Finally An Alien Game That’s Worth Playing. Atmospheric, Intense With Hints Of Dead Space Throughout, Alien: Isolation Is A Prime Example Of Survival Horror.
There’s no question that the gaming spin offs from the Alien franchise have all been real disappointments with special mention given to the abysmal Aliens: Colonial Marines of 2013. That game, which should’ve been a franchise killer, made it to the coveted worst game of the year lists across the globe and thank the stars that Alien: Isolation was well and truly in development when it was released. Tacky, uninspired and rushed (much like all of the entries up to this point), Colonial Marines was a gaming slap in the face for fans and content producers alike.
It was with both great anticipation and anxiety that I began Alien: Isolation, the lead up trailers and spruiks were all so exciting, hoping that this time around the experience would be something wholly different. And, thanking the lucky stars, it is. Alien: Isolation is the first major step in the right direction for the gaming franchise as it goes hell for leather to restore the mythology and fundamental fear that we all so love in Ridley Scott’s original Alien film.
Set some 15 years after the events of the 1979 classic film, Alien: Isolation focusses Amanda Ripley – Ellen Ripley’s daughter – as she now hunts to find her lost mother. She’s an engineer who is invited to join an investigative crew as they attend to a space station Sevastapol where they’ve received a message from Ripley Snr’s escape pod from former ship the Nostromo. On arrival disaster almost strikes as Amanda is veritably cut off from her companions on this all but abandoned vessel as she quickly finds out that something has happened here…
Virtually stripped of all conventions of this first person survival horror game, Alien: Isolation quickly establishes itself as a mood setter and what an atmosphere it achieves. The animation and design of the Sevastapol is stunning as it homages the original films basics with subtle technological updates to bridge it between Alien and Aliens. You start with nothing and have to scavenge your way around the vessel collecting scraps and materials to construct weapons, health kits and tools to get you through. It’s very much a riff on The Last Of Us‘s building mechanic and it’s slightly more complex which makes it ultimately more satisfying once you get your head around it.
This is all about survival so going in for the kill when you encounter rag tag survivors generally isn’t the best course of action. Hiding in lockers, air vents, behind crates, in darkened areas and letting some of the gadgetry/machinery do the dirty work is a much better option throughout. This makes for a much more engaging gaming experience and a satisfying playability for button mashers.
When you first encounter the Alien, a knowing homage to the original film, it genuinely comes as a shock. It’s big and menacing. Thankfully it is also kept in shadow frequently and with some fantastic sound effects, you’re constantly reminded that you are being hunted. The game does really interesting things whereby if you are very noisy, get in fights or create commotion it will attract the beast. Knowing all of this whilst you’re acutely aware that you have no weaponry on you makes for an extra added tension. Insert big tick here!
The cut scenes are all solid, if a little jittery on playback in some scenes, as they establish the time and place of the game. There’s a real attention to detail in illustrating Amanda’s character as a heroine and a chip off the old block and the motion capture is beautifully done. Some of the setups remind us of Dead Space (graffiti, people running rampant, destroyed areas) and, let’s not forget you’re on an abandoned ship with one helluva beastie on board waiting to chomp ya bits!
Alien: Isolation is a winner, its gameplay is easy to get a handle on and the challenges are tough. It’s a huge step in the right direction for the gaming franchise and if you’re after a survival horror game and you’re on Resident Evil burnout this is one place you definitely need to visit.
ALIEN: ISOLATION is out now.