Alien, along with Predator, has been shaped and molded into many (occasionally unusual) forms of media. Whether it’s action figures, novels, comic book crossovers with Batman, or video games, the world of Alien rarely stays out of the public eye. Lately, the gaming franchise of Alien has been more miss than hit, especially after Gearbox Software put out Aliens: Colonial Marines. Modeling itself after the film Aliens, Colonial Marines attempted to make the players feel like ultimate badasses, but ending up making me feel like an ultimate jackass for buying it on day one. You could say that I was slightly apprehensive about Alien: Isolation. Instead of going for balls out action, Isolation shoots for imitating the fear and tension of the original Alien film. Fool me once, shame on you, Sega. But, goddamnit, I pre-ordered Isolation. Let’s see who’s going to have the shame.
Taking place fifteen years after the events of Alien, you play Amanda Ripley searching for her missing mother. Weyland-Yutani requests she accompany a team out to Sevastopol Station, where a flight recorder from the Nostromo is allegedly being held. After a brief flight, Ripley and the crew arrive at Sevastopol to find that things have gone pear-shaped. The decrepit station and its dwindling population have been ravaged by a mysterious monster, leaving it in a state of disrepair. Overcoming a bumpy entrance, Ripley makes it aboard Sevastopol and begins her struggle to discover the truth about what happened to her mother and survive the Xenomorph that is relentlessly hunting her.
The story of Alien: Isolation was a very pleasant surprise. Considering the legacy of Alien games, the bar was set low for Isolation. Isolation tells a story that not only fits well with the universe and lore of Alien, but keeps players entertained and wanting to know more throughout the game’s fairly long campaign. Unlike Colonial Marines which threw most of the plot from the film out the window, Isolation makes the effort to be a worthy entrance into the story of Alien. The only downside to experiencing the story of Isolation is that it can begin to drag about 3/4 through the campaign. Not to say that the story isn’t interesting, but the plot points become more spaced out over too much time spent running for your life.
Isolation is a stealth-survival horror game, placing its emphasis on hiding and sneaking past your enemies, rather than mowing through them with guns. You have to make your way past paranoid survivors, malfunctioning androids, and the ever-present Xeno to attempt escaping Sevastopol Station. Isolation succeeds in creating tense and frightening gameplay, particularly after you find the motion tracker. Nothing was quite as terrifying as watching the Xeno crawling through the vents on my motion tracker, only to see it come within five meters of myself and hear it crawl out of the vents in an adjacent room. Absolutely wonderful. This gameplay can become stale after some time, but Isolation keeps it fresh by introducing new weapons, tools, and items that can be crafted from collected supplies. These tools are utilized in short mini-games that you will become all too familiar with throughout the campaign. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about becoming bored with the gameplay, since I’m such a coward that I could only play the game in ten minute spurts.
Where Isolation really excels is in its atmosphere. Sevastopol Station is brought to life by every creaking sound and desolated room you enter. The Xeno isn’t introduced into the game until you’re a few missions in, but the game is still scary to play in the beginning because of how engrossed you become in your surroundings. The environments are filled with details: posters advertising Sevastopol’s androids, safety charts, coffee mugs and cigarette packs still sitting on tables. These little additions allow Sevastopol to feel like a real place where people worked and lived, not a haunted house for players to run around in. You become drawn into this world, making it all the more terrifying while you are hunted.
This game is absolutely gorgeous, especially when looking at the textures used. As you walk and explore the station, everything is beautifully rendered. The walls and floors all have realistic reflections and scuff marks, smoke and fire glow and crackle realistically, and the film grain used doesn’t detract from any of it. The Xeno looks particularly good, creating that feeling of dread in your stomach as you watch it come out of the floor and begin stalking you. Some of the character models look a little strange and have some syncing issues with dialogue, but otherwise Isolation is a game that flaunts the power of the current console generation.
Horror games tend to have some of the best audio used in gaming and Isolation is no different. The motion tracker blips satisfyingly, your sneakers can squeak on the slick floors, Sevastopol’s ambient noises whir and click, and the Xeno sounds precisely as it should. All of the voice actors do well in their roles, particularly Andrea Deck and Anthony Howell in the lead characters, Amanda Ripley and Samuels. What was a pleasant surprise was that the original cast of Alien reprised their roles for the flight recorders of the Nostromo. While their roles in the game may be relatively small, the addition of their voices solidifies Isolation as another step in the story of Alien.
For you Achievement Hounds out there, Alien: Isolation has a relatively boring list of achievements to earn. As you may know about me, I cannot stand collectibles and hate achievements dedicated to them. Well, Isolation has got plenty of collectibles and quite a bit of Gamerscore tied up in that. By completing the main campaign and being sure to grab the few missable achievements, I was able to net 42 achievements for 625/1,000 Gamerscore. There are a few tough achievements, such as beating the entire game without killing any humans, but this is one game that I’ll be more than happy to replay in order to complete the list.
As a huge fan of the Alien films, I really can’t help myself when it comes to getting Alien games. Normally, that gets me into trouble (thanks a lot, Gearbox), but Alien: Isolation actually delivers on what it should be. A tense and terrifying horror game that captures the feeling of the first Alien film. It may have some problems with repetitive gameplay, but the fantastic story, atmosphere, and top-notch graphics more than make up for it. Isolation is a solid choice for any gamer, but a must-have for the fans of the franchise.
I give Alien: Isolation 4 Stars out of 5
By Blake Edwards