Last week I succumbed to the allure, the recognizable aesthetic and familiar color palette one almost instantly associates with the Alien franchise. Released in October 2014 The Art of Alien Isolation by Andy McVittie from Titan Books to coincide with the launch of its companion game provides a visually, in depth look at the development from conception to publication of the cross generational title that made amends for the legacy of the franchise in video game format. Promoted as a high-end art book it certainly stands along side its peers both in terms of content, for example covering art from the conception of the characters to the finalized models used in game play, the ships, the equipment used in game, all detailed from early sketch work to finished product. But also, physically the quality of the release which has a high-end finish and serves as an accomplished supportive piece to the game. These books tend to sell for a higher price than traditional subject matter and as such it it appreciative to have a nicer finish in terms of paper texture, image quality and presentation.
Like the game its based on both the character model and equipment design certainly draws inspiration from Ridley Scott’s 1979 original, which when you stop to consider turns 40 next year in 2019 you have an appreciation not only for the source material but also the dedication and effort that went into designing a gaming world that faithfully reproduced the aesthetic design of the environment around you. The game is principally based on the world and design of Alien and as such the weaponry and equipment is consistent with the first film, the world of Sevastopol Station brought to life through illustration detailing the design curve. Equally I found this title functions as a supportive piece to the original film itself as a great level of detail went into reproducing the style and structure of the world it works to show how the equipment and environment were designed and produced.
I do enjoy the lore and legacy design work that goes into creating the worlds within these games that quite often can be overlooked or missed during the experience. During the 7th Generation of Games Console these titles gained traction in the West that were once the privilege of the Japanese gaming community, as studios recognized a growing demand to embrace the gaming culture away from the console experience and into the broader fan base. Beyond the base, monetary gain publishers can attract from releasing these compendium titles they satisfy a curiosity and I feel provide illumination to the work of the game designers and creators who shape the narrative.
Within the opening credits of Alien Isolation the game had the flickering presentation style of a video cassette being played back, corrupted slightly perhaps but consistent with the opening moments of the film itself. For many of a certain generation this was how Alien was experienced before the advent of digital restoration and as a visual piece served to illicit a sense of dread where the direction of the title was going. The Art Book covers both the main game experience but also the DLC material that returned the player to the world and crew of the original Alien film and details how the source material was broken down and utilized almost 4 decades later. An aside that I found fascinating was the detail to which the material was studied, one of the design artists focusing on the small details such as the boots worn by the original crew and the small variances in uniform design that created the lived in world of the Nostromo.
The design of the Xenomorph originally by H. R. Giger, itself is iconic, one of the aspects of this art book was seeing the progression and perhaps the different design considerations that went into the final character model used in the game. Production in 1979 restricted the original character model to an actor in a rubber suit. With the release of Covenant and Prometheus in recent years the temptation may have been to base the warrior drone on the digital creatures utilized in those films. Given the rich lore that has built over in the last 4 decades from the original human form bipedal creature to the more animalistic nature of the beast there was clear consideration as to what form the creature would be based on. Seemingly the illustrations and images provided point to a number of different forms that were under consideration but certainly the final form used again points to a respectful homage of the original creature design. This was the creature we first experienced, first saw in the ventilation ducts emerging from the shadows.
Ultimately the value or worth of this title will come down to the readers appreciation of the source material and the larger franchise its based on. Certainly from a gaming perspective it does provide a fascinating insight into the design aspect of the people, creatures and the world they inhabit. The photos and images are high quality, ranging from character and equipment design, world and environment conception and the different ships and space stations used in game. There is a growing number of the gaming community who enjoy absorbing the culture and worlds we experience and loose ourselves in. Whilst perhaps the Alien Universe by design would run contrary to that belief I do personally enjoy these art books as they provide a means to step back inside that world, to appreciate the work and effort to bring them to fruition.
I consider this a great buy, in addition as of writing the title can be picked up for as little as £4.99 at Forbidden Planet which in my opinion at least makes this a fantastic and must have purchase.