UPDATE: We've since learned, via Facebook, the DLC will be available for everyone after launch. No word on pricing.
Sega's made its latest attempt to bring the xenomorph to video games, Alien: Isolation, all the more appealing with news it's roping in cast members from Ridley Scott's Alien for two bonus missions...as pre-order DLC.
Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley), Tom Skerritt (Dallas), Veronica Cartwright (Lambert), Harry Dean Stanton (Brett), and Yaphet Kotto (Parker) have brought both their likeness and voice to these newly announced Alien tie-ins. Ian Holm (Ash) is, however, only a lookalike and soundalike. Fitting for a cyborg, no?
Developer Creative Assembly has built two missions plucked from two harrowing scenarios in Alien. Crew Expendable has players assuming the role of Ellen, Dallas, or Parker after the death of Brett, as they try to lure the xenomorph into the airlock. Last Survivor, however, has Ripley activating the self-destruct on the Nostromo before escaping on the Narcissus.
This sounds awesome, right? What's to be upset about? A couple of things.
One, it's pre-order DLC, which means Sega's asking players to gamble on Alien: Isolation's quality after the company pulled a bait-and-switch with Aliens: Colonial Marines that series fans are still licking their wounds over. (The Alien cycle is much like the Sonic cycle.) From Sega's perspective, it's brilliant, since it taps into the very same nostalgia Alien: Isolation is built around, even if it forgets Colonial Marines wasn't that long ago.
People have a right to be cynical about pre-order DLC, but isn't that because pre-order DLC has been mostly garbage? It's typically a useless extra weapon or a set of subpar missions clearly meant to serve only as a way to poke the other platform holder in the eye. With Aliens: Colonial Marines, Sega did exactly that, offering special weapons and customization. We can't be sure Crew Expendable or Last Survivor will be any good, but if we're to judge Sega's efforts by the efforts of other game companies, at least Sega's making a hell of a pre-order pitch. Pre-order DLC isn't going away, and it'd be nice if companies tried to make me mildly interested.
(For the record, pre-ordering in 2014 seems silly. You can buy almost any game digitally, which means scarcity is no longer a reason to pre-order. So companies ought to be to trying harder.)
Some of the reactions are, so far, pretty understandable.
Somewhere out there, a game developer is staring at a "Director of Pre-Order Content" business card and wondering where it all went wrong.— Fork Parker (@ForkParker) July 9, 2014
I dream of a day where EVERYONE waits on the Complete/GOTY edition and games bomb at launch and publishers realize they done goofed.— Jim Sterling (@JimSterling) July 9, 2014
It is official, I have to pre-order this game. Didn't want to because of Colonial Marines but now I have to. http://t.co/aLZ28P4KhO— coasterfan78 (@coaster78fan) July 9, 2014
That last tweet is exactly what Sega wants to hear. That's pre-order DLC working.
Even if you're okay with gambling on this latest attempt, you can't just load up Alien: Isolation on Amazon and call it a day. Last Survivor is exclusive to GameStop. It's not available at any other retailer. Pre-ordering Alien: Isolation at any retailer guarantees you an upgrade to the Nostromo Edition, which comes with Crew Expendable, but only GameStop pre-orders are upgraded to the even more special Nostromo Edition that comes with both Crew Expendable and Last Survivor. It's better than Batman: Arkham City, I guess?
Granted, if we're to take previous pre-order DLC as evidence, both Crew Expendable and Last Survivor will become available as paid downloadable content in the future. It makes sense. Sega can drive pre-orders now, rightly figuring some fans won't take the risk of this DLC truly being a pre-order exclusive, and those inevitably late to the party will pay something like $5 per mission. That's having your cake and eating it, too.
It's like clockwork. Sad, cynical clockwork. Sega, sadly, has not yet responded to my request for clarification on whether the pre-order DLC will eventually be available outside of pre-orders. I'd take that bet, though.