Published on October 29th, 2014 | by Jordan King0
Alien Isolation: Review
When Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ released way back in 1979 it made a devastating impact in the sci-fi and horror genre, firmly cementing itself as a classic. A franchise that became an inspirational landmark for others to draw inspiration from and imitate ever since. This is especially true in the medium of videogames, where many of titles we’ve experienced over the years utilise the framework pioneered by Alien to craft their own unique experiences. Sadly, no past licensed Alien titles have managed to live up to the standard set by the original films, some have been decent, whilst others are nothing more than a complete embarrassment. (*cough* Colonial Marines *cough*) But it seems Creative Assembly have achieved the impossible with Alien Isolation. They have crafted something that is not only incredibly faithful to the original films, but arguably even more terrifying.
You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of the film’s protagonist, Ellen Ripley. You’re a mechanical engineer looking for answers regarding the whereabouts of her mother and her ship, the Nostromo. After tracking the Nostromo’s flight recorder to the Sevastopol, a colossal space station orbiting a giant gas planet the chase is on, unfortunately an angry Xenomorph wants to come along for the ride. Isolation’s narrative is fairly straightforward, but manages to impress with some sudden plot twists and a commendable sense of pacing, one that never lets up despite the lengthy run time. The sequel baiting climax was a huge disappointment however, leaving me feeling pretty unsatisfied with the conclusion, and where it could potentially be taken next.
Your primary objective is to survive, utilising the environment and an extensive crafting system to distract, attack and ultimately escape the Alien that will never stop trying to hunt you down. As soon as the enemy catches a glance of you it’s game over. Unless you have a flamethrower to hand, which temporarily causes the Alien to flee back into the station’s vast ventilation system. Speaking of the ventilation system, it becomes crucial when traversing around the other threats aboard the station. These being rogue androids and other humans who are simply trying to survive, just as horrified as you are of the ominous creature lurking around them. Oh and I almost forgot to the mention the motion tracker. This nifty little tool is key to succeeding in Isolation as it gives you a sense of where enemies are and which direction they are coming from. The noise it emits may attract some unwanted attention though, so there is a small but intelligent layer of strategy that accompanies navigating the environment.
One of the most impressive aspects of Alien Isolation is the neverending sense of palpable dread that accompanies almost every second of the experience. The atmosphere is consistently terrifying, as you constantly feel overwhelmed and at risk due to the sparse resources and weapons you have access to. But the chance of survival is always there, and not once did I feel that there wasn’t a method I could utilise to outsmart or avoid the enemy altogether. Some of the late game sections are subject to some tedious backtracking however, but new areas are introduced and fleshed out enough that this doesn’t become too much of a bother.
Being a big fan of the films, I adore how painstakingly crafted and authentic Isolation manages to be, perfectly capturing the iconic visual touches that makes this franchise so memorable. The 70’s retro science fiction art design is brought to life by some fantastic dynamic lighting, especially on the PS4, X1 and PC versions of the game. The framerate takes a hit during some of the more action heavy set pieces, but it isn’t frequent enough that it becomes detrimental to the gameplay.
The unpredictable artificial intelligence of the Alien is possibly the best use of AI I’ve ever seen in a horror game. None of your encounters with the creature are scripted, the way in which you interact with the environment dictates when he will appear. For example, if you run too fast or fire a gun, he’ll come running. His appearance is made obvious by an ear piercing shriek, followed by a series of heavy footsteps before his tail pierces through your back and through your stomach, killing you instantly. The dynamic nature of Isolation’s scares is what kept it fresh and exciting for the entirety of my playthrough. I was constantly on edge and conscious of my own actions, and whether or not what I just did would result in me being killed or attracting the enemy.
Alien Isolation is not only the best Alien game ever made, but one of the best games I’ve played all year. Creative Assembly have masterfully captured the spirit of the original films whilst bravely building upon the universe it resides in with an engrossing narrative and interesting characters. If you’re a fan of the horror genre at all then Isolation is essential, a masterclass in how licensed games and suspenseful horror should be done
Summary: The best Alien game ever made, and arguably the best survival horror title to come out this year.