs advanced, Alien: Isolation‘s unmaintained VR support became deprecated and it is now no longer usable without some serious hacking about on older runtimes. Which means, those wishing to sample the game’s immersive delights on their consumer Rifts (or Vives for that matter) were, to be blunt, shit out of luck.
Recently comments made by Sega’s European boss Jurgen Post, have stirred hopes that a fully VR enabled Alien: Isolation may now surface after all. Speaking to MCV, Jurgen said that “VR has caught the whole company’s attention,” going on to state, “We have a lot of VR kits in the office and people are playing with it. We are exploring ways to release games. We’ve not announced anything, but we are very close to making an announcement.” Heartening indeed, but Jorgen then went on to allude to titles which might be first on the VR release roster and, predictably, Alien: Isolation was mentioned. “We did Alien: Isolation about three years ago on Oculus Rift, it was a demo that was bloody scary,” said Post. “To bring that back to VR would be a dream and dreams can come true… VR will take time, but we will start releasing some titles just to learn. It is a platform for the future.”
Nevertheless, there are some in the community who feel so passionately about being given the opportunity to experience the game on their consumer grade VR headsets, that they’ve started a petition to urge Sega to return to the title and finish what they obviously had begun years ago. The movement currently has over 750 signatures, and if you’d like to join the cause, head over to the Change.org page right here to show your support.
With virtual reality’s consumer push now underway, the need for substantial, triple-A content to entice people to buy into this fledgling technology is stronger then ever. Alien: Isolation, if done right, could be one of those key titles for Sega.