Alien: Isolation is a first-person survival horror stealth game developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega.
The game is set in 2137, 15 years after the events of Alien and 42 years prior to Aliens. The game follows Amanda, who is investigating the disappearance of her mother Ellen Ripley. Amanda is transferred to the space station Sevastopol to find the flight recorder of Nostromo only to discover an Alien has infested the station.
The Creative Assembly described Alien: Isolation as a survival horror game as opposed to an action shooter, designing the game more on Ridley Scott’s Alien, as opposed to James Cameron’s more action-oriented Aliens. Unlike most other video game adaptations of the Alien franchise, Alien: Isolation features a single Alien throughout the title’s duration that cannot be killed, requiring the player to use stealth tactics in order to survive. Although the game features some weapons, they are effective only against the human occupants and androids named “Working Joes”.
Instead of following a predetermined path, the artificial intelligence of the Alien has been programmed to actively hunt the player by sight, sound, and smell. These behaviours create the illusion that the Alien learns from each encounter with the player, and adjusts its hunting strategy.
The player has the ability to crouch to hide behind objects to break line of sight with the Alien, and the player can then covertly peek over or lean around to gain view. The player has the ability to run, and is given both a flashlight and a motion tracker to detect the Alien’s movements: however, using any of these creates noise or light, which increases the chance of the Alien finding the player.
The player can go under tables or inside lockers to hide from the Alien, and will sometimes have to press a button to make Amanda hold her breath to avoid making noise.
The motion tracker is only capable of detecting the Alien’s approximate location when it is moving; it can neither detect the Alien’s specific location nor locate the Alien when it is not moving. The game features a crafting system which allows the player to create weapons and tools to defend themselves.
Now that all of that is out of the way I can get straight onto my opinion on the game and the things that I liked and disliked. I won’t go into very much detail on the story which will help with avoiding spoilers.
My favourite thing about Alien: Isolation is how it looks. The Sevastopol environment has clearly been crafted with some serious attention to detail because they completely nailed the 70s futuristic spaceship design that we were introduced to in Alien. Not only do the ship and all the minor details to the walls, ceilings and each room look amazing but this game has some of the best steam, lighting and fire effects that I’ve ever seen in any game; it’s seriously impressive. Walking into a new area as the lights slowly clink on then descending down a once darkened corridor is always awesome.
The next thing that has to be praised is the sound design and sound effects used throughout the game. The sound adds so much to the experience and does an amazing job of adding tension to certain scenarios; getting slowly chased down by a working Joe or the alien as the soundtrack ramps up leads to some very anxious moments. The sound doesn’t just excel there though; it’s during some of the games quieter moments that really help the game in sounding and feeling like an Alien game should.
As I’ve mentioned above, the game has a crafting system and an array of items can be created using scrap found around the ship, items such as: med kits, flash bangs, noisemakers, Molotov’s and EMP mines. Each of these can be utilized in different ways depending on your situation. Eventually you’ll get access to a few guns which help in battles against human enemies and working Joe’s. If you were to shoot a working Joe in the head with the revolver it would leave bullet holes in the exact places that you shot them, it’s this kind of attention to detail that I personally appreciate.
Of course, nothing beats the flamethrower which you get later in the game and is useful at temporarily scaring the Xenomorph away.
Overall the gameplay is fun but by the latter stages of the game it can begin to become slightly tedious. You’ll find yourself attempting to rush certain parts where you wouldn’t have previously to progress which will only lead to deaths and frustration. Alien: Isolation is a game that requires the player to have a decent amount of patience. The A.I. is seriously smart so in all honesty if you’re the type of gamer who isn’t into stealth games or games that require you to hide for an extended period of time before you finally get a small window to proceed then this probably isn’t the game for you, it can be very stressful.
The layout of the game isn’t overly complex either, most missions you’ll find yourself going from A to B, avoiding the alien in between, pulling a lever or hacking a computer and repeat. Not to say that the game is boring or anything but I would have liked a little bit more variety in the objectives, some more freedom to explore would have been nice.
Another thing that I loved was the system the game uses for saving. The game has no auto save feature which means saving is seen as more of a reward and a huge incentive in avoiding death, I would be very happy for more games to adopt this system. The times that I did die were completely my fault, either I had rushed out too soon or took too much of a risk and only had myself to blame.
I’ve read some complaints that the game is too long or too hard and I’d like to address those complaints. Sadly, I think gamers have become more accustomed to games with campaigns that run less than 10 hours but you would surely want a game that you paid £40 for to last a substantial amount of time. The game is challenging but I wouldn’t exactly call it hard. For my first playthrough I went with Medium difficulty and finished it in just over 25 hours, during that time I failed to get an achievement which was for being killed by the Xenomorph 50 times. As long as you take your time and don’t rush things then I doubt you’ll have much trouble.
Another complaint I’ve heard is the character models not being that great and I would agree that they’re not great but they’re good; especially the eyes. Alien: Isolation probably didn’t have the biggest budget ever so it’s unrealistic to expect character models as good as some seen in games such as GTAV or The Last Of Us. If you strive for that kind of perfection in every game that you play then you’ll rarely be pleased. My opinion is that they do look rather clunky at times but still quite good.
The voice to lip synching definitely could have used more work as it’s pretty terrible for the whole game and it’s not helped by some pretty average voice acting either. I do think that Kezia Burrows did a really good job as Amanda though.
While playing Isolation you need to ask yourself, what do you want from an Alien game? Do you want a game where you are being hunted by an unkillable Xenomorph? One that can kill you in a single hit if you’re caught and one that stays very true to the original Alien movie? Or do you want a game where you go in all guns blazing and rack up Xenomorph kill after Xenomorph kill and that craps all over every Alien movie, well if you’d prefer that game then there is always Aliens: Colonial Marines. Isolation portrays the alien exactly as it should be portrayed, the perfect organism.
Let’s answer an important question, is the game scary. There were times when the Alien appearing out of nowhere made me jump or a chase/fight between Amanda and a working Joe gave me sweaty palms but as you progress through the game and go through these moments over and over, the scares naturally lessen. I would say that the game can be very tense but I probably wouldn’t call it scary but I do believe that The Creative Assembly made the Xenomorph as scary as it’s ever going to be in modern times.
Finally, considering the game revolved around Amanda wanting to get closure on what had happened to her mother, there was a distinct lack of actual closure which is unfortunate. I mean of course she finds out what happened to Ripley and there is a cool voice message left for Amanda but I just felt there should have been more. Also, the game severely lacks memorable characters.
The ending is pretty cool but quite predictable and leading up to it there are far too many “fake out” endings, still though it does set up a potential sequel nicely.
I never found myself feeling bored during my time with Alien: Isolation and in the end it feels as if it all ended too quickly. This may not be the perfect Alien game but it comes pretty damn close and it’s certainly the best there has been, so far.