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Why Aliens should become next-gen's replacement for zombies

Good news, everyone: We've survived the zombie apocalypse! After years of expending brain power on zombie games, many of the major developers that had been pumping the channel full of the ravenous undead are now using their eyes to look upward. With upcoming games like Evolve, Alien: Isolation, and even Call of Duty exploring extra-terrestrial enemy options, it seems like now, it's the aliens time to shine, and it's going to be awesome.

Sure, fighting off zombies was fun. Pushing away their gnashing teeth and showing their faces the business end of a shotgun was a blast (get it). There was amazing four-player co-op in Left 4 Dead, great storytelling in The Last of Us, and tons of indie zombie titles that totally infested the top-down shooter genre. But now there are a bajillion zombie-related games out there. The gaming market is completely saturated with exploded, rotting guts. And it's time to move on to bigger, better, and not-so-dumb enemies to eviscerate.

Why the change, and why now? In years past, it was a huge game development hurdle to get lots of enemies and objects on screen all at once, which made dumb enemies like zombies a prime candidate for uncomplicated mob programming. Now the challenge will be making monsters (and enemies) smart, and since the undead typically just make a beeline towards your fleshy food parts, aliens are perfect for the next monster fad.

You have to be equally brain-dead for a zombie to sink its teeth into your noggin, but aliens are intergalactic travelers/monsters that have thoughts and instincts, which make them perfect for more intelligent enemy encounters--like facing off against Halo's Elites. Smarter enemies are definitely something I expect to see more of in next-gen games, and aliens fit the "smart enemy" bill quite nicely. The upcoming Alien: Isolation already has a smart monster in the works--one with such advanced AI that makes it feel "alive" (or so the developers claim). To me, having a single alien skulking in the shadows, hunting me until it could shove its tail blade through my torso, would be infinitely more terrifying and engaging than chainsawing my way through a crowd of stumbling undead.

With smarter enemies, encounters with your foes will also become more horrifying. I've sent a bullet through more zombie brains than I care to count, and while zombies make great targets for fish-in-a-barrel gameplay, they really aren't scary anymore. At least, not as scary as aliens could be. These extraterrestrials can be made to actually strategically kill you through intelligent movement patterns and reactionary tactics. Based on our early impressions of upcoming games like Evolve and Alien: Isolation, aliens are definitely more terrifying than a shambling dead person. Why? Zombies are slow (most of the time), they moan so loud that you know exactly where they are, and they're really easy to kill. Aliens, on the other hand, don't have any of those stipulations.

Aliens can basically be anything the game developers want--not like traditional zombies. Bug aliens, Predator aliens, Alien aliens, or little grey men aliens all have different behaviors, origins, and methods for impaling, vaporizing, or cocooning human heroes to death. The sky's the limit in terms of variety. And with the potential of the next-generation hardware, it'd be interesting to see what kind of horror, shooter, and co-op experiences game makers could come up with using next-gen aliens.

With Call of Duty: Ghosts making the zombies-to-aliens change with its Extinction mode, the Left 4 Dead developers creating Evolve, and Alien: Isolation making such an impressive early showing, I can already see the alien monster fad materializing for next-gen. Now, I'm just hoping we're not drowning in alien games by the time we start gearing up for the next, next-generation consoles.

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20 comments

  • gabriel-brest - January 17, 2014 8:35 a.m.

    You're all missing the big picture aliens rant that scary zombies are more scary but do you know that would make an awesome game humans being possessed by demons imagine it they're smarter than zombies cooler than aliens and are probably way more runner to kill that has to better than aliens and zombies combined I mean come on the possessed humans could grab knives and guns and try to kill you while saying demon words and there faces being all contorted and messed up and their voices changing into a deep demonic voice telling you to F off and saying stuff like ill eat your corpse now that would be a AWESOME GAME
  • N7Spartan95 - January 17, 2014 11:12 a.m.

    Dude, your post is one big run-on sentence. Try to use punctuation, otherwise your words are painful to read.
  • gabriel-brest - January 19, 2014 1:04 a.m.

    Ya you're right sorry about that ill take your advice.
  • t_skwerl - January 16, 2014 2:59 p.m.

    I disagree. Not about the aliens, I would love to see more aliens. However, everyone's always saying how there are bajillions of zombie games out there. Could you show them to me? Because most of what I've seen is dlc. Trust me, it's a short list.
  • MikeJazzfaceTheDancingSquirrel - May 22, 2014 3:30 a.m.

    left4dead, dead island 1, 2 and 3, all the resident evils, red dead undead nightmare, the walking dead game, dead rising, state of decay, plants v zombies, sniper elite nazi zombie army, zombie driver hd, zombie bowl-o-rama, ravaged zombie apocolypse, zombie tycoon, zombie pirates... the list goes on. i've been sick of zombies for a while now- bring on the aliens!! Alien enemies open up a whole tin of alien worms and creative freedom because an alien could come in the form of literally ANYTHING, even a zombie.... BUT NO.
  • communinja - January 16, 2014 1:16 p.m.

    I really enjoy Survival games a bit more than Hoards of Zombies games. I would very much like to play a game somewhere between Left 4 Dead and Slender. More suspense and terror when you get abducted or something.
  • SnakeinmyBoot - January 16, 2014 2:39 a.m.

