XXL’s Game Corner – Alien: Isolation Review
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Release date: Out Now
Given the poor showing of the last few major games set in the Alien universe, Alien: Isolation is finally a step in the right direction. After the subpar effort that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, few would have blamed fans for giving up any hope that the Alien franchise would deliver a solid game. With Isolation, Developer Creative Assembly promised fans that they would deliver an authentic Alien experience, one that favors tension over action.
Fifteen years after the events of the Alien film you are playing as Ellen Ripley's daughter Amanda who is seeking information about her mother's fate aboard the Sevastopol, a derelict space station home to a remaining population of skittish survivors and a snarling, salivating xenomorph drone. When you arrive you find the place abandoned and in ruins, and it’s clear that something is amiss. Something black, shiny, and terrifying is on the loose, and it since it was probably bored is takes extreme delight in making you its prey. Considering this is a survival horror game with an emphasis on stealth, it takes a bit longer than expected for the alien to show up and cause trouble. You won't see any real action for the first hour as Isolation needs time to lay a foundation and establish its setting, tone, premise, and characters. Amanda is likable, with a clearly defined tough-as-nails personality befitting of her mother, Signorney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. In other words she's a chip off the old block. Once the Xenomorph does start stalking you through the dark and creepy Sevastopol space station, this is when Isolation hits its stride. The game reaches its high points within levels structured as a game of cat-and-mouse, casting you, of course, in the role of the underpowered mouse. You crouch, slink, and peek around corners and above crates from a first-person perspective, avoiding the sideways glances of the fearsome creature that gives the franchise its name. Encounters with the alien are not scripted, and its dynamic, reactive artificial intelligence makes its behaviour unpredictable. You genuinely feel you’re up against an intelligent and devious predator and this makes for a very tense atmosphere.
As you walk through what is left of the space station, you come across pickups that you can use to craft items such as health kits, pipe bombs, noise makers, and other items you can use to cause a distraction. However you'll find that the motion tracker is the most vital tool you possess. Hold a button, and the tracker's dot shows you the relative location of nearby entities, friends and foes alike. The tracker does not tell you, however, if the alien is above or below you, scurrying through the ventilation ducts. A good pair of headphones would be advised so you can pick up the more minute sounds like the nerve wracking sound of the alien's feet scurrying along. You have to craft the items in-game, without the action pausing, so it is advisable to do this while hiding. The crafting interface is a bit clunky, so it will take a few tries to get it down. There are also ID tags to collect, and audio tapes to play. As you explore Sevastopol you can hear it searching for you, its heavy footsteps thudding in the distance. Sometimes you hear it above you, crawling through vents, or below you beneath the floor. Its persistent, ominous presence, and the fact that being spotted will almost certainly end with you being impaled by its tail or torn apart, makes this a sometimes unbearably, tense game. The Alien is not the only thing you'll have to worry about. There are actually other enemies (droids, looters, military personnel) to deal with from time to time. Like with the Xeno, players can try to sneak by these enemies, but they can take them head-on as well. This is where some of the weaknesses of Isolation become visible. The shooting mechanics and a lot of the game’s basic mechanics, be it climbing into and out of vents or managing the handful of door unlocking puzzles, lack the appropriate polish.
The XXL Endgame
Alien: Isolation is far from perfect, but it’s the best effort of an authentic recreation of the movies that we've gotten so far. If you can look past the technical hiccups, you'll find that Isolation at its core is a challenging and entertaining horror game. —written by DJRhude (@DJRhude)
XXL Rating: L (Good)
ALien: Isolation was reviewed on a retail copy provided by Sega