Alien Encyclopedia version 9 released!

At last! I’m immensely happy to announce the release of version 9 of the Alien Encyclopedia. This edition not only completes coverage on the Earth War story arc, but also features everything about the most recent movie in the franchise, Alien Covenant. As always, thanks to Frans for his excellent proofreading! Over the years, this project has grown into a behemoth featuring over 330 pages! It is something I am very proud of, and I hope you enjoy this one!

What are you waiting for? Head over to the Downloads section to get version 9!

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Alien Isolation review (part 2)

4 – Sound

The graphics deliver a big chunk of Isolation‘s atmosphere, but this is a game that values acoustics just as much as visuals. The environmental sounds speak its own language, one you will have to learn in order to survive. The Alien is present, but some distance away? The sounds will tell you. The Alien has dropped out of a shaft nearby? The sounds will warn you. You will also learn the Alien‘s „language“. A wide variety of growls, hisses and screams inform you whether it‘s frustrated or aggravated… and its horrible shriek will unmistakably tell you when it has discovered you and you‘re seconds away from death! Fun fact: The trilogy of Alien audio dramas used Isolation’s sound library for the creatures, and rightfully so!

The music is amazing, too! Somehow, the team has managed to fuse Goldsmith‘s classic score with modern electronic textures. As with Colonial Marines and the last two Alien movies, I applaud the fact that, again, Goldsmith‘s work is referenced, It seems we finally have our own Star Wars main theme! Jokes aside, this helps establishing a central music identity after an initial qadrilogy of films of which every single one had a different composer, who each did his own thing. It‘s also used to great effect to make special scenes memorable, like a sudden vista of nearby space. Great stuff, though not an easy listening experience outside the game. But that wasn‘t the case with Goldsmith‘s original score either, was it?

5 – Story

Concerning the story, reactions were lukewarm, describing it as run-of-the-mill and devoid of really captivating character writing. Okay, it‘s not The Last Of Us, that‘s for sure. But it also didn‘t disappoint me. I can only urge everyone who has not played the game, but plans to, NOT to get spoilered! There are a handful of stunning moments and twists that are best experienced unprepared. I know this is written in 2018, four years after the game‘s release; the damage is probably done. But it can‘t hurt.

Yeah, aside from a twist or two, it‘s pretty standard fare. One may also find the unfortunate constellation of circumstances that pits Ripley‘s daughter against the same Alien species that haunted (and will haunt) her. I think it‘s not that big of a problem. The plot explains her presence well, and the plot (and a looooot of text logs) also provide enough backstory to also explain the presence of our favorite drooling killer bug. In fact, you get to… but that would be telling. There‘s also the ending, which made everyone cry „sequel bait!“, but in the end, we know what happens to her, so… ?

In any case, let‘s talk about what‘s good! Of course, Weyland-Yutani has its greedy fingers all over the mess, but we thankfully don‘t get a slimy Burke-alike as the face of the Company, which is an overused trope by now. There is also a very sad and touching moment which actually immersed me so much that I banged my maintenance jack aginst the bulkhead in-game, mirroring the helpless rage and grief Amanda felt. One thing I can still not decide if I like it or if it bothers me is the fact that we never get to see the human antagonist in person. We only get to experience the fallout of his greed and ruthlessness and hear his voice in audio logs. It‘s an interesting way to go about this, and the game may have collapsed under its own weight if it had also included him in a prominent role. On the other hand, it felt odd to me.

In the end, I think that complaining about the story too much misses the point. Isolation is not about winning story awards. It‘s about making you experience an Alien movie first-hand. You and your fight against the Alien ARE the story. My roleplaying bit earlier may sound silly, but I bet you also at least have thought Ripley‘s famous line „I got you, you son of a bitch“ once you won a decisive victory against the creature. Sometimes, it‘s not the story itself, but how it is told.

6 – Conclusion

Alien Isolation is the ultimate Ripley simulator. You won‘t get any nearer to the „real“ thing without risking mental trauma. As such, it is a very draining experience, one you probably won‘t casually play just for the fun of it. I admit installed and played through Colonial Marines afterwards just to feel the catharsis of finally being able to fight back against the Alien. On the other hand, Colonial Marines failed in what Isolation manages almost effortlessly: Giving Alien gaming a good name and, most importantly, being something very special.

