“Alien: Isolation” review

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There’s something about being trapped in a confined space and being hunted by a near-invincible alien life-form that just brings out the worst in people.

Survivors tend to turn on each other, kindly synthetic robots become menacing wardens to keep you in the places you don’t want to be, and you yourself revert to your animal instincts of fight or flight.

Those are the challenges that Amanda Ripley faces in “Alien: Isolation,” while searching for clues about her mother’s disappearance. Not only that, but she’s also got a hungry xenomorph out to catch her at every turn.


 

So, there’s a lot of mixed reviews for this game from sites like IGN. Having played the game myself, I can definitely see where the issues people have are stemming from, but I also don’t agree with those statements.

In “Alien: Isolation,” you’re able to hide, run, distract and sometimes kill. The weakest of enemies, the human survivors aboard the station you’re trapped on, can be dispatched with a melee attack or a gunshot. The synthetic security robots are made from sterner stuff, and require multiple bullets or an electromagnetic pulse to take down. The alien? That sucker isn’t going down.

Why not? I call it “Gilligan’s Island” syndrome. If they built a boat on “Gilligan’s Island,” then the show would have been awfully short and no one would have watched it. A boat is to “Gilligan’s Island” as a method of killing the xenomorph is to “Alien: Isolation.” It changes the game from survival horror, to survival action.

If the main antagonist of the game were easy to kill, then you wouldn’t be afraid of it, and you’d be looking to kill it instead of accomplishing your goals quietly and quickly. The focus is no longer survival, it’s to hunt.

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Holy cow, though. This game is GORGEOUS.

Many people have brought up the fact that save points are few and far between, making the game frustrating because if the alien kills you, then you have to start from a point much further back from where you’d like to be. Having experienced this myself, I came to realize that it’s not so much an issue of sparce save points, but rather intricately laid-out maps that are easy to get lost in.

Sure, there’s a map in game and sure, you have the motion tracker to show you where you need to go relative to your objective. But, I feel the maps and corridors are so well designed that you’ll get lost in them like you would any location you’re not familiar with, and I look at the times when I die trying to find stuff as trial runs to help me find where I need to go the next time. Sort of trial and error. After all, there really aren’t any consequences to dying other than being pushed back to a save point.

The main issue I take with this game is the scavenging. In all honesty, I really enjoy the crafting in this game that allows you to make weapons and counter measures to help you distract, hide from and kill enemies. I think that’s really clever and it’s integrated very seamlessly into the game. What I don’t like is how hard it is to find craftables. Now, this could be because everything blends in to the surroundings until you’re three feet from it when it glows yellow, or it could just be that they’re all so small. I’m not sure.

Regardless, I feel like I often miss important craftable items and supplies which could have aided me whilst running for my life or trying to sneak about quickly. In retrospect, however, maybe that’s just the point developers Creative Assembly were trying to make. You don’t have that time to scour the rooms. You’re being hunted, and you need to keep moving.

I don’t really find the game to be all that difficult. Granted, I was told I should play the game on Medium difficulty as the alien on Hard difficulty is almost omnipotent, but there is still some good challenge to Medium. Thinking of it in a more scientific fashion, trying to find things and using each death to help you discover your objective so that you can complete it efficiently, seemed to work pretty well for me.

The lack of help that the game gives you with objectives can be hit or miss. I like that they make you memorize codes and room numbers rather than putting them in your objective tracker on the map. It adds a sense of weight to all the information you receive. But when the motion tracker is pointing at a locked door, and the door says you need a key, you’re stuck backtracking and getting a little frustrated.

For a first attempt at a really different style of game for Creative Assembly, the company that is famous for the “Total War” real-time strategy franchise, this is actually quite impressive. The environments, sound design and gameplay seem to be really well thought out and planned. The ambiance of this game cannot be beat, and it’s such a viscerally scary experience that it made me really enjoy my first real jump into the survival-horror genre.

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If the xenomorph gets this close to you, it’s game over, man. Game over.

Sure, there’s room for improvement, but this isn’t a common game for them to make. If this was another company that made their living off of survival-horror, I’d be harsher, but this is a history-based RTS company stepping out of heir comfort zone, and hats off to them for making a game of this quality on their first go. I hope they make more and they improve on their current design.

Should you get “Alien: Isolation?” If you’re a survival-horror noob like myself, this actually is a really good way to get into the genre. If you’re a seasoned veteran of this type of game, you may find faults with it that you’ll be bothered by, but I’m confident you’ll find something to like about it. Give it a try when it’s a little bit cheaper.

If you’re a fan of the “Alien” universe, you’ll be in love with the detail that Creative Assembly went into with this game. You can tell they’re true fans and they went through a lot of trouble to make this game feel like such a solid entry into that franchise. Way better than “Prometheus.”