Tuesday, December 4

Alien Isolation Review

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox one, PC
Price I paid: PS Store: PS3 = £15.99, PS4 = £29.99. Xbox Store = £39.99. Steam = £29.99
I played on: PS4
Notes: N/A

Alien Isolation follows Amanda Ripley looking for her mother between the events of Alien and Aliens. She is approached by a company executive saying that the black box from the Nostromo has been found and offers her a chance to tag along in the collection mission. Hoping to find answers about her mother’s disappearance Amanda decides to join them. The mission is simple, take a private ship, the Torrens, to the civilian space station Sevastopol, make contact with the Marshal and receive the black box.

Upon arriving at Sevastopol, however, it becomes clear that something has gone wrong with the dock badly damaged and no communications coming from the station. Amanda and two company executives begin an EVA to board the station and find out what’s happening as well as to receive the black box. After an explosion, Amanda is separated from both the Torrens and her boarding party. You’re now trapped on Sevastopol and must try everything to stay alive and that’s no easy challenge. Ripley’s are very good at surviving and now Amanda must put that to the test.

The story while not massively complex manages to be interesting and unique with very well written and flushed out characters as the foundation. I love this so much as it feels like a true sequel to Alien in the sense that it tells a new story but follows the same small scale of the original. After the first cinematic most of the game including cutscenes are seen in the first person from Ripley’s perspective and this creates a sense of immersion that is not broken until the game ends. This sense of immersion really adds a lot to the horror of this game as at every point you feel connected to this world in a way that only gaming allows.

The presentation is astounding, everything including the music, voice acting, graphics and more all stand out. We hear a lot of influence from the original Alien score here musically and it really does give the feeling of being trapped in space. Graphically there are a few minor issues with clipping but this is a nitpick at worst as most the time the game looks stunning. I honestly felt like I was in the world of the original Alien with the sound effects, cheap retro monitors and sets all matching the film. Just walking around this world makes me happy.

The gameplay is mostly based around having to avoid combat but you can fight with a small section of weapons if you wish. You can crouch for slower but quieter movement, you can lean around objects to get a more stealthy look at where enemies are and of course you can use your motion tracker to monitor unseen threats. You will be engaging 3 types of enemies on Sevastopol, humans who are scared and when threatened will engage you, Androids who will attack those in restricted areas and of course the Xenomorph itself. Humans and Androids can be engaged and killed with the latter putting up more of a fight than the former but the Xenomorph is impossible to take down.

When you’re dealing with the Xenomorph you will want to move carefully, quietly, make smart use of lockers and other hiding spots as well as using distractions to create and open up pathways. If you’re spotted by the Alien it will take you down with 1 hit so trying to engage it is pointless as is trying to outrun it as it will use air vents to cut you off and catch you. This creates a sense of fear and tension I have never felt before in a video game. The A.I on show is out of this world with the Xenomorph feeling more real than any threat I have ever faced in gaming. It has taken me just over a year to beat this game not from a bad design or high difficulty but from fear. I’m good with horror, Alien Covenant didn’t scare me, Silent Hill 1,2 or 3 didn’t scare me but Alien Isolation scared me. Thinking your safe and then hearing the Xenomorph growl followed by the deep heavy footsteps as it runs towards you is enough to make anyone scream out loud, I know I did a few times.

Something that Isolation does well but no one really talks about is its female lead. Playing as Ellen Ripley’s daughter is a nice idea but she really does stand away from her mother. She is most certainly just as resourceful but she’s also got her own personality. There’s a scene when Amanda regroups at a previous safe zone to find only 1 survivor who after seeing a room filled with his dead colleges breaks down. Amanda comforts him while also being firm and explaining that there is no time for falling apart and this could have so easily been the other way round. I love games but the sad truth is that they are behind the times with sexism and other prejudices so to see a woman being the one to help an emotional man was refreshing. Ellen Ripley was a milestone for cinema back in 1979 and it seems only right that her daughter Amanda is also a milestone for gaming in 2014.

This game is a masterpiece, a very rare type of game similar to Silent Hill 2 in the sense that it has perfected its ideas and polished it’s gameplay to a point that it will never need a remake. It’s perfect now and in 20 years time, it will still be just as perfect. The Alien series has some very good games to its time but none have captured the feeling of both the Xenomorph and the original film as well as this one. Any fans of horror, the Xenomorph, space, aliens or just video games, in general, should play this game.

Recommendation Rating: 9 out of 10.

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