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Alien Isolation review (part 1)

1 – Introduction

Maybe you remember my previous review for Colonial Marines where I lamented the fact that the franchise was suffering a bad streak because of first Prometheus and then Colonial Marines. While Alien Covenant failed to redeem the Alien on the silver screen, its video game incarnation returned in 2014 with a vengeance in Alien Isolation. But are the accolades justified? Let‘s find out! (Spoiler: They are)

Apropos spoilers: MILD SPOILER ALERT!

2 – Gameplay

Gameplay-wise, Isolation could not be further from Colonial Marines‘ run‘n‘gun antics. I won‘t bore you with stuff you already know. Suffice to say: This time, you‘re the hunted. You can‘t kill the Alien, you can only survive it. I previously played games from the renaissance of survival horror, games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast. Of course, part of me was looking forward to get stalked by my favorite movie monster, and even among its peers, the Sevastopol drone stands out as something unique. While the foes of those other games either did not actively hunt you or relied on heavily scripted sequences, your precious behind is really on the line here! A standout section already infamous among players is your visit to the medbay a third into the game, where the drone hunts you relentlessly, and you savor every little ounce of progress. Other times, the game lulls you in a sense of false empowerment when you are sufficiently equipped to take down Working Joes left and right on your way to the reactor… only for the game to unload a bucket of ice water on you once you reach the maintenance area.

Now, on to what I didn‘t like. Isolation shares one problem with other games of the „nouvelle vague“ of survival horror. These games often get so intense that you become desensitized to the terror. Tension turns into tedium. This happened to me in said medbay section, where I died so often that it became annoying instead of shocking. However, the sheer fact that I can single out instances where that happened is a testament of the structural perfection (see what I did there?) of the campaign. To produce a lengthy game with such good pacing is, for me, maybe Isolation‘s greatest achievement. Aside from frequent crashes while loading (which probably stems from the fact that I played with the bare minimum of hardware, but it still shouldn‘t happen), there isn’t anything negative for me to say. If anything, the experience was, at times and in a positive way, such an ordeal, that I usually played no more than two hours at a time.

However, one last bit I want to talk about. MILD SPOILERS! SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON‘T WANT TO GET SPOILED. Near the very end of the campaign, you find yourself in a nest full of Facehuggers. These are one hit killers, like their big cousin. Once it‘s on your face, it‘s game over. No quick time event to prevent the parasite from latching on. To make matters worse, this section drops the savepoint system it has used before in favor of checkpoints. So, you‘re basically forced to do this one trial and error (unless you have godlike reflexes) until you get it right. It‘s no big deal, but it‘s glaring in a game that was classy enough to withstand the temptation of such gaming sins up to this point.

3 – Graphics

Stunning. Next!

No, really. The lighting plays in a league of its own. The fluid animations of the Aliens are terrifyingly awe-inspiring. My favorite is the one where the Alien lowers itself from a shaft. Majestic! Much has been written about the slavishly accurate and lived-in design, and it‘s all true. In the beginning, I was skeptical whether a sprawling space station that was basically the Nostromo on growth hormones would provide enough variety to avoid getting boring and repetitive. Fortunately. my fears were unfounded. My next trip to Sevastopol will be on Easiest, to gather collectibles, but also to enjoy the locations without constantly having to look over my virtual shoulder.

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Aliens: Colonial Marines – Stasis Interrupted DLC Review

My verdict: I liked it. Make no mistake: It neither fixes the original game nor is it such a stellar achievement that it makes you forget the original game. Let’s be honest: It would take much more than a DLC to fix this mess, such as a new AI and a new setting.

*SPOILERS FOLLOW*

1. Story

Alas, Stasis Interrupted sticks to the post-Hadley’s/LV-426 plot of the main campaign, but at least we finally get to hear Hicks’ story, this time the long version. Some people have complained that the cutscene where it is shown how another body ended up in the EEV borders on slapstick, but when I finally got to watch it, I didn’t find it that bad. What I consider even more important than learning how Hicks survived is that we FINALLY get an explanation how the Sulaco came to be infested in both Infestation (duh…) and Colonial Marines. What else… We get some additional logs that nicely tie in with the actual in-game events and locations, and both combined give you some nice additional info about the Origin facility, shedding light on its history and overall layout.

