Alien fans rejoice! A game worthy of the iconic films has finally been released and it’s just in time for the yearly spook-fest that is Halloween!
What is this game? Why, it’s Alien: Isolation. Developed by The Creative Assembly and published by SEGA, Alien: Isolation is a true survival horror game. It’s a blend of light combat, lots of stealth, and an indestructible main foe that stalks you like Jason Voorhees stalks teenagers. It’s also a fairly well-written game that manages to capture the art style, soundtrack, and atmosphere of the original film in a nice, interactive package.
Set 15 years after the events of 1979’s Alien film, Alien: Isolation follows Ellen Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, as she goes in search of the flight recorder from the Nostromo, the ship that first harbored the titular Alien. She joins a Weyland-Yutani crew on a trip to Sevastopol station, a space station owned by rival company Seegson and undergoing a decommissioning. After gaining entry to the station, Amanda quickly realizes things are not in order. The humans on the station have become hostile and whispers of a mysterious being murdering people have begun to echo. Ripley’s search for answers soon becomes a search for a way off the station.
At first, the storyline seems a little shallow. The voice actors aren’t the greatest and the plot is too obvious. However, through the clever use of audio logs, text logs, and email exchanges, the world of Sevastopol opens up to reveal a whole ocean of interesting characters and deep-running events. Finding these tidbits of conversations between the inhabitants of the station was exciting and led to me having a connection with those who were stranded, making me want to find out more.
All of these story elements are coated with a fresh layer of direct-from-the-movie paint. Every area you encounter seems to be made with an eye to detail, filled with both callbacks and new elements that blend nicely to recreate the world of the Alien film. Old CRT-style monitors displaying vector graphics and slow-booting, faulty computers fill the world. Old-school sci-fi beeps fill the space between the Alien’s screams and the groans of the space station. Everything artistic about this game is amazing.
On the gameplay front, however, the game is good, but not perfect.
Many missions in the game consist of sneaking around the Alien or other threats and activating objectives. These are done by playing quick mini-games at a device or cutting through a door. This can be very hard and you will die to the Alien many times.
The Alien is an intelligent creature that can respond actively to what you do. If you alert him, escape, and hide in a locker, he probably knows your general area if there’s only one door in and out of the room, he will try to trick you. A favorite ruse is to jump into the air vents, making you think he’s gone, only to jump out a few seconds later, after you’ve been lured out. In comparison, the humans and synthetics you encounter have much simpler A.I.s and can usually be handled with a well-placed gunshot, making their challenges a lot less exciting.
The main thing to note about this game is that it is not an action game. When I say this game is a survival horror, I mean your job in this game is to live and pee your pants. You absolutely cannot fight the Alien. Later on, a flamethrower lets you push him away, but this just makes him angry and makes it harder for you to do your job. Your best bet is to use the devices that you can craft in the simple crafting system to trick the Alien away so you can work on the objective.
In addition to the story mode, players can experience this gameplay in a series of “survivor challenges.” These bonus missions provide some extended playability, but pretty much follow the same formula as the main game.
Negatively, the game may not be welcoming to many players. The game features manual save points with very, very few autosaves in the game. Death is unforgiving, sudden, and can be frustrating. Also, some of your devices are hard to use because they make light or noise that the Alien can detect, even if you’re just idling with them in your hand.. The game is also quite long, clocking in at over 20 hours. This can lead to a great deal of burnout after sneaking through high-tension missions for a long period of time.
Overall, Alien: Isolation is finally a solid, enjoyable entry into the world of Alien-based video games. While it’s not for everyone, it is fun if you enjoy Aliens or a good, stealthy scare.
Alien: Isolation bursts forth with a solid 7/10.