When I sat down to play Alien Isolation the taste of Colonial Marines was still sour in my mouth. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to play another Alien game so soon. So when I picked up the PS4 controller and pressed start I was surprised to find I didn’t put it down straight away.
Alien Isolation is a new survival horror game that takes the Alien premise back to its roots. You play as Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s daughter who is sent to find out what happened to her Mother 15 years after the original Ridley Scott movie.
Upon finding the Nostromo you are sent into the ship to gauge the environment. This is where I started.
It’s an expectedly dark environment with small glowing lights littered all over the place in the similar way to the Dead Space Franchise. Dust effects dance in the light beams to depict an aged and un-kept ship. There is little to no soundtrack which really helps create a tense atmosphere. The sound of your footsteps and breathing allows for a far more intimate experience. It’s also good to note Amanda’s breathing reacts to what she is doing and sometimes it may even be necessary to hold your breath.
You are given a tracker with which to use to detect movement. Instead of being a minor feature it becomes one of your best weapons. As you enter the ship and begin to explore the tracker starts to go off. It isn’t long before you realize that you are not alone. The first glimpse of Giger’s creature is suitably eerie and you genuinely feel vulnerable. You are told there is no way you’re going to be able to kill it so the game becomes a cat and mouse scenario. As I explored the initial area of the ship the tracker would go off and warn me as to where the creature may be coming from. You have to navigate the areas and perform tasks to try and get the ships power back on line, all while still trying to have eyes in the back of your head. You do not have a pulse rifle, sentry guns, load carriers or even a knife. You must simply try and avoid the Alien – which proved very tricky indeed. There are places such as lockers to hide in and desks to crawl under in order to avoid direct sight. It was really tense to just stay still while the creature was so close to you that its tail was practically hitting off of your leg. It was that anxious atmosphere that made the movie so terrifying and this game seems to be hitting all the right notes. The survival objectives are simple enough but doing them while trying to avoid being hunted puts you in a constant fear of the unknown. I was waving the tracker around constantly trying to see if it was close and even simple things like walking through a door became something to be worried about. As the tracker only indicates where the creature may be coming from you have to rely on your wits and study the environment to work out the safest route. The creature tracks sight, smell and sound so running it a very last resort move. It can only be achieved when you are so close to a door you can confidently get there and shut it before the creature has time to pounce. It also emits sounds so you can begin to learn what its intentions are. If it sees a disturbance it will go to investigate and this may allow it to be distracted for a time, also if it screams it could be an indication it is ready to attack, giving you a few seconds to react. I have no doubt that by the end of the experience most players will have intimate knowledge of the creature. I just hope the AI is up to the task of keeping the player challenged.
Story wise, it isn’t long before things go terribly wrong and the ship detaches from the station with you inside. You are then left floating into outer space with nothing but a radio and Alien to keep you company. It was a great start and I have no doubt Survival Horror fans will relish the challenge. My main concern is if they can sustain such a tense atmosphere for the duration of an entire game. With rumours that there will be a select few weapons and the possibility of other “humans” and Androids to tackle it seems as if they are aware of the scenario limitations one Alien can make. The AI of the creature is said to develop and learn from your behaviour to add even more challenge as you progress. Also the casting seems a little off as the character who assists Amanda on the radio sounds very much like a seventeen year old from East London. It honestly feels like you are being directed around by Tinchy Strider and is completely out of sync with the rest of the game.
“get to the power switch innit blud”
Hopefully, it was just for the pre Alpha build and whatever the plan is it won’t just be “go here” and “hide there” for a full 10 – 12 hours. Also if you are not a survival horror fan with a penchant for stealth it is likely you won’t enjoy the majority of what this title has to offer (but hey, there’s always Gearboxes Marines for you to play).
To say this game felt like an Indie title is no bad thing. The “back to basics” scenario really did make me feel afraid of the Alien once again. The graphics were solid and effective. The premise was spot on. It had me jump a few times and the Alien was a truly intimidating beast. Whatever The Creative Assembly have planned for this game I hope it will be the Alien game fans deserve and from what I can see so far, it’s showing it has teeth.