06th Dec2019

‘Alien: Isolation’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Paul Metcalf

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When Alien: Isolation was originally release, hot on the heels of the much-derided Alien: Colonial Marines, not much was expected of the game. However something happened… the hands-on previews and reviews came out and the game was getting positive feedback. In fact the game was so well received that now, some 5 years later, Sega and Feral Interactive have seen fit to port the game to the Nintendo Switch.

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.

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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.

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With the Survival Mode and all the previously-available 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 – it manages to continue the story of Alien and actually fit in before Aliens without breaking too many rules, making this a believable, and fantastic, story of Ripley’s daughter… And an essential purchase for survival horror fans.

***** 5/5

Alien: Isolation is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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