Alien: Isolation Review

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Posted October 27, 2014 by Guilherme Jacobs in Video Games

Anything that carries the name Alien, defined by Ridley Scott in his 1979 masterpiece, and later James Cameron, with the vastly different but also great sequel, Aliens, in 1986. Ever since then, we’ve seen numerous attempt to reproduce whatever made those two movies great. And in both games and movies, most failed.

And then comes developer Creative Assembly, with their first person stealth horror game Alien: Isolation, which unlike most, takes its cues from the original movie and not Cameron’s action packed sequel. Isolation sees Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen, coming to the Sevastopol space station looking for clues about her mom’s whereabouts.

As expected, she finds danger there. Humans are violent, androids have gone rampant, and there’s a Xenomorph killing people. Sure, it’s not the most original of horror stories, and some of it’s kind of predictable, but Alien: Isolation manages to be, outside of the first two movies, the best Alien experience to date.

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One of the things I love about Alien: Isolation, is how it takes the best part of Alien (save the actual creature), which is a strong female lead. Amanda Ripley, like Ellen, isn’t some immortal badass that doesn’t feel fear, but she’s someone who knows surviving is her only option. Yes, she’s not the most fleshed out character, but you buy her motivation and the excellent voice acting helps selling her as a person.

What really makes the narrative interesting, though, is the backstory. Instead of going with the Umbrella-like Weyland-Yutani company, Creative Assembly used Seegson, a smaller enterprise with delusions of grandeur. Through terminals and voice recordings, the player can find out more about their history, their rise and fall, and what happened at the station. Because they didn’t go with a completely evil company, I found myself curious to understand this piece of Alien lore that was I was unfamiliar with, and I suspect that’s the case with most.

Sevastopol’s fall led to the creation of the three threats mentioned earlier. Violent humans, out of control robots and the arrival of the Xenomorph. The first are the easiest to avoid, but will quickly kill you with a couple of shots. Those worried this game might turn out like a shooter can rest assured that it didn’t. Alien: Isolation always punishes you for going to combat, and stealth is often the best choice. The robots, here known as Working Joes, are the surprise of the game. They’re Seegson’s attempt at reproducing Weyland’s synthetics, but their pale skin and bright eyes make them into weird machines. If you do anything that they think isn’t correct, you can bet they’ll pursue you, and being hunted by slow-walking, incredibly polite, snow-white androids is surprisingly scary.

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Finally, there’s the star of the game. The Xenomorph isn’t like other major horror threats. If you look at other first-person games, there’s always this big baddie that walks pre-determined routes and is fairly predictable. It’s the case with Outlast, Amnesia, and so on. Here, that is not present. The Xeno is totally unpredictable. He may be walking one direction and then stop, turn, turn again, continue, go away, etc. What is so amazing about it is that Creative Assembly actually made me feel like I was being hunted by this deadly predator that was, in fact, a living creature.

It will look for you in hiding spots, go to air ducts if it realizes you’re visiting them way too often, and even when you get the flamethrower, which is the only weapon capable of stopping it, the Xeno will test you. Often times I burned it, but it kept coming, making me waste ammo, knowing I couldn’t kill it. It’s effective, scary, and hard. Alien: Isolation is no walk in the park, and neither should it be. Sure, it gets frustrating here and there. Sometimes you feel too overwhelmed, but I’d rather have that then a game that is scary at first, but that once you realize everything is pre-established, loses any fear inducing qualities.

All of this is bathed under one of the most beautiful aesthetics of the new generation. Alien: Isolation looks like an Alien game, presenting us with that 70’s look at the future, full of buttons and green hues. Textures and lightning are fantastic, making for one of the most beautiful games of the year.

Alien: Isolation is worthy of its name, as it nails everything that makes the Alien experience a remarkable one. It’s also a lesson for first-person horror games on how to create a truly tense atmosphere and not rely just on cheap scares. Now, if only Creative Assembly were to make a good tactical shooter called Aliens: War.

 


About the Author

Guilherme Jacobs