2. Gameplay

I applaud the gameplay and pacing. You actually spend a long time at the beginning without any weapons and have to evade enemy forces, which is A LOT more how an Aliens game should play out. It’s also not just a gimmick, as you encounter another “your weapons do crap, so RUN” situation later in the DLC. The campaign also has much more Lurkers in it, which heightens the tension and exposes you as the vulnerable meatbag you are. While it works, I kinda felt like a cheap trick sometimes. There’s also a cool little scene where you manually fire the Sulaco’s weapons on the umbilical, which is a nice change of pace – such special moments were sorely lacking in the main campaign. I also am pleased to say that you get a reasonable amount of bang for your buck. On Normal difficulty, I spent four hours with the DLC. Well, not entirely on Normal, which brings me to my last topic: The difficulty.

3. Difficulty

This DLC is a LOT harder than the main campaign. This is a good thing because I finally felt threatened by my enemies, especially the Xenomorphs. I actually used the motion tracker as it was intended, for chrissakes! The heightened difficulty is also a bad thing for mainly one reason: It cranks up to an extreme where it leaves “hard” and crosses the border into”unfair”. You felt that the original game was too generous in placing its checkpoint? Well, by the time I reached the lab in
the last level, I ached for a checkpoint. What was tense became unforgiving when there would be no checkpoint for ages, and every time you die, you would get set back to the very beginning of the section. The first time, I grudgingly acknowledged the challenge it posed. The third time, I was fuming.
I actually finished the lab section, only to watch the game crash just short of the next checkpoint. The graphics got all glitchy when it crashed, and repeatedly so in the same room, so I suspect that it wasn’t the fault of my PC. This was when I gave the game the finger and restarted the level on Easy. Oh, by the way, the game glitched again in the room, but by moving still, I actually got to the next part of the level. And the final battle was just insane. I barely survived it on Easy, and by “barely”, I mean the old “I reached the cutscene trigger within an inch of my life, with enemies breathing down my neck that would become inconsequential once I activated the final cutscene” trick. Look, I’ll be honest and say that I am a capable but not outstanding gamer, but this was just too extreme, especially compared to the “Rambo in Space” feeling of the original campaign. For the next Aliens game, please meet me somewhere halfway, okay?

4. Conclusion

If you liked Colonial Marines, you can do no wrong with this DLC. It certainly is not worse than the original campaign, and I actually think that it does some important things better than the main game. If you despised the main game, there will be no love lost for Stasis Interrupted. Some “hate triggers” like the Xeno AI and the outdated graphics are still there, but it would be unfair to lay the blame for this stuff on the DLC. Those are faults of the main game, and I think it would be unrealistic to expect that a single DLC would magically turn the whole mess into Half-Life 2.

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Retrospective: Aliens vs Predator 2010

After finishing Alien Isolation and Aliens Colonial Marines recently, I wanted to complete the trifecta by playing Aliens vs. Predator 2010. It‘s not the second coming, but AvP 2010 is a game I can always play. The game mechanics are refined for maximum fun, the graphics are stylish and gorgeous, and the story is interesting enough to keep my attention. For me, it belongs into the „fine game“ category titles such as FEAR 2 occupy. So, the game already withstood several playthroughs, but was this loop one time too many? Let‘s find out!

-Finding collectibles is fun! I just wish you could see from the selection screen or at least an in-game menu how many collectibles are there to be found and how many already have been found in a level. As it is, the only place where such info is displayed is the results screen when a level is completed. And this makes an organized hunt for the collectibles very hard. Not cool.

-While I adore the whole arsenal of upgradable weapons Aliens Colonial Marines, I likewise love the simplicity of the Marine weapons in AvP 2010. Pulse Rifle is the jack of all trades, Shotgun is for close encounters, the Scope Rifle is for distance, and the incinerator is… well, it cooks Facehuggers and Eggs like a charm. Oh, and the Smart Gun is great fun and a godsend for when the chips are down. AvP 2 is a great game, but the opportunities to use, for instance, the Railgun were practically zero.

-I also like the extrapolation of the whole military hardware of the USCM. We get to see the Bougainville transport teased in the Technical Manual and also the successor of the Cheyenne class dropship. I especially dig the heavily armored sentry guns.

-I‘m a soundtrack nut, so here goes the obligatory bit about the music: It‘s great, actually! While ACM and Isolation both chose to emulate the sound of the movie they were inspired by (and both did a great job), AvP 2010 mostly tries to be its own thing. Some things sound familiar, like percussions reminding me of the Predator scores, but there are unique elements such as some interesting electronic soundscapes that enhance the creepiness of the environments, sometimes even blurring the boundary between SFX and music. Otherwise, it‘s appropriately gloomy and even tragic when needed. There‘s this one descending trumpet note that plays repeatedly that puts a smile on my face, since it reminds me of Michael Giacchino‘s score for Lost.

