Alien: Isolation (Video Game)


Alien IsolationAvailable on PlayStation 4 (review), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC

Rated M for Mature

Distributed by SEGA of America

From the second the grainy VHS era 20th Century Fox logo appears on the screen, you know you’re in for something a bit different, something that is authentic. And authenticity is what SEGA’s Alien: Isolation does best. Once the logo fades like the memories of having to adjust the tracking on your VCR, you hear her… Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) herself rehashing what happened on the Nostromo into her flight recorder. I swear a chill went down my spine.

Fast forward 15 years after the events of Ridley Scott’s Alien (and before James Cameron’s Aliens), and we find Amanda Ripley, an engineer haunted by the disappearance of her mother. This Ripley is not unlike Ellen was in the first film. She has no real combat training and certainly has no experience jumping into a power loader to fight a giant hissing beast or using a flame thrower. She’s just as in the dark about the existence of Xenomorphs as anyone else is and you experience the events and learn right along with her as the game unfolds.

Then it happens… the day has come she both yearned for and feared. Amanda gets word that another vessel, the Sevastopol, has recovered the Nostromo’s voice recorder. Of course Amanda and company immediately head off to investigate further. It’s time for her to come full circle. Little did she know or expect that she and her crew would end up stranded on what amounts to a massive orbiting tombstone of a structure.

Upon entering the Sevastopol, it becomes alarmingly apparent that something very wrong and very bad has happened here. This is where everything begins to shine. Let me be clear: Alien: Isolation is not just a game that takes place in the Alien universe. This IS the Alien universe. The art and sound designers of this masterpiece of a survival horror game have painstakingly studied Scott’s original film, and it shows in every pixel of the razor-sharp graphics and jaw-dropping lighting effects. Billows of smoke and steam emitting from vents, dust particles floating hauntingly in the air, you’re on this ship. A ship that could easily have existed in Scott’s film. A ship that is classically lit like an Alien movie with an overwhelming attention to detail.

Then there’s the sound. There’s little music to be found here as the sound design is comprised of mostly ambient effects and the natural creaking of the ship. If you suffer from claustrophobia, you may wanna take this game in very small increments because the design team wants you to feel trapped. They want you to feel as if the world is closing in around you, corralling you deeper into a nightmare with every step.

This is the game Alien fans have been waiting for. This isn’t a Halo clone with Xenomorphs; this is as frightening as they come. One of the reasons the original Alien worked so well is because that essentially it plays like a haunted house movie in outer space. Alien: Isolation captures that feeling in spades. The Xenomorph in this game, of which there is only one, is as cunning as they come and impossibly intelligent and unscripted. You never know what it’s going to do or how it’s going to react to the situations it finds itself in. It’s kind of remarkable actually. One of the best parts of Alien: Isolation is that it would be impossible for anyone to play the game the exact same way as someone else. Just like one player will do something drastically different from another, the Alien will react to each situation in a unique and deadly way. This is the ultimate game of chess played out in what is probably the single most atmospheric setting you’ll ever see in a video game – past, present, or future.

If you’re looking for a run and gun game, look elsewhere as that’s just not what this title is about. Resources, especially ammo, are few and far between. As a matter of fact, when you do find something, it’s actually thrilling because finally you have something you can put to good use… not to mention a better chance for survival. Like in The Last of Us, some items have to be crafted, meaning you have to search for the correct components in order to build them (i.e., the Medkit). Along the way you’ll pick up flares and at one point even get a head-mounted flashlight, but use these things sparingly as you’ll be constantly be searching for more, especially batteries for the aforementioned light.

It’s not just the Alien itself you have to worry about on-board either. There are both humans and synthetics to contend with. Humans are the lesser of the two evils as they can be knocked out or even just avoided altogether if you’re both smart and careful. You can even distract the Alien into attacking them, which is just a bloody blast. The synthetics though? They’re pretty tough customers; void of emotions, these things chase after you like a cross between a speed-walking hungry zombie and a robotic great white shark. A well-placed headshot (or sometimes several) will always do the trick on these things, but again, ammo = scarce. Don’t worry though… even though there are other enemies in the mix, you’re not gonna be dealing with them long as the game never forgets that the Alien is the star of this show.

Alien: Isolation‘s gameplay is like a mixture of the original Resident Evil combined with Outlast. That combination equates to nothing short of sheer terror. Just like you needed to find typewriters in R.E., in Isolation you need to find mandatory save zones that are strewn throughout the ship. There’s just one hitch… these areas save in real time and take a couple of seconds to complete the process so before you save, make sure you’re safe. Consult your motion tracker OFTEN and always be aware of your surroundings.

Another great feature is the game’s map, which needs to be upgraded at terminals throughout the ship. This place is MASSIVE and you can easily spend hours walking around trying to scavenge wherever you can. The map is easy to read and lets you know where all the important bits are, but I’ve gotta tell you: It was a hell of a lot of fun getting lost! Do yourself a favor… when exploring, if you have the opportunity to shut a door behind you, TAKE IT! Leaving behind easy access to your location isn’t the smartest way to play. You’ll die. You’ll die a lot.

Being that we spent time with the PlayStation 4 version, there are a couple of unique bells and whistles to be found here. If you have the PlayStation camera, you can activate the head tracking option. What this does is let you peek out behind corners or look around while hiding in lockers. The camera will follow the exact moments of your head without using the stick, and it feels really intuitive and natural. Not gimmicky at all. Also, there’s another setting in which you can activate sound and the camera’s mic will pick up any noises made around you so if your cat knocks over something, it’s a good bet that your little Jonesy will end up getting you killed. The Xbox One version will do that same things if you have your Kinect hooked up, but you won’t get the special sounds that emit from the DualShock 4’s snazzy controller speaker. Of course you can shut each of these options off, too, should you desire.

The game’s campaign lasts in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 hours, and once you’re done, there’s also something called Survival Mode, which more or less distills the best parts of the game while giving you a specific set of goals and a time limit in which to complete your tasks. Only one map is available for this mode now, but more are on the way as downloadable content. Speaking of DLC, the Nostromo content that lets you play as the crew of the original film was not playable at the time of this review and will be available on launch day. Can’t review that at the moment, but given everything else I’ve experienced in Alien: Isolation, I’m about 99% sure it will kick ass.

This is it, kids. The perfect recipe to wash the taste of Aliens: Colonial Marines from your mouth for good. Alien: Isolation succeeds on every level, and its only downside is that it can be a bit frustrating at times given the save system and its sporadic placement throughout the game. Other than that, this is as close to a perfect survival horror game as they come. A must own. Turn down your lights, turn up your sound, and just try to survive.

Game Features

  • Single player only
  • Downloadable content

  • Game
User Rating 3.33 (21 votes)


Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter