Aliens are evil. If videogames have taught us anything over the decades, it is this. Since the birth of the medium, pixellated protagonists have had only to peer at the stars for the likely source of most of their immediate problems. 1978’s Space Invaders cast the player as mankind’s sole defender against an unrelenting horde of extraterrestrial bastardry, and although home computing has moved on somewhat since Tomohiro Nishikado’s seminal blaster, the origin of the constant threats to mankind’s survival most certainly has not.
As a celebration of the continued enthusiasm with which aliens attempt to dominate or, more regularly, totally wipe out mankind, here’s our rundown of modern gaming’s top ten other-worldly foes.
The Chimera – Resistance
In Resistance’s alternate reality, mankind found itself battling a race of snarling beasties which had hitched a ride to Terra Firma aboard the asteroid that fell to Earth in Tunguska in 1908. Russia was first to fall; a last-ditch attempt in containment resulting in creation of a wall known as the Red Curtain around its borders, before even this was breached and the Chimera spread across Europe and, eventually, went global.
The Chimera’s trump card was their infection of the humans they conquered, who were then converted to Chimera in squidgy, pulsing cocoons. On Earth, their excavation of ancient towers of Chimeran origin was proof that they were no strangers to this planet, and that the current invasion is but the final piece in a plan put in place eons before.
While most Chimera are of a similar size to humans, and as such can be dealt with effectively with the introduction of a couple of well-placed projectiles to the fizzog, their ranks also boast hulking Titans and vast Leviathans who require a little more persuasion to give up their inclination to live. These contribute somewhat to Resistance’s sometimes bewildering level of difficulty, yet they do make the satisfaction gleaned from pwning them ever the sweeter.
Next appearance: Resistance 3 is out now.
The Combine – Half-Life
The collective noun for a trans-dimensional empire made of numerous races and previously conquered species, the Combine turned its eye towards Earth following the events of Half-Life’s infamous Black Mesa Incident, during which some scientists did some stupid things that made some other very bad things happen.
Half-Life 2 begins several years after the Seven Hour War (which saw the Combine’s total annihilation of Earth’s forces) has been lost. The Combine rule the remaining human population from within vast citadels, through violence, indoctrination, containment and also the sterilisation of the remaining, beleaguered populace.
The Combine’s reasoning for all this nastiness is never fully revealed, save for their depletion of the Earth’s natural resources and the grim deduction that if they simply wanted to exterminate each and every pesky little human they would simply have got it over with years ago.
From scuttling Headcrabs to humanoid footsoldiers and the iconic Striders, the Combine’s forces come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and their intentions for humankind won’t become clear until such a time as Valve decides we are worthy of another entry into the series. If past form is anything to go by, we may be waiting a long while yet.
Next appearance: who the hell knows.
The Necromorphs – Dead Space
Isaac Clarke’s least favourite type of corpse (the slimy, movey, bitey type) came into being as a result of scientists once again meddling with things with which scientists quite clearly should not meddle. Namely, using the markings on an extraterrestrial artifact as an instruction manual to alter the DNA of bacteria, leaving them with the ability to reanimate dead cells. Scientists are idiots.
While not your typical invading armada of aliens, the Necromophs are nevertheless extraterrestrial in origin and most certainly do not envisage a future of peaceful coexistence with we humans. In order to procreate, the Necromorphs first need us to be dead (a service they are more than happy to provide for us). However, in an infestation’s initial stages, humans experience violent psychoses, causing them to turn on and kill each other, creating plenty of vacant carrion for the Necromorphs to occupy. And occupy it they do, resulting in forms so gruesome and disturbing they rival those found in a Reflex bar in a northern seaside town, all of which want to make you very dead indeed.
Next appearance: EA boss John Riccitiello has all but confirmed there will be a third installment in the series, so if the gap between Dead Space and Dead Space 2 is anything to go by then expect Dead Space 3 around October 2013.
The Space Pirates – Metroid
Space Pirates have been a recurring threat throughout Samus Aran’s various meanderings across the history of the Metroid series. A constant menace to Metroid’s Galactic Federation, they use the power of Metroids and Phazon to loot vessels, subjugate planets and generally make complete and utter nuisances of themselves.
Samus’ first encounter of the Space Pirates was in 1986’s classic NES original, where she travelled to the pirate stronghold of Zebes and defeated the Mother Brain, though it was only in 2007’s Corruption that she finally visited their homeworld. (Note: it was a hellhole.)
The Metroid games do now follow chronologically from one another, so there is no distinct, unifying story arc of Samus’ battles over the series, though the Prime trilogy does form a complete package, and if, for some reason, you haven’t played it, then it’s almost worth buying a Wii for. Almost.
Next appearance: if Team Ninja is asked to make a sequel to last year’s Other M, which is by no means a given, then even this wouldn’t be released before 2013.
The Covenant – Halo
Much like the Combine from the Half-Life series, the Covenant are an alliance of a number of alien races united in their pursuit of a common goal. In the Covenant’s case, this primary goal happens to be the reactivation of the Halos: vast ring-worlds built by mysterious forerunners, which the Covenant see as keys to their spiritual salvation.
They do, however, seem blissfully oblivious to the two very small problems with this plan: namely, the unleashing of the parasitic Flood and the destruction of the galaxy as a whole. As minor drawbacks to a plan go, these are a couple of whoppers.
What is particularly insulting about the Covenant is their relegation of the extinction of all mankind to a secondary objective, though this didn’t limit the zeal and enthusiasm with which they went about their genocidal business, seen most brutally in last year’s Halo: Reach.