-The Club Hive shootout is as much cheese as it is kickass.

-Oh, we have to talk about the xenos! The AvP 2010 xenos are actually my favorite video game incarnation. They are a far cry from the Chihuahua-on-crack speed freaks from the original game. Instead, they sneak and slither and crawl over the walls, floors and ceilings, constantly evading your fire in a smart way. This is how you xeno, ACM! Now, before you get up in arms: The Sevastopol drone is, of course, a work of art by itself. However, as Isolation pays homage to the first movie, its Alien is also mainly stuck to the bipedal mode. The AvP 2010 xenos are not hindered by such limitations, enhanced by great animations. Except, ironically, the walking animation, which sometimes makes the Aliens look like sneaking cartoon villains.

-I still think that one Alien camouflaging inside the hive wall is brilliant.

-Another thing I appreciate about the xenos in this game is its Runner, acting as AvP 2010‘s ranged foe. It cleverly uses the existing canon instead of unnecessarily inventing something outlandish such as the Spitter.

-One can only wonder what an AvP game with a proper Crysis-style jungle would play out. Oh, the possibilities…

-The whole scene between Weyland, Katya and Tequila was genuinely touching, achieving the kind of response ACM tried so hard to evoke and failed with the whole Bella arc.

-Have you experienced this, too? Sections that gave you a hard time last playthrough are now suddenly a cakewalk? This was the case with the Praetorian fight. The whole assault of the Praetorian and its cohorts easily overwhelmed me previously. This time I pumped the thing full of shotgun shells and ended the fight within 20 seconds. Phew!

-Of course, there‘s also the (far more puzzling) opposite case: Section that were once easy now rip you a new one. Like the fight against Karl Weyland. I (maybe inaccurately) remembered this as a fight that was over before it really began. This time, the damn sucker littered the temple ground with the corpses of my poor player character. In the end, I fortunately prevailed. Still odd, tough.

-How cool is the jumping mechanic of the Predator? At first, it smelled of casualization. But it works and is also applicable widely enough so that it doesn‘t come across as scripted.

-I still marvel at the fact that this game wipes the floor with Colonial Marines when it comes to graphics… a game that was released three years later. The facial animations are leaps and bounds above the nutcracker faces from ACM, the textures are crisp for the most part, and the lighting is excellent, only surpassed by Alien Isolation by not as big a margin as one might think.

-Okay, there are occasional glitches, like Aliens getting stuck on geometry. Tequila even did an ACM-style teleport to a critical location. However, this happened only once.

-Let‘s be honest: In the previous games, there were some Predator weapons you never really used *cough*netgun*cough*. So streamlining the arsenal to the most efficient killing tools is a good thing IMO. Except for the mines. The mines can still go eff themselves.

-Okay, the whole „spear magically appears back in your hands after a few seconds cooldown“ took the streamlining a bit too far.

-One reason I like the aesthetics of AvP 2010 so much is that the refinery combined with the shades of brown remind me of Fury 161. I love Alien³. Sue me.

-Yeah, the Predator puzzles are very barebone. But that‘s not what we‘re here for, is it?

-The fight against the PredAlien is really cool, a worthy end to the Predator campaign. I was puzzled that its head ram often hit me over a distance, however.

-Aaaaand, again, we‘re cheated out of a proper showdown with a Queen. C‘mon, unleash the bitch! AvP 2 had two battles against the Queen, Aliens Infestation even had three! This is like skipping a lightsaber duel against Darth Vader in a Star Wars game.

-Seeing the Alien‘s tail when you turn fast enough? Awesome!

-Yeah, the immersion is great. I really tried to think and therefore play like the Alien. That usually meant that instead of sparing a room full of marines and civilians by stealthily heading for the exit, I made it a point of eradicating every single being. Hey, all for the Hive, honey!

-Okay, so there‘s this achievement you get if you harvest every civilian in the game. Fine and dandy. But, there are some scripted sequences (I counted three) where civvies get killed or kill themselves. I WAS able to cancel one suicide by pouncing the civvie. Does this mean that the other ones can be canceled, too? Hm, I have to investigate sometime.

-Fun fact: There‘s a nice (albeit slightly unpolished) alternate version of the ending cutscene for the Alien hidden in the game files. Happy hunting!

