In space no one can hear you scream… your neighbours can however so one thing to keep in mind when you get dragged into an air vent by a Xenomorph.
So yes Alien Isolation. Well I’ve been playing this for the last week and time to see if Creative Assembly has managed to make a proper Alien game.
Now I do want to make this clear. This is an Alien game not an Aliens game. So if you’re expecting to go in guns glazing taking down hundreds of Xenomorphs then this isn’t the game for you as this one is based off the original movie so is a survival horror. Also I’m an Alien nut I’ve watched all the films, played the games, own the majority of the comics etc so I’m really familiar with the universe so this does mean certain things for me might have had more or less than an impact to someone who isn’t so keep this in mind while reading.
So what’s the story. Well set 15 years after Alien we find Amanda Ripley the daughter of the Ellen Ripley from the Alien films who is an engineer working for Weyland Yutani. She is met by an executive Christopher Samuels who reveals that the flight recorder for the Nostromo has been found and is being held aboard the Space Station Sevastapol. Ripley goes along with Samuels and Taylor a lawyer for Weyland Yutani to collect the recorder. However upon arriving the 3 while boarding via spacewalk are separated by an explosion that sends debris flying and Ripley finds herself alone on the space station which is in a bad state and now has to find the flight recorder and also escape.
Now overall the plot does follow the standard kind of plot that appears in a lot of the Alien stuff where Weyland Yutani is involved however I will give the game credit there was a lot of things where I expected something to occur but in fact it did something different. I think the creators themselves realised that while there was a certain kind of plot they had to follow they’ve done enough to make it stand out so while there will be something’s you’d expect there are others that will pleasantly surprise you. It also fits really well into the established Alien film lore bar a couple of things but these are minor and you’ll only really notice if your heavily into it.
So onto the gameplay so this is a survival horror and if you’ve played games like Amnesia or Outlast you’ll be instantly familiar with the type of gameplay it has where you slowly creep around the station trying to avoid enemies, while completing tasks and puzzles and find out what the hell is happening and then get the hell out.
Now one thing the game does extremely well is the atmosphere. The station looks brilliant and brings back memories of the original movies and how the ships looked in Alien. It’s also not in the best shape as it’s been several weeks since things went to hell when you arrive and there are bodies littered around both from the Xenomorph and others, parts of the station are damaged so you have to find other ways around and even things like cans and bottles are around which you can kick showing that while this place was once busy it’s now more a ghost station. The music is also very good and can make your feel paranoid even if there is nothing around you.
Now to help out with your journey Ripley being an engineer can craft numerous items to help her out. These range from Medkits, to mines, smoke bombs and even noisemakers. These are all really useful and while you have to scrounge around to find the parts I never really found I was lacking in any of them and a lot of the time you may not need them but they are useful when you do. Ripley can also find some weapons along the way however ammo is scare and using them makes a lot of noise so you need to be cautious with using them or you could have everyone suddenly swarming your location.
Also after a couple of missions Ripley will find the motion tracker which is both a blessing and a curse. It beeps at you when it detects movement and then bringing it up shows the dots of everything roughly how close they are. Now this is handy but also not something you should rely on as it doesn’t tell you if something is on the same level as you so something could be above or below you and being a motion tracker if it’s not moving it won’t pick it up so keep in mind that even if it’s not going doesn’t mean something isn’t there.
Now puzzle wise it has the standard fair, find key cards, find terminals and similar things all while trying not to be found. To spice things up however there is also a security tuner you find that lets you hack doors and certain terminals. This brings up certain mini games you need to complete which include some such as matching shapes in certain sequence, matching two different values to be the same or inputting commands as they show up on the screen. Now these are all pretty simple but what makes them interesting is while doing it your just standing still and there is usually something nearby these so you need to be careful and do them quick or you may be detected and have it all go horribly wrong.
Saving also has a similar risk. There is no quick save or manual save in this game. What you need to do is find save terminals, insert your keycard, wait for about 5 seconds and then it saves. Guess what? Your defenceless when this happens. Now thankfully the save machines do warn you if hostiles are nearby when trying to save but considering how quickly something like the Xenomorph moves you need to be pretty damn sure it’s not around or you’re in trouble. Also the save machines have a timer before they can be used again. You will notice they have a green light on them and then once used it turns red. They can’t be used again till it turns green again so don’t think you can just keep rushing back to it if need be as well it might not be ready. Thankfully I did find the save stations to be decent distances bar a couple of missions I was never desperately looking for one.
So now let’s talk about the 3 major threats on the station.
First humans. Now while most of the crew are dead there are still plenty of survivors around and as you can probably guess they are all a bit paranoid and not very trusting. Now the humans do vary from person to person to how they will react to you. Most I encountered gave me a warning to back off before opening fire while others just let loose straight away. I have noticed that holding a weapon they will always be hostile. Now there are some nice people on the station but on my play through I encountered 2 so not very common. Thankfully they are also the easiest to hide against and you can easily trick them and sneak past most of the time.