    Yes, zombies need to go. Zombies have been in way too much media in the past ten years they are starting to get really stale(pun not intended). ZombieLand was the only thing that was really entertaining for more than 30 minutes at a time regarding the undead made in the past few years. And that was more of a parody. I think, instead of just aliens, we need some variety in the enemies and menace in games. No one group of people or creatures should be the focal point of an era. It was WWII enemies in the PS2, Xbox and early into the next generation. Then we had a short time with technologically modern evil corporations, patriotic rogue generals and terrorist groups that Modern Warfare kicked off. And finally we got zombies left and right from Left for Dead, Dead Riding, and Nazi Zombies and it's still going on to this day with more of those and Last of Us. Even Halo had to have a zombie faction. FPSes just have to have either Nazis, aliens, or zombies as enemies in them and Bungie opted for both with they aliens side having Nazi influences storywise. Killzone styled the Hellgast after Nazis. The themes overlap a bit, but it's still noticeably jarring to see one extremely popular in a single timeframe. I'm not even interested in Last of Us for this reason. It could be a good story, but with the backdrop of another cliched zombie apocalypse Naughty Dog dropped the ball. It could have had a massive war break out or a meteor shower kill of most of the population with the protagonists trying to survive getting past wild animals and other stragglers and not being able to trust them because many have turned to cannibalism or at least killing anyone who might have supplies. Imagine having to decide whether or not to just shoot the people at a camp, sneak past them, or ask them for directions, all while watching out that they might turn on you in an instant. Ellie's importance to the later plot could have been worked into this story, too. I don't how much of what I said might actually be in the game as small points, but the way i see it is we could have got something more original, instead we got mushroom zombies, wow. Developers should stop playing follow the leader. Maybe they could mix it up little if they're having trouble coming up with a concept. Doom's demon army being fought by a space marine at least wasn't copied by other developers at them time(except it might draw from Warhammer 40K) but Id made Quake 1 with a similar premise as their last game. We just need a little more than shifting back to aliens in every other game being pumped out.
  • mafyooz - January 16, 2014 12:21 a.m.

    This is a regular argument in my house, my wife loves all things zombie whilst I've found the current obsession throughout pop culture pretty boring for some time. In games especially it just seems to be the default choice when people run out of ideas, although there are exceptions, I groaned when Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare was announced but it turns out zombie bears are awesome :)
  • shawksta - January 15, 2014 11:49 p.m.

    If this means ill get to play another installment of Destroy All Humans then im all aboard.
  • mafyooz - January 16, 2014 12:12 a.m.

    After the horrendous Path Of The Furon I'd be satisfied if they just gave the first 2 a decent HD makeover rather than risk getting burned with another sub-standard sequel. Worst £40 I ever spent....
  • Shigeruken - January 16, 2014 3:43 a.m.

    I kinda like that game. But then again, I think I paid something like 20 NZD for it haha.
  • mafyooz - January 16, 2014 7:14 a.m.

    I have a similar feeling towards Colonial Marine, I don't mind it but I only paid £3 for it, which is less than a cheese sandwich in some shops ;-)
  • Shigeruken - January 15, 2014 9:58 p.m.

    I'm so sick of zombies. The only reason they're so common in video games is that their AI is so simple to compute that you can have more enemies of screen. Of course, AI in most games has become zombie like and dimwitted sacks of hit points. Good AI is rarely praised, and dull unimaginative AI (every modern shooter) is accepted at the norm.
  • Xtapolapopotamus - January 15, 2014 9:49 p.m.

    I want Lovecraftian horrors! C'thulu and all his minions!
  • GOD - January 15, 2014 9:29 p.m.

    I disagree on aliens being next. I think instead they should be weird creepy ass cartoony interdimensional nightmare monsters. No, I'm not joking. They would visually be way different than anything done recently, have a infinite potential for looking anywhere from innocent to creepy as shit, and I honestly think this would free up gameplay because it would completely remove any realistic barriers like zombies having to be stupid and aliens having to be sciencey. You can just have this pink spider with a crazy ass rabbit head and snakes for ears as just the first of many different enemies. Why? Because it would be amazing. They could even be procedurally generated for extra diversity. Someone please make this for me.
  • GOD - January 15, 2014 9:32 p.m.

    Also because color is something I enjoy in my games. Unless someone makes a game where you fight pastel aliens I think my idea would be more colorful. Color also does not mean they would be less frightening, and could actually makes thinks more horrifying when used correctly.
  • Cyberninja - January 15, 2014 8:08 p.m.

    I was going to comment about the diversity of aliens glad Lorenzo mentioned it in the article
  • GenderBender_9000 - January 15, 2014 4:17 p.m.

    Zombies are the new WWll
  • BladedFalcon - January 15, 2014 3:33 p.m.

    Definitely agree with this sentiment. Unlike others, I haven't necessarily become sick of zombies per se, (as long as the game developed about them does something new or interesting with them, like TLOU did this year and Day Z seem to be doing as an ongoing thing.) but they definitely are kind aoverplayed as of late. And well, Aliens are infinitely more interesting by default. Like the article rightly pointed out, Aliens can be pretty much anything, and fuck, the more outlandish, weird and non-conventional they are, the better. It will be up for developers to play it smart though, and use aliens as a canvas to create better and more creative enemies and worlds, and not just fall back on the same run of the mill aliens we've become familiar over the last decades of pop culture.
  • winner2 - January 15, 2014 3:08 p.m.

    I wholeheartedly agree, I am so ready for zombies to get overthrown.

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