From the whining, yellow-bellied Grunts, sleek and agile Elites, right through to the underpant-filling Hunters, the Covenant had most bases covered, though all that was needed to tackle any of these reptilian rapscallions was one genetically perfected Master Chief, an epic and neck-tingling orchestral score and some bullets. Lots of bullets.
Next appearance: Halo 4 will be out in time for Christmas next year. Hooray.
The Akrid – Lost Planet
Fine, humanity started this one, but there’s no need for the Akrid to be such dicks about it.
Humans fled the barren chunk of rubble that was left of Earth to find a new home, stumbling across the ideal (if a bit parky) planet of E.D.N III. The problem was, the planet was already occupied by the indigenous Akrid, and they had no intention of just handing the deeds over to the invading bipeds.
A kind of insect/reptile hybrid which thrives in extreme temperatures, the Akrid exist in a hive society, yet exhibit signs of a higher intelligence than their appearance suggests.
Ranging from the tiny, swarming Sepia to the gargantuan Over-G from the end of Lost Planet 2, the Akrid are certainly a varied bunch in terms of size and physiology, and almost immune to the effects of standard weaponry. Who started the fight is irrelevant; the Arkid want all humans gone, so all that matters is who wins. (Clue: us.)
Next appearance: Lost Planet 2 didn’t do well critically or commercially, so at this time, there’s no sign of a release date for a following-up. Capcom knows a decent IP when it sees one though, so there’s little doubt that we will see more of Lost Planet at some point.
The Locust Horde – Gears Of War
The Locust had, up until Emergence Day, dwelled quite happily in the subterranean network of tunnels beneath the surface of the human-colonised planet of Sera. Following a fairly abrupt change of heart, however, their intentions to occupy Sera’s surface meant – somewhat selfishly – that every human on the surface had to be removed, and the locusts clearly do not have an altruistic plan of civil relocation in mind. Emergence Day came, and with it a bit of an inter-species brouhaha.
While the origins of The Locust is never fully explained, Gears’ lore has legends on child abduction being attributed to the horde, and it could be said it is this mystery that makes them such captivating enemies, elevating them above the stock-baddies bought in bulk they could easily have been.
Typical drones give way to the masonry-intolerant Beserkers, while encounters with the vast Brumaks are only made slightly less terrifying by the fact you are playing as a character whose entire physiology is ostensibly comprised of little more than testosterone, galvanized nails and very harsh language.
Next appearance: Gears Of War 3 is out now.
The Helghast – Killzone
Like an annoying acquaintance who always tries to comb over an inferiority complex by being a proper and total arse, The Helghast were once just a colony of humans, who then decided they deserved better and declared separatism from the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance by starting a war and, in doing so, getting their bottoms neatly handed to them.
The Helghast are essentially human, but the harsh conditions of Helghan have altered their physiology and caused them to deviate from humanity’s genetic line, and their desire to wipe us out completely is comparable with any entry on this list, thus securing The Helghast a place on it.
The destruction of Earth is such a simple and straightforward desire that it’s almost commendable, and Helghan’s vast war machine with its Petrusite doomsday weapon would have succeeded were it not for a handful of preposterously beefcaked ISA grunts.
Due to their human lineage, variation is not the Helghast’s forte, taking their cues as they do from the greys and strict order of Nazi regalia, yet their Dick van Dyke-ian cockerney accents makes taking them out a pleasure, one German and English stereotype at a time.
Next appearance: Guerilla have hinted at more entries in the series, so using the gap between Killzone 2 and 3 as a guide and assuming it appears this console generation, then a February 2013 release seems likely.
The Ceph – Crysis
Short for Cephalapods, the Ceph are a squid-like race hailing from a planet millions of lightyears away, which laid dormant on Earth for two million years, until awakened by scientists (who, by this point, really need a slap) in the events of the first game.
The Ceph’s precise origins and motivations remain fairly ambiguous, despite being linked with the outbreak of the Manhattan Virus and the destruction of New York that precedes Crysis 2. Their intentions towards us are clearly not friendly, though – this much is clear – as throughout the game we learn that the Ceph plan to release a spore-based bioweapon with the sole purpose of wiping us out once and for all.
Largely dependent on mechanical exoskeletons while on Earth (to facilitate breathing and locomotion), they range from standard grunts through to infuriating, cloaking Guardians. Despite not being the most imaginative bunch of intergalactic enemies, both games in the series are renowned for their lush visuals, and as such, the Ceph remain some of gaming’s prettiest (well, in a sense) baddies.
Next appearance: Crysis 3 is slated for an April 2013 release.
The Reapers – Mass Effect
Mass Effect’s universe seems to be populated by a collection of races that are united in their hatred of the Human Race, yet the Reapers’ intentions for us are more than nasty enough to earn them a place on this list of nastiness.
Mass Effect 2’s story reveals that the Reapers procreate by effectively melting down organic life, using the sludge this creates to form hybrid members of their own species in a nookie method so messy it makes hardcore German pornography look like afternoon tea and a jolly game of Boggle.
Spending most of their time hibernating in the dark and sparse regions of space that lie between galaxies, the Reapers emerge once every 50,000 years to nigh-on exterminate almost all life they encounter before disappearing again without a trace. They’ve been at this for around 37 million years without so much as an apology, and since Commander Shepard threw the proverbial spanner in the works of this plan, their eye is firmly focused on humanity.
Unlike most of the entries on this list, the Reapers are not humanoid cannon-fodder but vast semi-organic leviathans, cannily leaving the species or individuals they indoctrinate as Mass Effect’s general bullet-absorbers. This also makes them cowards, incidentally.
Next appearance: Mass Effect 3 is released on the 6th March 2012