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Alien: Isolation has one claw firmly stuck in 1979

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Alien: Isolation has one claw firmly stuck in 1979

There sure have been a lot of these Alien: Isolation dev diaries. Undoubtedly a good thing though, creating transparency that Colonial Marines utterly lacked. This new one continues the theme of authenticity that’s obviously key to the approach Creative Assembly have taken - making the sci-fi elements feel like they were designed in the ‘70s. 

“This isn’t a world of holograms and touchscreens; there’s no sense here that technology is going to save you," said creative lead Alistair Hope. It certainly looks a lot like Ridley Scott’s original vision. Big ol’ CRT monitors, distortion on screens, thick analog buttons - it’s all been designed with what the original filmmakers had access to 30 odd years ago in mind.

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Alien: Isolation's audio is dynamic, but can you hear screaming in space?

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 Alien: Isolation's audio is dynamic, but can you hear screaming in space?

There are many things that go into making a truly terrifying horror experience, but for me it’s the audio that has the greatest impact. The slamming of doors and rats scratching at the walls in Amnesia, the mad ranting and horrible threats of Outlast’s twisted inmates - they make me want to rip my headphones off and switch the lights back on.

In its latest developer diary, Creative Assembly offers a glimpse at their sound design process for Alien: Isolation, a game that we all hope is every bit as sweat-inducing and worrying as Ripley’s first encounter with the glossy, black xenomorph. 

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Total War: Rome II Beasts of War DLC introduces throwing bees, snakes, scorpions

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Total War: Rome II Beasts of War DLC introduces throwing bees, snakes, scorpions

I can never quite muster the necessary enthusiasm for giant robots sometimes required for PC gaming, and for that I blame Beast Wars: Transformers - the Canadian CGI spinoff that I watched after school in the ‘90s. In that, the robots became birds and bears, and so Optimus Prime became Optimus Primal, y’see? Very clever stuff.

This is not a tie-in to that - though you can’t rule such things out while Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior exists. Rather, it’s an only marginally less ridiculous unit pack that brings ranged scorpion hurling to Total War: Rome II.

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A new way to be trampled: Total War: Rome II updated with geographically accurate elephants

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A new way to be trampled: Total War: Rome II updated with geographically accurate elephants

As Maximus Cannus Fodderus looked up at the Saharan sun for the final time, he sighed. The ears weren’t right. They were much too small - and the animal’s reared back was convex, rather than dipped, as it should have been. The leg that came down on his chest was long and lean, not stocky and thickset. 

He was going to die - and it wasn’t even the right sort of bloody elephant.

In recognition of Rome II’s wide geographical scope and its well-educated generals, Creative Assembly have introduced a new African elephant model to the game.

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Total War: Rome 2 modding is a go with the release of the Assembly Kit

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Total War: Rome 2 modding is a go with the release of the Assembly Kit

Who would win in a fight, the Romans or the Zerg? Till now it’s only been a fight in the cinema of the mind. Now it can be in the cinema of the... can a mouse click be a cinema? I’m thoroughly confused on that front. Let’s just say if the finger were a projector and the mouse button were a screen then the distance in between is... Creative Assembly have released mod tools for Rome 2!

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Total War: Rome II patch 8.1 puts a stop to inappropriate use of flaming projectiles

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Total War: Rome II patch 8.1 puts a stop to inappropriate use of flaming projectiles

No matter how many times a teacher says not to, schoolchildren will always throw flaming projectiles when they shouldn’t. It’s a fact of life as embedded in our cultural history as salting the earth of your neighbour’s garden when they go on holiday. But not in Rome II. Creative Assembly are going back on centuries of tradition to make sure their siege artillery only use flaming projectiles when it is appropriate, “when attacking walls and towers".

The 8.1 patch “fixes" many other “bugs", too.

