In this first person survival horror adventure set fifteen years after the events of Alien (1979), Ripley's daughter becomes trapped on an alien-infested space station which holds answers to... Read allIn this first person survival horror adventure set fifteen years after the events of Alien (1979), Ripley's daughter becomes trapped on an alien-infested space station which holds answers to the mystery of her mother's disappearance.In this first person survival horror adventure set fifteen years after the events of Alien (1979), Ripley's daughter becomes trapped on an alien-infested space station which holds answers to the mystery of her mother's disappearance.
But that's not me and so I can only speak from what I have seen of the game.
The developer knows their audience, that is for sure. Even the grainy VHS tape appearance of the 20th Century Fox logo when you insert the disc is pitched at a male gamer who was too young to watch Ridley Scott's original Alien in the cinema, but who fell in love with it at home on video. This is no Alien Resurrection with its throwaway CGI and ugly evolutions of the original monster. Forget the lame AVP franchise with their atmosphere thinner than LV426. Last year's Colonial Marines? Nope, never heard of it. There isn't even a smart gun on show here. Instead, Alien Isolation is a faithful attempt to tie a loving companion story to the original film and amazingly it is done with completely authentic and painstakingly recreated music, sound effects and interiors.
So, forget your expectations of what a modern action game should be and join Amanda Ripley as the search for her long missing mother leads her to space station Svenstopol, where on arrival it is immediately obvious that, in this run-down backwater, something has gone badly wrong. Aboard the station the atmosphere is truly frightening. Chokingly tense, it's as visually creepy as Doom III with sound design to rival the high points of the Silent Hill series. Forget that you know exactly what the Alien looks like, forget that you've seen it do it's stuff a million times. It won't make any difference. When it finally does appear, the effect will be as great as it was all those years ago, watching the film. It is elegant, beautiful and utterly lethal.
So what does it play like? While this game is in the first person, make no mistake, this ain't Call of Duty. This is old skool survival horror, complete with a clunky movement system that all but forbids you to out-gun or even out-run trouble. Progress is gradual, movement halting. The first lesson the game will teach you is to slow down, be prepared, never rush in. The puzzles and tasks reflect this. You are required to use observation and lateral thinking rather than a volatile trigger finger. As the story unfolds you will be reminded of those halcyon days of Resident Evil I and II when searching for keycards and missing components from broken-down machines to further your progress was the glue that bound the set-pieces together. None of the puzzles are prohibitively hard. But trying to execute them while you are being actively hunted, is.
But the granddaddy of survival horror is not the only touchstone here. There is a thoroughly modern sheen on this game, not just in terms of graphical detail and environmental effects but also features. Indeed the game owes a great deal to the original Dead Space, not just in the crafting system but also in overall atmosphere. The post Resident Evil 4 staple of strategically placed button bashing cues are present too and used to strong effect – always furthering the action, never impeding the story. It's a masterpiece of storytelling and like the genre-defining The Last of Us, it allows the other non-player characters to tell much of the story. Hence the action blends seamlessly with the cut scenes.
While these may sound like the doe-eyed ramblings of a super-fan, Alien Isolation isn't perfect. The very nature of the alien's unscripted arrivals can be frustratingly difficult, particularly early on when you have no defence against it and don't really know what you can get away with. If it sees you, you die. If you sprint, you die. If you make a noise, you die. In short, you will die a lot! Several hours into the narrative, I began to try and use the technique of making a noise on purpose and then relocating quickly to draw the Alien away from an area I needed to access. Even this, is very hit and miss as the creature can negotiate the air ducts so quickly that if it is hunting you, it can be on you in a matter of seconds. No doubt, this makes for a pulse pounding ride, but it can be frustrating too and were the makers not so generous with save points, I believe the game would be basically unplayable. The load times are also a little lengthy in places, although to be fair, the payoff is that the game looks incredibly beautiful.
I could go on but, really it's better that you experience the game for yourself. But make no mistake, this is high budget, high concept fan fiction pitched at the older gamer. Their mission statement was obviously to deliver not just an exciting experience but also to add to the Alien universe rather than detracting from it as, in my opinion, everything from Alien 3 onwards has done. And in this, they have succeeded utterly.
- Nov 6, 2014