The franchise of Alien has been through a rocky video games history. While some titles such as the original Alien Vs. Predator games on PC were grand, recent titles have been unable to catch that same spark that wowed audiences in theaters back in late 70s and 80s. Thankfully, with Alien: Isolation, Creative Assembly has been able to bring back that feeling of dread and terror by utilizing an amazing AI system that allows your predator to learn whilst hunting you through the dark corridors of the space station.
In Alien: Isolation, you play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, who has been searching for her mother ever since the events of Alien took place on the Nostromo 15 years earlier. She is offered a chance by the company Weyland-Yutani to find out what exactly happened to her mother all those years ago. Her mission is to find the flight recorder of the Nostromo on the decommissioned space station, the Sevastopol.
I won’t spoil the story, but it’s by the books Alien. Some twist and turns will be countered, but story is one aspect of the game where it falls a little flat. However the story also doesn’t trample on the canon of the universe, and fans will find plenty of great references to the movies along the way to enjoy through recordings and terminals.
The glory of the game shines in gameplay and the horrific encounters with the real star of the game – the Xenomoprh. Throughout the game, players will have access to different crafts and parts to create items that will allow you to live, such as flares, EMPs, and even flash bangs. The dark can also be a great ally when hiding from different foes, and using your flashlight is a last resort.
There are several different enemy types in the game beside the alien. “Working Joes” the androids on the station, who can be just as menacing as the alien if not more at times, and survivors scavenging for food and weapons. However these can be taken care of as bait for the alien.
I have never been so impressed by an AI system before such as there is in Alien: Isolation. Not only does it learn over time your habits and movements, but it will adapt to your play style as you survive aboard the station. One encounter that still stands out for me – I was sneaking around the corner and spotted the alien. I threw a flare and sneaked to the door on the other side, believing I was free, only to see a large tail impale me from behind, with shock on my face. Isolation is hard, real hard.
The lone alien in the game is open to terrorize the player however it wants. The AI can travel through vents, tunnels, and wait above you as you travel throughout the station. No situation in the game felt the same, every death led to another unique encounter with the alien, which learned from its mistakes when missing its prey. Don’t expect to walk through the same corridor without trouble from the alien.
Even on normal players can expect a challenge from foes, and the combat is weighted, giving a sense that Amanda is not a fighter – she is only trying to survive. But on the technical side of things, Alien: Isolation made me run into a few problems on my journey.
There were several times throughout the game when the character animations felt off, and the game would freeze or stutter for several seconds, taking me out of the experience, especially in cutscenes. I can only hope that creative Assembly will fix these problems in an update, and these minor hiccups are not horrible enough to ruin the game by any means.
Fans familiar with the orchestral score of Jerry Goldsmith from the original Alien movie in 1979 will be happy to hear his music throughout the game, giving players a sense of nostalgia. Not only does the music lend itself to the experience, but the entire atmosphere and scenery harks back to 80s sci-fi, with old PCs and sliding doors – it felt like I was in the movie itself while I was playing. Everything from the architecture to the sound effects were meticulously created to honor the franchise, with even the torches giving off that familiar sound, and expect a lot of beeping from your sensor.
Alien: Isolation is the Alien game I have wanted for a long time, a title that stays true to the series’ horror and suspense, while complimenting it with a modern survival-horror style. While the game may have its faults, it’s an experience that true horror and Alien fans should not miss. I recommend playing the game with the lights off and the difficulty up for a true challenge. The game is also pretty lengthy, spanning about 20-23 hours of campaign, not including the Crew Expendable DLC or future DLC.
Reviewed on the Xbox One, review copy provided by Sega