-It might seem that I praise the game to high heavens. But as many things as a there are that I like in AvP 2010, there‘s one major letdown: The campaigns, which could be summed by „solid, but uninspired“. This especially hurts after the blast that the campaigns of AvP 2 were. The whole interconnectedness of the three stories is nice, but never reaches the heights of its predecessor. It‘s just a consistent feeling of „Eh, nice, but there could have been more.“. Perhaps it‘s that the levels never get time to breathe, lacking complexity and basically consisting of a number of arena-like sections that don‘t flow together very well. There‘s also the level recycling. I didn‘t mind it that much, as I didn‘t mind the obvious allusions to the 2004 AvP movie, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, the taste of something rushed and treated without much love and, yes, inspiration.

-Coincidentally, the Alien campaign, the last of the three, was also the shortest and least fun, as far as it concerned me.

-Oh, what I would give for a direct sequel to this story, taking the action to the Xenomorph homeworld teased in the ending cutscenes.

-Hm, a survivor mode… I actually played it longer than I usually play this kind of modes, so there‘s that.

Another Alien universe game done! I can understand the disappointment surrounding this game, as it isn‘t the most inspired product and had the misfortune of following Monolith‘s AvP 2, IMO one of the best FPS single player games every. But if you get it on sale, give it a chance! It‘s actually a big barrel‘o‘fun. Now, mode which would remake the second game with 2010‘s graphics and gameplay… pass me the smelling salt!

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Retrospective: Aliens Colonial Marines (main campaign)

I already reviewed Colonial Marines wayback when, but I recently replayed the main campaign to try out the TemplarGFX overhaul. I completed the campaign in three sessions, I think, and a lot went through my mind while doing so. Enough to spark the idea of writing a small retrospective now that Alien Isolation has washed out the sour taste of this game from our collective mouths and a few years have passed. This won‘t follow the usual essay structure; rather, I‘ll write down my stray thoughts as they come in and order them in chronological fashion when possible.

Oh, one last thing I feel necessary to point out, given the subject matter: This will not be a rant. Of course, I will voice my own problems with the game. But everyone expecting to see the poison flow will be disappointed… largely. I mean, where‘s the fun in doing what has been done so often already? So, let‘s see if the years have left the game in a different place than at launch. Here we go!

-As I said above, I originally wanted to play the game with the TemplarGFX overhaul mod. I really liked what I saw, too. However, the game crashed as soon as I reached the cargo tram rails, so I was forced to go vanilla again.

-People who know me also know I‘m a film score nut. So here goes a shoutout to Kevin Riepl‘s great music. It‘s actually the only component that got through the shitstorm unscathed, and rightfully so. I particularly love that it uses the main theme from Alien, further establishing the cue as the central musical identity of the saga.

-To get this out of the way, I just address this now with the first offender in that regard: The graphics‘ shortcomings still baffle me as soon as I see the hoky facial animation. AvP 2010 did those and pretty much everything else better three years earlier. I know that Gearbox toned down the visuals to make the game run on consoles. But AvP 2010 was also released for consoles, so I have difficulties accepting this as an explanation.

-A major thing I actually love about ACM is the arsenal and the whole customization mechanics that come with it. Once you‘ve unlocked a fair amount of stuff, you‘re able to adapt your weapons for any given situation on the fly. Yeah, kudos for the „on the fly“ part; someone less committed to the concept may have restricted that to checkpoints or something.

-Okay, the realization of the Sulaco‘s interior is just great. The continuity nerd in me just wished there had been more consistency with the Aliens Infestation version. On the other hand, both contradict the Colonial Marines Technical Manual, which depicts the ship as featuring rather few places actually accessible by humans, so what the heck…

-When I fought the PMCs, I remembered Noah Caldwell-Gervais, a guy on YouTube, describing them as looking like „après-ski DJs“. Pretty apt description, I must say. BTW, check out Noah‘s videos, they‘re great!

-One thing I can say about the TemplarGFX overhaul is that the quicktime events with a facehugger were now brutal.

-Yay, I finally found the Easter Egg!

-The huge sphere-like structures in Engineering reminded me of the APOLLO sphere from Isolation.

-As I play through the game, I cannot help but wonder what could have been and what landed on the cutting room floor. Alien Isolation, a game much more fully realized than ACM, has a vast well-documented amount of stuff that didn‘t make it into the game and would have blown it up to JRPG proportions. On the other hand, information of content cut from ACM is curiously scarce, what with the trailers showing so much stuff that was left out of the final game.

-The Raven…pretty intriguing! We still have no definite idea what kind of Xeno it is, but cool stuff nonetheless.

