Developed by The Creative Assembly
Published by Sega
Reviewed on the Playstation 4
The original Alien movie is now over thirty years old and yet it seems as though this is the first video game to really take inspiration from that tense sci-fi horror. Many games based in the Alien universe follow the action style of the Colonial Marines from the sequel Aliens, the most high profile of these was the dreadful Colonial Marines game. The Creative Assembly must have been worried that Gearbox’s disaster may have ruined their upcoming, simply just by the nature of association. Luckily Alien: Isolation has very little in common with that game, apart from the obvious name in the title.
Alien is one of my all time favourite films and I have been waiting eagerly to get my hands on this game, it has been billed as survival horror. Set 15 years after the events on-board the Nostromo, you play the role of Amanda Ripley. Ripley is heading towards the Sevastopol Space station in search of a recovered flight recorder, hoping to find out what happened to her mother. Nothing is straightforward and once you are on-board it is clear there is something else lurking in the shadows.
Given access to terabytes of data from the production of the film, The Creative Assembly have painstakingly re-created the gritty analogue future; so well in fact that at times it really feels as though you are in the film. Everything you have seen in the film is here, from the iconic drinking birds, to the steam filled passageways with flickering bulbs barely lighting the way ahead. The sounds are also perfect, the beeps from an analogue world are all here, and none more so than when typing into one of the many computers you will need to use on your journey. It is as near to perfect as a game can get, the atmosphere just oozes from the walls and the vents throughout the game.
The most impressive aspect of this game is the Alien itself, no longer is it just a moving target to be mown down with endless rounds from your pulse rifle. This time it is the perfect organism. It takes a bit of time before you do fully run into the creature, but when you do it is genuinely terrifying seeing it in action. The AI is really incredible, it is unpredictable and whilst it can be frustrating, it really made me think how I would get through to the next area, or to one of the save points in one piece. I loved the return to manual save points, it just added to the importance of staying alive with no auto save every few minutes to ruin the terror.
The random nature of the AI does have its drawbacks though, at times I was really struggling to evade the monster, getting fairly frustrated with taking my time and trying to edge round the corridors and through the vents. I decided to just walk in a straight line to the exit, I didn’t encounter the Alien at all and it made something that should have been tricky ridiculously easy, but this only happened very rarely and I still felt as though it could leap out at me at any time. Once the Alien makes itself known, I automatically feared the worst and I could actually feel myself breathing slower and edging forward. No game has made me do this for a long time.
There are other threats on board the station apart from the Alien and these are in the form of Androids called ‘Working Joe’s’, these are cheaply made robots that are clearly distinguished from humans by their pale plastic faces and glowing eyes. Whilst I understand that you need variety in the game, I did feel that in the middle section of the game the Androids were far over used and I began to hate running into them, not because they were difficult but because they were ruining the tension that the game had built up in the first half.
I have to admit to rarely using any of the creatable items. this was partly because I didn’t want to attract the attention of anything to my position, but mainly it was because it was too fiddly to switch between items especially with the speed with which the Alien can move. These items were far more effective against the human or android enemies, but at time the effectiveness of these items changes with no reason or warning so I just stopped using them.
It is the long middle section of the game where all of Alien Isolations problems are shown. I would rarely criticise a game for being too long, but at about the half way point there is a kind of mini ending where it feels as though the game is winding down towards its conclusion. In reality you are only half way through and towards the final few chapters it was really getting to be a slog to keep going with so many objectives being rehashed from earlier. Part of this is down to the introduction of the flame thrower, whilst it cannot kill the Alien, it can scare it off, meaning that many times I was just walking around without even trying to evade it. A couple of bursts from this would be enough to see it running back into an overhead vent, this could easily have been changed by reducing the amount of fuel you can find, or even by just leaving this weapon out until the tougher final hours of the story.
I am fully aware that being such a huge fan of the Alien universe may give me a slightly rose tinted view on this game, but on the whole I did really enjoy my time playing through the story. Sadly it is just far too long. It could have been trimmed by at least a quarter, if I was reviewing just the first half of the game I would say it’s up there with some of the best I have ever played. Even with the excessive length, the game does deliver moments of survival horror at its best, there are also some great moments that pay homage to the first film, these alone are worth playing if you are a fan of the films.
It is not perfect but it is easily the best Alien focused game I have ever played.