In the last couple of years we didn’t get to see much survival horrors getting released, especially on the AAA front. This year seems more favorable as we get some pretty exciting releases. One of them is Alien: Isolation, a survival horror that ties in the Alien franchise as the story is set 15 years after the events of the original movie.
You play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley who after the events of the first film goes missing. Amanda receives the information that the flight recorder of the Nostromo was retrieved and is now on board the Sevastopol Station. She sets out on the courier ship Torrens to uncover it and find information about her missing mother. She is accompanied by Christopher Samuels, a man who works for the Company and Nina Taylor, a Company’s laywer. Upon approaching Sevastopol Station they see that the station is damaged and the communications are cut off. Since they are unable to dock the ship they try to reach the station by spacewalking, but in the process Amanda and the rest of the group get separated. Now it’s up to Amanda to see if she can retrieve the recorder and also investigate what is happening aboard the station.
It’s every man for himself aboard the run down station and all the people have come to is scavenging and looting. Survivors rarely treat others kindly, often shooting on sight. You should be cautious of so called “Working Joes”, androids that work on the station, but unlike androids from the movies have more of an artificial human look. They are much stronger than your standard human enemies and can take quite a few shots to take down. And of course you will have frequent encounters with the Alien and most of them will end up in some of the most gruesome ways.
For the most of the game you will be sneaking around trying to hide yourself to the best of your ability while trying to do the tasks you come across on your mission. Some of them require you to find keys or passcodes in order to access different areas of the station and also hack doors to access restricted areas. Early on you get in possession of the famed motion tracker which helps you identify moving targets in your proximity. This will be useful for when you want to know if the coast is clear and you can duck out of vents or in situations where you’re trying to assess the situation overall. But don’t expect it to track very far and also it can attract enemies with the sounds it makes. Also early on you will get a flashlight, but it runs on batteries which are rare and using it also attracts enemies.
The game starts rather slow and tries to ease you in on some mechanics which you will have to use in order to survive. There are numerous mini games, different kinds of door hacking and a crafting system. Item management and crafting is important part of the game, as medical supplies and weapons are scarce so you will have to make your own. Also there are interesting mechanics like rewiring system that lets you play with certain controls in rooms like lighting, air conditioning, vent access etc. all of which can be quite useful while trying to sneak past enemies.
Saving system in the game is designed in a form of a saving station, which can let you know if there are enemies around for you to see if it is safe to save the game. There are two save slots, where saving the game always goes into newest save and the save before it serves as a reserve and so for example if you get cornered you can load the previous save. But still, prepare to die a lot in this game. Still the saves are reasonably placed and if there is a part you need to restart it won’t be long before another save.
All of the enemies move in unpredictable ways with the Alien actively pursuing you and inspecting any sounds it hears. While you can manage to deal with other enemies, Alien is a foe you must stay clear from. So for example early in the game you even get a gun and some other weapons, but of course, they are useless against the Alien and you have to make up different strategies in order to avoid it. There comes in handy the crafting system that gives you the ability to make various kinds of distractions for the Alien.
The difficulty in this game can be a bit overwhelming at first, but just like the Alien learns how to pursue you better, so will you make up strategies to better avoid it. There will be parts where you will get frustrated with the times you need to restart a mission or a part of it. Still this feels fresh in comparison to today’s standard of difficulty. You can also change the difficulty as you play, so don’t worry about dropping things down a notch. It won’t ruin the game or anything.
The game looks quite polished and use of lighting gives it a great atmosphere. Also the whole game seems to have a certain filtered look to it like you are watching an old 80s movie. It gives it a nice touch that fans of the movies will know to appreciate. The beginning of the game is a great homage to original movie as the ship you start your voyage in is designed exactly like the Nostromo, the fact that they also reference in-game.
Sound is engineered quite masterfully as it always succeeds to give you the creeps. The range of sounds for the Alien is stunning and you will hear him differently weather he is in vents or roaming around freely. All of which sound terrifying and will have you on the edge of your seat especially if you use a pair of headphones.
I’ve experienced quite a few bugs, some of which were game breaking. Like inability to progress past parts of the task in a mission, but restarting from the save helped. Also there were some hilarious graphical bugs, like floating guns in the air. As I played on the PC there were a lot of crashes. PS4 and Xbox One versions both run at 1080p at 30fps, but the PS4 has more constant framerate and the graphics on PC look slightly better at possible 60 fps. PC version runs smoothly even on older configurations. In PS4 and Xbox one versions you can use their respective cameras to lean in the game. Dualshock 4 controller doubles as a motion sensor sounding from its inbuilt microphone. PS3 and Xbox 360 versions hold up fairly well, although at a lower resolution and less anti-aliasing, but also with staggering framerates.
Alien: Isolation is a breath of fresh air that gaming needs. Although it has some problems it is still the most enjoyable game I played this year. I highly recommend horror and stealth fans check it out and also the fans of the Alien frenchise will find it a real treat.