-My favorite bit of bad dialogue has to be Winter‘s and O‘Neal‘s conversation about the Boilers. It‘s like listening to the ramblings of two dudebros. I paraphrase (may not be 100% accurate): „Dude, did you see that?“ „Ya, totally, bro! It‘s wicked, man!“ „Right?!? The generator went WROOOM! And then the Aliens went, like, KABLAAM!“ „So AWESOME!“ „Ya, totally.“

-Seeing Hudson‘s corpse reminded me of when I suggested making him the surviving marine from the Sulaco. Contrary to Hicks there‘s an actual chance that he survived, and introducing him earlier and making him seriously unhinged might have given off a nice Dead Space vibe. Not the worst source of inspiration, guys.

-Yeah, the main cast is rather bland, but I think that they did themselves a favor by limiting the story around you, O‘Neal, Bella, Reid and Cruz. This way, everyone got to do something and was an integral part of the plot. Cameron really did a magic thing by making a whole squad memorable, and here, the writers were humble enough not to try the same thing and fail.

-The section with the enemy Cheyennes scouting the area is cool stuff! Why not make it so that there is an actual risk of being discovered and shot at? Time constraints? Were sections like these originally more fleshed-out, like the Crusher escape from the trailers, and retroactively dumbed down when time for playtesting ran out?

-The existence of the Crusher and the Spitter bothers me. I can‘t really see their place in the hive. It‘s something more akin to the Tyranids from Warhammer 40k.

-In the lab section with the captured Xenos, take a look at the drone opposite the Crusher cage. It actually has a skull that closely resembles the Raven.

-Teehee, I love the audio logs of the foreman. Sounds like George Carlin was revived and put into Wey-Yu‘s employ. The last one is my favourite, which basically goes: „You greedy bastards do all kinds of wrong here, but I earned a lot of money, so bye!“

-I still can‘t wrap my head around the whole cancerous placenta thing; this is a major incision (see what I did there?) into existing canon. I first thought you can easily shoot this one down by bringing up Church and Ripley 8, but both of them happened under special circumstances. Ripley 8 was an Alien/human hybrid and thus may have been able to just absorb the placenta. Church was impregnated by a hive suffering from a terminal disease, so that may have killed the cancer along with the Chestburster. Hm, still not feeling it, though.

-The queen reveal still kicks all kinds of ass. Again, a pity that the scripted events of her lashing out from the cage do you no actual harm.

-Nope, the derelict is still way too large on the inside to match the outside. Seriously, it‘s like the damn TARDIS in there. Still an atmospheric highlight.

-Another cool moment: The cargo lifter with the Queen building flying overhead.

-Fun fact: Stay long enough at the departing FTL ship, and you‘ll see that only the side facing you was actually modeled.

-Oh, what is it with you and messing up Queen battles? First, the underwhelming boss fight in AvP 2010 and now this? You had a perfectly fine killer Queen model, why not use it?

-Regarding the ending: Yeah, it‘s pretty lame sequel bait. However, the implied story about Colonial Marines taking up the fight against Weyland-Yutani has potential. Come to think of it, Cruz‘ marines weren’t the only ones vowing to take down the Company; Brackett did the same at the end of River of Pain. Those people teaming up for their mission might be rather cool.

-I already said that I love the whole weapon customization thing. Likewise, the challenges really motivated me to replay levels. However, around level 26, I hit a brick wall with the challenges: Two were connected to the multiplayer modes, which are completely abandoned by now. None of my friends own the game, so there go those rewards. I get the purpose of multiplayer challenges, but keep them out of my singleplayer! The third is a ridiculously hard „kill 10 enemies in a single campaign level“ challenge, which resets every time you die, even if you passed a checkpoint. Not cool.

So, this concludes my little retrospective of the main campaign from Aliens Colonial Marines. After being relentlessly hunted all over Sevastopol, it was a rather cathartic experience to unload a Pulse Rifle on some bugs. This marked the third time I played through the campaign, I think, and I won’t rule out another playthrough in the future. It wasn’t a blast, but I enjoyed myself. I think I made my peace with the game. Or I am a sucker for punishment. Take your pick.

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A very short update + new links!

I’ve been a baaaaad webmaster, I know. I’ll try to post more updates in the future, I promise!

Just to get the most obvious question out of the way: Yes, the Encyclopedia is A-okay. Version 9 is still on its way, too. I can’t give a specific date, but it won’t be long now.