Next we have the Seegson Synthetics Working Joe’s and basically they are the cheaper, more crappier version of the Weyland Yutani Synthetic’s. These guys are a bit weird. Most of the time they are actually friendly and only turn hostile if you are doing something considered illegal e.g. hacking, being in a restricted area or shooting one point blank in the face. Hell in some cases they actually help you. Still when they are hostile they are quite a pain as while slow, they are persistent and will search lockers, underneath desks for you and absolute buggers to take down taking a decent amount of ammo and not being easy to take down in CC. Still being Synthetic’s you can stun them with electrical attacks and you can always just run for it and leave them though just hope your running doesn’t lure anything else like say out next enemy.
Right here we go the Xenomorph. Now what’s that? Why should I find him scary I’ll just find a pulse rifle and blast him? Well bad news no pulse rifles, smart guns or anything here just you, it and whatever you can find. The Xenomorph is the star of the show in terms of enemies as it’s invincible, persistent, can track you down anywhere even vents which it uses to travel and is completely unpredictable. This is what really helps this game compared to say Outlast. In Outlast I could track the enemies a lot of the time. With the Xenomorph he’ll go down the corridor and no- oh wait he’s back, oh shit he’s coming towards me…. Okay he’s gone and oh no he’s coming back again… right he just scarpered into a vent right time to move and oh crap he just came out another one and is next to me. Yeah the guy is very challenging to deal with and if he finds you your dead as you can’t kill it. Now later on you do find some fire weapons which will scare it away but only temporarily and it will come back and hunt you down. Now the Xenomorph is also very good at hiding and there will be times you will be walking through a vent or by one and SURPRISE! The Alien is also not moving during this time and your motion tracker won’t pick it up however the game isn’t to unforgiving here and you will notice signs the alien is around like slime coming from a vent or a low hissing. That is of course if it decides to show up. I had one mission where I knew the Xenomorph was around as my motion tracker was going like crazy but it never decided to appear. This another good thing about it the fact you know it’s somewhere nearby but you don’t know where and makes hacking that door or saving your game a lot more tense as it could be stalking you, just waiting for the right moment and then TAIL THROUGH THE CHEST!
Now the Xenomorph as I said does have a weakness fire but also reacts strongly to noise, running, shooting guns and setting off radios and alarms all lure it out which is a problem but also useful. The Xenomorph is also hostile to other humans and there are a few times where you’ll find a large group of humans blocking your way and sure you could sneak about the long way or through a noisemaker in there, watch the Xenomorph take them out and then wait for it to vanish and walk through. This is risky as does leave the Xenomorph in the area but is quite satisfying to do once.
Still I need to talk about the biggest problem I had with this game.
Now this may just be me and the fact I’m an Alien nut but to me this game was completely and utterly… not scary. Not one bit, even though they got everything right with the atmosphere, music, the motion tracker beeping, the unkillable Xenomorph for me I just did not find it scary. I think for me this is because I’m such a fan that of horror and this series that I know what the Xenomorph is, can do and how to deal with it the darn thing just doesn’t go anything to frighten me. Now this may be different for you but for me it did make me act a bit reckless later on so yeah in terms of the horror it’s really going to come down to you as with a lot of horror things.
Now other things well playing the PC and running on Ultra I had no real issues though I did notice the Xenomorph AI acting a bit weird sometimes where it would stare right at me but not react or it would jump out of a vent only to go right back in and bugger off so it’s not perfect and when you have to use the space suit yes I understand I have to walk slow but when you make me walk a goddamn corridor and then walk back again it is a little bit annoying and felt that they could have just shortened them a bit.
Challenge wise I started off on normal but went to Hard and I strongly recommend to anyone who plays survival horror go to Hard as it provides a much better challenge for you. If you’re not much of a horror fan then I would suggest normal or you’ll probably get in a trouble quite a bit.
Now along with the campaign the game does have a survivor mode where you will have to complete certain objectives in a map with a limited arsenal. Now I don’t know why but I found the Xenomorph to be a hell of a lot harder on this mode as he seemed to be a lot more persistent and return a lot quicker after a flame blast. This makes the mode a lot more challening but is still enjoyable with a lot of good maps and does have leaderboards so you and try and complete it faster each time to get the best score. I feel this is the mode where you will get the most out of the game and where I spent quite a few hours after beating the campaign.
Also with the pre-order there was the Nostromo DLC which let you play as Dallas, Parker and Ellen Ripley on the Nostromo trying to lure the Alien into the airlock. This was nice as it was voiced by the same cast and while it was a pre-order DLC it is also available to buy It’s nothing to special just a single mission but a nice addition for fans of the series and to play bits from the original film and Dallas, Parker and Ellen are available to use in survivor mode as well.
So overall how did I find the game. Well while the horror side really didn’t do anything for me I can see it affecting other, the gameplay is solid, it captures the early Alien universe really well and for me at least the game ran well with no glitches or bugs I noticed bare the Xenomorph being a bit wonky a couple of times. Definitely recommend it to fans of the franchise and if not and you’re looking for a survival game then this is one I can definitely recommend.