19th Jan2015

‘Alien: Isolation’ Review (PC)

by Paul Metcalf


When Alien: Isolation was announced most people thought about previous attempts at Alien games and cynicism set in, especially after Alien: Colonial Marines.  Then hands-on previews were down and the unthinkable happened, the game was getting positive feedback and people were actually looking forward to the release.  Now that I’ve managed to complete the game I can fully understand why so many see this as 2014’s Game of the Year.

Playing the role of Amanda Ripley (Ellen Ripley’s daughter) the action for Alien: Isolation takes place on Sevastopol a trading station that is said to have recovered a flight recorder from the Nostromo which may reveal the fate of Amanda’s mother.  As Amanda and her crew mates arrive at the station though it’s obvious that something is wrong.  With a creature stalks the shadows of the station Amanda must find out the truth of her mother’s fate and more importantly she must survive being hunted by the ultimate predator.

When we think of survival horror games the ones that spring to mind are Silent Hill and Resident Evil which are two games that arguably defined the genre.  Alien: Isolation grabs it tight though shakes things up and re-writes the rules.  As soon as you take control of Amanda the feeling of dread sets in because of the expectation that the alien is going to appear and attack immediately, this is not the way the game works though and when you finally are introduced to your main nemesis it is truly a scary moment and one that your character isn’t ready for.  Alien: Isolation has a strong narrative that drags you into the action whether you like it or not, and the most impressive thing you will take from the experience is how right they got the atmosphere when comparing it to the original movie.

Amanda may be the main character of the game but the Xenomorph is the star.  It takes centre stage as it stalks the corridors and hunts the rooms of the station for you.  You can’t run from it, and you can’t kill it, the only way to survive is to hide or find a way of scaring it off (which doesn’t last long and the counterstrike kicks in with an angrier beast on your heels).

If being hunted isn’t enough the station also is inhabited by surviving humans and androids.  While some help you on your journey others would prefer you dead.  Being stalked by the androids can be as creepy as when the alien is bearing down on you, especially in the darkness when all you see is there red eyes and the calm voice calling out to you offering help which normally results to a bash to the head or being strangled.  Stronger than humans it is normally best to hide too, or at least until you have something that can take them down without drawing too much attention.

When being critical about Alien: Isolation there are a few things that do hold the game back.  The saving mechanism for example can be annoying at times, but the way it works by having you save at actual saving points has a logical reason and isn’t just through bad design.  To add to the tension we feel as we play, the save points are provided in well thought out places, if you die before you reach them? Well often I found myself rage quitting the game because I couldn’t be bothered to continue playing, but then came back to it, which shows the mark of a well-designed game.  These save points are used to create the tension and the urgency of survival.  The feeling of relief when you finally get to save shows just how well the game is doing in creating an atmosphere of fear.

With the Survival Mode and DLC which includes the original cast from Alien there is plenty to keep the player coming back for more, even with the dread of meeting the Xenomorph face-to-face in a dark corridor.  The main success of Alien: Isolation is the feeling of constantly being hunted and the strong story, which is a surprise as who would have thought a sequel to Alien which chronologically comes before Aliens would work? This is why Alien: Isolation is easily the best Alien game and one of the best games of 2014.  It manages to continue the story of Alien and actually fit in before Aliens without breaking too many rules, making this a believable story of Ripley’s daughter.  Whether it fits in with the extended version of Aliens though is another matter as we know Amanda died an old woman…so will that be answered in Alien: Isolation 2? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

***** 5/5

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

Comments are closed.