In the meantime, why not check out what the Alien-themed web has to offer? I update the link page with, which now, for one, features AVPCentral, a great blog offering features on a vast number of interesting themes concerning the trifecta of universes. It also covers the expanded universe, which is always a plus in my book. Go check it out and make sure to prepare your favourite beverage, because you’re gonna be there for a while!

AVPCentral’s webmaster also kindly pointed out a grievous oversight of mine. I completely missed the migration of Scott Middlebrook’s Alien Universe Timeline to WordPress. Not only does that migration mean that this milestone of fan research is still available in 2018. No, it also has been updated with new and revised content ever since. I updated the link, and there’s really no excuse not to head over there.

That’s it for now. See you soon (for real)!

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Alien Encyclopedia version 8 released!

Yep, here it is! Enjoy the newest version of the Alien Encyclopedia, featuring all-new content about the Nightmare Asylum comic, an updated cover and page numbers! A million thanks go out, as always, to Frans Hattingh for his impeccable proofreading. Head over to the Downloads page and grab your copy!

Looks like I’m still on track for providing two releases per year. Next: Female War, completing the epic Earth War trilogy.

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The Dragon’s Advocate: A Case for Alien³ (part 3 – final part)

4. What was first? The egg or the… ah, nevermind.

Before I rest my case, I want to adress the complaint about the plot holes of the movie.The only problematic plot element I see is how a Xenomorph egg could have gotten into the Sulaco. The obvious answer is: The queen brought it there. Why? Simple: Her hive blew up around her, and it was the reasonable thing to do to ensure the survival for her species, which doesn everything to survive. So, did she carry them under her arms like a bunch of French baguettes on her Sunday stroll to the Sulaco? Probably not. It’s far more reasonable to assume that she laid her eggs inside the dropship. Sure, she lost her ovipositor in the hive, but the ovipositor is not the source of the eggs. A look at ovipositors on real-life animals suggest that it was merely a mean for the queen to (duh!) safely positon the eggs. Here, I cite the Anchorpoint Essays: „Because each egg has a defined top and defined bottom the egg must be turned before being laid. This is done by a series of muscles just prior to the depositing tip.“ However, the need for an ovipositor would have been secondary when confined in the landing struts of the dropship. The ovipositor may have been needed for mass production, but a species as refined and complex as the Xenomorph certainly would have some fail-safe mechanism to lay a limited number of eggs in a worst-case scenario. Let’s play the Queen’s Advocate for a moment: Remember that it was not only a crisis situation for our beloved humans, but also for the Queen, which was suddenly isolated and without support from her underlings. Or was she? Maybe a lone drone, ordered by the Queen had snuck aboard the dropship during its time landed on LV-426 and placed the two eggs necessary for the scenario in Alien³ to take place. The dropship was certainly large enough to hide a Xenomorph, as was shown in the demise of the first dropship. Surely, the possibilities don’t end here.
There are a number of other so-called plot holes, but they are all explained easily, and I don’t want to bore you with the details. Just check the FAQ on Alien³’s IMDb page.

The final speech:

Your honor, I made my case. Alien³ is neither the trainwreck filled with plot holes nor the boring regurgitation of an already existing movie many people claim it to be. Instead, it is an intriguing, highly atmospheric conclusion for the story of Ripley that doesn’t shy away from conveying an incredibly disturbing and depressing mood or taking bold choices for plot and character development. I demand my client to be fully aquitted from these unfounded accusations probably triggered by disappointed fan expectations. I rest my case.

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The Dragon’s Advocate: A Case for Alien³ (part 2)

2. A short detour.

If you take more than an superficial glance at the movie, you will see that Alien³ is not only an original story, but a logical continuation of the first two movie. Alien was all about suspense. Aliens was all about action. Alien³ has both. It has the scares’n’shocks (The birth of the Alien, Clement’s death, Ripley’s attack on the fake Alien) and great action set pieces (do I really need to name them? The bait and chase finale, the attempt at capturing the Alien). I am not a huge Aliens fan (although it has an awesome finale). Suffice to say, Aliens removed the threat even a single Xenomorph can pose and turned them into hordes of bugs, although, admittedly, it was the logical step for the franchise to take at the time. But why expect Alien³ to up the body count even more? Granted, a full-out Alien war is a fan’s (and, therefore, my) wet dream, but why blaming Alien³ for not taking that direction? Okay, granted, that was partly because of the movie’s crappy marketing, which showed a teaser that strongly implicated an Alien outbreak on Earth. Alien³ brought back the almost, for the lack of a better word, god-like quality of the Alien, which could show up at any time to kill you and you could do almost nothing about it. This is what makes the Alien creature so cool, isn’t it? For me, it’s definitely not an onslaught of mindless drones which can be easily killed and only win by numbers.

