In Alien Isolation, you will fill the shoes of Amanda, desperately seeking answers for the disappearance of her mother, Ellen Ripley. By the time Amanda arrives on the Sevastapol, Mummy Rip has long since fled the Nostromo.
Developer: Creative Assembly
Avg Game Length: Campaign 20 hrs, All DLC 5 hrs
For now, Amanda is offered to go on a trip with a Weyland-Yutani team to recover the flight recorder of the Nostromo, currently being held on the Anesidora which is docked at Sevastopol station. Phew. A lot of details to take in there. I recommend that you certainly do take them in as best you can.
Alien: Isolation Messes With Your Head
Because once all of this foundation is laid down, you will likely forget most of it. This is due to endless distractions and alien related horrors that throw Amanda off track. In her desperate bid to survive the terrors that have befallen the Sevastopol, Amanda becomes separated from her Yutani pals. Only to bump into them fleetingly later on.
One criticism I can make first is that, because of this, many name drops will come through Ripley’s radio. Players will likely struggle to remember who’s who. Kinda like coming into Game of Thrones halfway through the second season.
Controversial Design Choices
There were a few mechanical choices made by the developers that have led to some controversy. Interestingly posing the question ‘have they made this game too difficult in an age of videogames that spoon feed you?’. Firstly, Alien: Isolation has adopted a very punishing save system. No matter how badly you may want it after surmounting very dicey scenarios, you cannot ever manually save.
That’s right, players will have to tense their butt cheeks until they find a save point in the form of a flashing phone. What this creates is very long stretches of tension, never knowing when the xenomorph could totter up and skewer you from behind. Making for some very punishing gameplay indeed. I’ll let you decide whether or not this is a bad thing. For the most part, it was a smart move from the developers. It means your every move is calculated and not once can you afford to do anything foolish, lest the xenomorph hears you.
The Xenomorph Cometh
Secondly, of course, is the xenomorph. It has completely randomized A.I, can scurry above and below you in vent shafts and cannot be killed. If you’re lucky you can whack him over the head with a molotov and he’ll sod off for about thirty seconds before stalking his way back to you. Therefor, the famous motion tracker plays a very large part in your survival as you wince to see that little green dot moving about. Never knowing specifically whether the green dot of death is above or below only adds to the tension that the phone situation has already created.
As a result, you will die horribly – a lot. You may hear a few heavy footsteps behind you and not even turn around quickly enough before getting eviscerated. I have been clawed up into ceilings, dragged out of vent shafts and yanked out of lockers. Usually because of the beeping on my motion tracker or Amanda’s breathing got us caught. Alien: Isolation is an elitist horror title that will stretch your nerves to the very limit. Frustrating as it may be, I can’t help but be very appreciative of that. When was the last time you were really CHALLENGED by a game?
In Your Living Room, Everyone Will Hear You Scream
Regardless of whether you think the above points are good or bad, they are mechanics that had to be implemented into Alien: Isolation. Why? Because they combine to create masterfully tense scenarios that truly capture what it is that makes the Alien so terrifying. This is not something I have seen done as well in anything else I’ve played. Dead Space leaned into it a bit but never to this scale.
Every retry that you push through is a series of random scenarios that you must survive through to get to the objective in one piece. This forces you to use every ounce of your patience and senses to stay alive. If you bottle it and run, you’ll die. If you get into a noisy fight with an android and don’t instantly hide…you guessed, you’ll die. Alien Isolation really harnesses the frustration and desperation of the films.
As far as combat goes, there’s very little of it unless you’re defending yourself against desperate survivors or the malfunctioning homicidal Working Joe androids. If your’e very clever, you can throw a custom made noisemaker into a room of hostiles and hide in a cupboard while the xenomorph tears them apart one by one. Ahem – very satisfying.
Retro Sci-fi Shines Through In An Authentic Alien Experience
On the visual side of things, Alien: Isolation aces the look and feel of the Alien licence. The perfect blend of old school Betamax style sci-fi with a modern game means you’ll crouching through smoky lit light shafts in vents, fiddling with green and black computer interfaces or pulling great clunky levers. Office desks are adorned with personal affects of the once-living and adverts play over the scratchy tannoy system.
An extra special thumbs up goes to whoever designed Amanda’s hands. Being a first person game, you’re going to see them a lot and somehow, you can see feminine features in the contours of her fingers and wrists. It stands as testament to the massive level of detail Alien Isolation offers as the developers have painstakingly crafted an authentic segment of the Alien universe for you.
The Fans Finally Get What They’ve Wanted All Along
Alien Isolation will be a delight for any Alien fan but true to the characters of its stories – just when you think you’re getting somewhere, it’ll punish you time and time again. Without spoiling anything, it is fair to say that Amanda will find herself in more danger than any of the films’ characters ever did. If you can imagine such a thing. It will test your nerve and your patience more than any game I can think of (yes I have taken Outlast into consideration) and anyone who gets gamer’s rage WILL NOT finish this game. They simply won’t have the staying power not to permanently rage quit.
I challenge you to prove me wrong. However, when all’s said and done, We’ve had a slew of failures and disappointments in the horror genre (I’m looking at you Resident Evil) and in the Alien licence itself. It’s great to see that, now Alien: Isolation has arrived, the fans can finally be appeased.