A roundabout through adversity, human nature, and aliens.
I am alone. This was once a place where humanity strived, worked, lived. All that remains in this place is an infected husk of what it once was. Those Weyland bastards have forsaken us, they have no idea what they are dealing with, and I’ll be damned if I allow them to condemn humanity with their misunderstood greedy interests. There is no winning when you come into contact with these monsters, once they reach you they have already won. Gotta push on, I have to survive, I have to beat this for humanity’s sake.
Alien Isolation is a story about a woman who only wants to find her mother. Her path led her to a career as an engineer for the mega-corporation Weyland-Yutani. Her mother Ellen Ripley had disappeared 15 years ago on the USCSS Nostromo, a story many of us are already familiar with. Our protagonist Amanda Ripley – still adamantly looking for any lead in her search – finds out that a salvage crew found the Nostromo’s flight recorder during their last operation. She is offered a spot to travel to the space station Sevastopol to continue her search. Upon arrival, it is clear that something has gone horribly wrong in this place.
Before long we are arduously tasked with recovering and surviving this hellish place. Using our engineering skill-set we venture through the labyrinth of broken corridors doing what we can to regain any shred of control though often fruitlessly. Crazed looters, malicious security forces, and malfunctioning androids are the least of our worries in Sevastopol. A dangerous game of cat and mouse with an unstoppable monster ensues, and your only chance is to hide, sneak, and distract.
Combat is not an option.
Running is not an option.
You will lose if you try.
This is not a game for content tourists. If you’re accustomed to 3 minute autosaves, blood vignetting automatic health recovery, and shooting everything in sight. You may want to keep on trucking past this one, or hey maybe try something new (you might like it). I died 14 times on my clear, and I am an avid fan of stealth games at least decent enough to beat Metal Gear Solid games on extreme difficulty. The alien is completely unpredictable at first; it is only as you begin to fill out your doomguy level inventory that you begin to be able to control the alien’s behavior efficiently.
This is a major turning point of the game.
You will learn to deal with Sevastopol’s threats efficiently in time, and the game provides you with more than enough tools to deal with any situation. Maintaining a healthy stock of this inventory is quite difficult though, requiring you to stick your neck out past the games critical path to find ammunition and crafting components. It’s also worth noting that the game has a really interesting depth to its exploration elements. You will often find obstacles that are not passable without certain items such as the Ion Torch or an upgraded terminal hacking tool throughout your travels. Doing some metroidvania style backtracking and shortcut unlocking you will find all kinds of neat goodies to keep your inventory strong, and even audio logs from the Nostromo read by the original cast of the movie “Alien”.
Set-pieces, gadgets, weapons, the xenomorph are all painstakingly modeled to an absolute top-notch quality (Look at that flamethrower!) I was fortunate enough to be able to play the PC version on its highest settings at a steady 144 fps thanks to my new-found Nvidia GTX 970, and it was an excellent PC gaming experience. Its worth noting that it did not crash once, and every part of the game ran absolutely great. The aesthetic of the game comes right out of the 1979 film, bulky CRT monitors, and large keyboards, large elaborate industrial machinery, corridors and vent systems in complete disrepair. The Creative Assembly meticulously crafted these set-pieces with elaborate detail, giving the feeling that Sevastopol was once a place where people actually existed.
Also this was pretty awesome:
I’ve seen that many are saying this game takes in upwards of 25 hours to complete. I completed the critical path in about 13 hours and spent about 4 gathering audio logs and exploring backtracking points on the normal difficulty of the game. Given the nature of the Xenomorph’s random AI, the survivability of the androids, and the Far Cry 1 pistol sniping capability of the human enemies. I wouldn’t suggest the hard difficulty for a first clear. I will also admit while I was captivated (and stressed) by the gameplay of Alien Isolation, I don’t feel inclined to take a second tour.
The overall presentation of the game is simply amazing. However, the relationship with other characters, as well as Amanda Ripley’s own character development falls flat. I can’t really place a blame for this, I just didn’t really get invested in any of the characters. I can hardly remember many of their faces or names, and just never really felt any emotionally charged moments other than suspense and fear despite the game trying to deliver them to me.
However, I did have many mixed emotional moments involving the xenomorph. Those couple of seconds you need at a save point, using a cutting torch, or trying to access a terminal program is massively stressful. Sometimes you just never know when you’re just going to suddenly see that damn tail poke through your chest. The motion tracker helps but the beep attracts close enemies so you have to use it sparingly. The audio design does a fantastic job of making you feel completely surrounded and outmatched by one being. When you do start to get weapons and gadgets the game begins to get a bit more forgiving, making way for amazingly satisfying moments when you realize the xenomorph is also your strongest weapon for dealing with other threats.
Protip: The noisemaker is the best item in the game.
All in all, this is a great experience and I recommend this game to any fan of the franchise. Alien: Isolation is likely the highest point of the franchise since the release of Aliens. Minute to minute gameplay is wonderfully stressful and well executed. The environment is breathtaking and extremely well realized. The only thing causing it to fall short of being another timeless classic like its film predecessor is a lack of character development and interesting human interaction.
Creative Assembly, I respect your product. You did an excellent job, especially considering its such a breakaway from your typical genre. Next time I want to wrestle a xenomorph with a P-5000 Power Loader though.
P.S. Facehuggers suck.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One; Publisher: Sega; Developer: The Creative Assembly; Players: 1; Released: Oct. 7, 2014; Genre: Survival Horror; MSRP: $59.99
This review is based off a a retail copy of Alien: Isolation purchased by Hey Poor Player