You read that title correctly, yes you did. If you decide to play through Alien: Isolation, then you really should prepare yourself to die. Quite a bit, in fact. While most Alien games take the James Cameron “shoot everything moving” strategy to the iconic sci fi horror, The Creative Assembly team instead targets the first movie’s claustrophobic intensity as well as the sensation of being relentlessly stalked by a much superior predator. The end result is a game where you need to learn the way it wants you to, but the cat and mouse chases that occur supply an experience that is ultimately worthy of the Alien franchise.
Reviewing Your Role in Alien: Isolation
Players take on the function of Amanda Ripley, who has such a large desire to learn the fate of her lost mom that it brings her to a space station which has descended into madness thanks to one, man-slaughtering Xenomorph. If this seems familiar, most of the plot points of Isolation will all too frequently parallel memorable scenes from the movies. Sure, it was fun reliving these moments that are iconic for so many, but honestly I think I would’ve preferred some more new surprises on the way. Amanda doesn’t seem to grow much through the game, and has little personality, other than caring for her fellow people as well as an urge to not die which is going to occur rather frequently.
The gameplay of isolation is a lot more engaging than the narrative itself, albeit in its own unforgiving and methodical manner. Your meetings with the Xenomorph are lopsided, as the barbarous extraterrestrial is impossible to damage, is insanely quicker than you, and kills you off with one shot. As such, whereas many games attempt to adapt as many styles of play as possible caution in the game is predominant in the game. Your choices in Isolation are limited: you die or you stay as silent as possible. The continuous danger of your hidden predator keeps you engrossed in the activity of the game, and successful diversions and every narrow escape instills a real awareness of achievement. You unlock various craftable things that will help you in this respect, and while they are not foolproof, these new gadgets are certainly empowering. However safe you happen to be, you will still need to have the patience for trial and error gameplay to completely take pleasure in this title.
You’ve got two more enemy types to take care of in the game when you are not running for your life. First, there are human survivors in there that will shoot as soon as they see you. Next you have Worker Joes, which are low-cost androids that need a jolt from an EMP or a stun baton in order to be taken down. Each enemy sports its own characteristics and A.I. behaviors, and figuring them out and having them accommodate your strategies keeps the action fresh.
Most places in the game need you to slip through a labyrinth of long, twisting hallways and air ducts, and then make the long trek back after you’ve met some sort of goal. Going through a brand new area is rather thrilling the very first time, but you return to the majority of places in the game many times. By the time you get to the end Ripley has crisscrossed the station so many times she could likely draw the whole thing perfectly.
The game’s map system is little help, the game has some rather irritating quick-time events, and the checkpoint system is easily one of the most annoying aspects of the game. This is because you have to manually save at specific stations in the game, which requires that you do a lot more backtracking just to save your progress. Once you finally hit that save station, though, you get that nice feeling of relief, and honestly the older game mechanic started to grow on me again…though probably just out of nostalgia’s sake. Having said that, the save system still caused me to have quite a bit of frustration. Losing a lot of your progress in the game when you’re suddenly slaughtered with a single, unforeseen tail stab that pops out of nowhere is not frightening, but rather annoying, actually.
The truth is, regardless of the source and setting of the game itself, there isn’t all that much in Alien: Isolation that is really frightening. Tense, definitely, and I jumped at more than a few surprise Alien meetings, but the surroundings and gameplay just don’t manage to give me the feeling of horror that alternative games, or the Alien films themselves, have inflicted on so many of us.
The storyline falls flat, your goals lack a feeling of achievement, and honestly the story is drawn out a lot longer than it should have been. However, when the gameplay is at the top of its game while playing Alien Isolation will give you that excitement of being in the Alien world, which is something that so many fans have been waiting for.