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How Creative Assembly designed Alien: Isolation's terrifyingly clever xenomorph

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How Creative Assembly designed Alien: Isolation's terrifyingly clever xenomorph

Alien: Isolation burst out of Creative Assembly's chest yesterday, splattering previews all over the internet and making us spill our collective cereal — here is my Alien: Isolation preview, in case you're interested in finding out more. The game plays, in the parts we've been shown at least, like Amnesia in space, with only a solitary, highly intelligent and free-roaming xenomorph forming the game's horror centrepiece.

Gary Napper, lead designer at Creative Assembly, and Jude Bond, lead artist, spoke to me about how to create a truly terrifying artificial intelligence, what they thought of recent games in the franchise and how Alien: Isolation hopes to sustain a level of tension from start to finish that doesn't result in heart-stopping fatalities. Come have a look at the words we said to one another.

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Alien: Isolation developer diary introduces Creative Assembly's horror contingent

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Alien: Isolation developer diary introduces Creative Assembly's horror contingent

Hey! There’s an Alien Isolation trailer scuttling about the vents here somewhere, if you’re interested. In it, a Colin Firthian voice actor gets to say “We get to shut the book, Ripley," in a prim staccato only faintly recognisable to the English as their own accent.

It's not the Ripley he's referring to, though - she’s out of reach for videogame adaptations, for sensible reasons - but daughter Amanda, who learns the whereabouts of the Nostromo’s black box fifteen years after her mother’s disappearance in shouty, quivery circumstances. Creative Assembly have piggybacked Ripley the Younger’s quest to find mother as an opportunity to return to the mother of sci-fi horror - because they think they know what made it tick. They say as much in this interviewish video.

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Alien: Isolation debut trailer boasts first moving footage, nearly forgets its star

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Alien: Isolation debut trailer boasts first moving footage, nearly forgets its star

Ask any snake oil salesman - It’s easier to sell a thing that is there than isn’t. That’s the problem any developer of a Proper Alien Game is faced with. They know an amateur blows their load by throwing a gaggle of green monsters at the player within the first 40 minutes of the game’s opening - so want to communicate an encouraging lack of Alien in a 140 second trailer. The question: what to show in the slimy chap's stead?

The answer: ‘70s PCs.

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Hands on with Alien: Isolation

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Hands on with Alien: Isolation

Hippity-hop, what have we got? Only a bona-fide, scary-as-balls Alien game guaranteed to spook your nuts off. Alien: Isolation has just been revealed by Sega following a sad slew of leaks, but here's the deal: it’s only got one alien in, it plays sort of like Amnesia in space and it’s being developed by Creative Assembly, who are best known for their mostly exceptional games about history and spears rather than their first person horror adventure games. What a strange turn of events!

I have been playing it. Here’s what I think.

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Close-up combat: Rome II: Caesar in Gaul DLC out now

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Close-up combat: Rome II: Caesar in Gaul DLC out now

There’s a bit in the trailer for Rome II’s new campaign DLC where the camera swoops low above the trees, like one of Peter Jackson’s helicopters might. As it speeds along the coast, the view quickly begins to lift and - oh Christ, it’s the map. It’s the new strategic map. This game is gorgeous.

It’s a map that takes in future France, rather than the entirety of Europe and its environs - and that narrower, deeper perspective is reflected throughout Creative Assembly’s approach to Caesar's Got Gall. Which is out, by the way.

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Great Scott: Alien: Isolation screenshots evoke the horror original

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Great Scott: Alien: Isolation screenshots evoke the horror original

The sole piece of concept art that dripped dreadfully from the ceiling of Creative Assembly’s ichorous development nest and into the public eye three days ago isn’t so isolated anymore; four screenshots have joined its horrible swim about the yoke of our optic pool.

This is Sega’s *cough*teenth attempt at doing right by Ridley Scott’s song of solitude. And this time, it looks like they’ve handed it to the right people.