3. Not Alien. Not at all.

But I digress. You say that Alien³ is more or less a rehash of the first movie. Isn’t that a bit overgeneralizing? It’s like saying „Hey, there are starfighters blowing each other to dust and lightsaber duels. Therefore, Empire Strikes Back is a rehash of A New Hope.“ There are only so much variations you can go with the bare-bones plot of an Alien movie. People without weapons fighting a single Alien (Alien and Alien³, granted). People with weapons fighting a single Alien (would be a very short film). People without weapons fighting many Aliens (Interesting, but probably of TV-commercial length) People with weapons fighting many Aliens (Yeah, well, Aliens). That’s it. And come to think of it: It’s also a case of double standards. Say you one day you will get your „Earth war“ Alien flick. I severely doubt you would say: „Meh, it’s like Aliens, only bigger.“ My point is: Just because Alien³ shares the most basic (I can’t stress this word enough in this respect) plot structure with Alien, it doesn’t make it a rehash of it.

So, after making a fuss about that Alien³ is NOT the same as Alien, it’s just fair to ask: What makes it different? What makes it unique? First, the most obvious thing that needs the least reasoning: Alien³ is the last part of the trilogy, and Ripley dies. In this, it’s actually the exact opposite of Alien. Alien starts the story, Alien³ ends it. In Alien, we get to know Ripley and the Xenomorph, whereas in Alien³, we watch both of them dying. I could expand this list, but I think I’ve made my point. Just by virtue of being the finale, Alien³ is both different and unique.
Now, you say: „Hey, what about Return of the Jedi and The Last Crusade? C’mon, those are third parts of a trilogy and mostly rehashes of the first movie.“ I tend to agree although, one day, I may make my case about each of them having enough unique and new elements to set them apart. I end this part by suggesting a sidestep: Isn’t it a vital part of trilogy enders that they live on reversed symmetry to the first movie? As I said: The first one starts the story, the third one ends it.
Let’s come to the second aspect: The character ensemble. You thought that the crew of the Nostromo was not exactly your brand of heroes? Well, the prisoners of Fury 16 is a whole facility full of potentially very dangerous psychopaths and criminals. How’s that for a group of heroes! Alien and Aliens suggested that humans may be as dangerous as any alien parasite, but mostly in their subtext. Alien³, for the first time drives the point home and then some. And there’s also the gender thing: Ripley is a woman alone in a world full of men. No Lambert and also no token females like Ferro. I like horror movies which break up the usual gender relationship archetypes. Think The Descent. And playing to this by presenting the only sexual relationship in the trilogy just to cut it short shows that the story lives up to its premise. I certainly prefer it to the Ripley-Hicks thing that, in my opinion, would have certainly developed had he survived.
The third and last aspect I want to point out is the bleakness of this story, embodied in so many things – first and foremost in Ripley’s impregnation. It’s the logical conclusion and inevitable to bring Ripley’s arc to an end. Alien never would be so dark again, save for the Labyrinth comic and parts of Alien Resurrection. Here, no one gets out alive, save for one minor character. Your beloved Aliens had a rather generous survivor count with three (and a half) people (pun intended). I agree that this is perhaps the least enjoyable movie of the series because of its hopeless atmosphere. But that doesn’t make it a bad movie, and don’t blame the sun if you can’t take the heat. One other intriguing plot element is the religious subtext of Alien³, even moreso in the Assembly Cut. That’s perhaps the only thing I would have liked to have been taken even further, although there’s a bunch of comics which tackle the Alien-religion connection. Instead the movie stays subtle, but rich nonetheless. Ripley’s sacrifice, the tell-tale implications of a bunch of violent loonies practicing religion and Golic’s relationship to the Alien as featured in the Assembly Cut. I don’t want to be an apologetic (although that’s kind of my business) saying: „Hey, no wonder you didn’t like the theatrical version, the Assembly cut is soooo much better!“ But concerning the religion subplot, it is indeed an enhancment. However, it’s also there in the theatrical version, just not served on a silver tablet.
So, there you go. The setting is different. The character dynamics are different. The film goes beyond the threat of a Xenomorph to tackle religion and gender dynamics. The main character experiences the worst horror of the Alien first-hand and pays the ultimate price. Where were your intolerable and annoying rehashs again?

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