I missed out on seeing Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece Alien until last year when I purchased the Alien BluRay box set. My introduction to the Alien series was James Cameron’s 1986 action thriller Aliens, after which I became almost obsessed with H.R. Giger’s art work the the following two sequels. But it’s the original that Creative Assembly has wisely founded their game on, a slow burning story that ramps up the terror over the course of the film rather than going for cheap thrills.
In Alien Isolation you play Ellen Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, in a story that bridges the gap between Alien and Aliens, set in 2137. Whilst the game may be played out in the future, it’s definitely based on a 1979 view of the future. From the stretched VHS tape intro, to the chunky green screen logos, Alien: Isolation takes place in a future were Apple’s sexy designs never arrived to allow the PC to break out of its clunky, boxy feel. CRT monitors sit above chunky button-operated interfaces, lights flicker and blink casting uneasy shadows, every piece of tech feels old school, as if made by Commodore Computers
Alien Isolation has been getting some mixed press, but I think that’s due to the slow build up in the game. There is little to do but explore, collect and progress for the first segment of the game. This could be off putting to anyone not familiar with Scott’s film, but it’s a brilliant nod to the source material and a great way to get you ready for whats to come. Alien Isolation is a survival horror in it’s purest form.
The feeling of fear slowly forces it’s way into the game, and whilst your first two brushes with the Giger inspired xenomorph are in cut scenes, by the time you actually have to contend with the brute yourself you’re already half scare to death. The fact that you don’t have a motion sensor or anything to defend yourself with doesn’t help. After witnessing the bug killing a group of humans you have to make you way across a room top a door, which you then have to hack to open, all whilst making sure the alien doesn’t notice you’re there. Easier said then done, especially as it’s hard to know exactly where the alien went too, and with your heart banging against your chest due to a combination of atmospheric sounds and an impeccable soundtrack, you slowly creep your way across the room and manage to make it to the door. Gingerly you take out your hacking device and get to work on the door, only to be violently grabbed and dragged away to your death.
Death is something you will become very familiar with, as Alien Isolation is a game where you are the hunted. Where resources are scarce and you have to build most of the things you use from scratch. You’re also being hunted by a creature that you can’t kill. This is not Call of Duty.
The sprawling semi-decommissioned space station Sevastopol is where the bulk of the game takes place, and it’s littered with not only the evidence of a city in decline, but also the stark reality that something is amiss.
As far as stealth exploration games go, Alien Isolation seems to nail it, with plenty of side rooms, vents and different paths to explore, though the going will be slow as you’re never quite sure what’s lurking behind that door you’re about to open, especially as you get further into the game and discover that the mighty beast is not the only thing out to kill you.
The sound and visual feel of the game is amazing, the atmosphere and a palatable sense of fear makes the game engaging, especially if you play it in a dark room with headphones on. The constant state of being on edge will take it’s toll however, and unlike games like Forza Horizon 2 which I can play for hours and hours on end, Alien Isolation is a game that is probably best experienced in manageable chunks.
Alien Isolation is the game Alien fans have been waiting for.
Reviewed on: XBox One
Rating: R16 Contains violence, offensive language and horror.
Reviewed by: Jonathan