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Come Caesar these screenshots of Total War: Rome II's Gallic campaign

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Come Caesar these screenshots of Total War: Rome II's Gallic campaign

The draw of Creative Assembly’s newly announced Caesar in Gaul campaign is that it’s a small-scale affair - the business of one country over less than a decade. But the veteran Total War developers know better than to extend that approach to the battlefields themselves, which are crammed full of thousands of woad warriors and men in sandals. Check them out.

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Creative Assembly field Total War: Rome II's first standalone expansion pack: Caesar in Gaul

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Creative Assembly field Total War: Rome II's first standalone expansion pack: Caesar in Gaul

When in Rome, goes the saying. That is, one should work to accept and enjoy others’ norms when in their homes. It’s espoused as a universally-applicable idea, but it turns out the Romans didn’t employ the same logic elsewhere. When in Gaul, for instance, Caesar thought it perfectly reasonable to wage war in the name of profit, the support of Rome’s public, and the ire of its senators.

I suppose we can mull over the hypocrisy of the budding dictator while we conduct his armies and raze future France to the ground. Caesar’s campaign is to be the subject of Rome II’s first expansion pack.

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Total War: Rome II coming to SteamOS "early next year", Steam Controller support to follow

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Total War: Rome II coming to SteamOS "early next year", Steam Controller support to follow

This time last month, Total War brand director Rob Bartholomew told us that he was “confident" that Creative Assembly could pull together a SteamOS port for Rome II. Last night he upgraded his studio’s readiness level to DEFCON “very confident", and issued a note to Valve’s OS team instructing them to make the news public knowledge.

There will be a version of Rome II on SteamOS - and it’ll likely be ready before most of the Steam Machines are.

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Total War: Rome II sells more than 800,000 copies in a month

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Total War: Rome II sells more than 800,000 copies in a month

Sega and Creative Assembly are sitting pretty right now. Despite its buggy launch, Total War: Rome II has gone on to sell more than 800,000 copies in its first month. It means Creative Assembly will be able to update their library to include books covering periods of history they’ve not already made into games.

Expect a Total War: Tudor announcement in the coming months.

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Total War: Rome II reinforced by three (temporarily) free new playable factions

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Total War: Rome II reinforced by three (temporarily) free new playable factions

Creative Assembly are rapidly becoming the model for post-release support. Rome II’s iffy launch version, in which the gears were all too often visible through the cracks in its elaborate conflict fantasy, recedes in the memory. Comprehensive weekly patches are already seeing to that - as well as gestures like this one.

The developers promised both free and paid-for DLC in the months before Christmas, and listed the sizeable Nomadic Tribes Culture Pack among the stuff to shell out for - but have since decreed it’ll be free on Steam for the next week after all.

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Creative Assembly's Alien: Isolation is a BioShock-inspired FPS, apparently

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Creative Assembly's Alien: Isolation is a BioShock-inspired FPS, apparently

Creative Assembly’s take on the Alien franchise may have been superseded in the public eye by Rome II and a possible Warhammer: Total War, but it never stopped being a going concern at the Sussex studio.

While the sparse, claustrophobic horror Alien is known for still reads like an ill fit for Creative Assembly’s own stock in trade - widescreen, open-air glory hunting - they’ve reportedly clocked that and built something entirely uncharacteristic: an FPS in the vein of BioShock and Dishonored.

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Creative Assembly on patching Rome II: "We’re achieving in weeks what, on previous projects, took months"

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Creative Assembly on patching Rome II: "We’re achieving in weeks what, on previous projects, took months"

Total War: Rome II is getting better - and not even ‘buy in the Steam Christmas Sale’ better. If the patch notes of the recent flurry of weekly updates are anything to go by, it’s already significantly closer to being the game players had hoped it would be.

Tomorrow’s patch will bring new, free DLC to the game and Creative Assembly’s “next major step towards mod support". Beyond that, the Total War series will enjoy a path of post-release betterment it never has before.

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