Alien: Isolation – Review

AlienIsolation

  • Release Date: October 7, 2014
  • Developer: The Creative Assembly
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Genres: Survival Horror, Stealth
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
  • Platform Chosen by Reviewer: PlayStation 4

Alien: Isolation follows Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley from the Alien movie series, as journeys to Sevastopol Space Station to find answers about what happened to her mother 15 years ago (after the events of the first Alien movie). Amanda is informed by a Weyland-Yutani synthetic named Christopher Samuels that the flight recorder from the Nostromo, Ellen Ripley’s ship, was found and being held at the Sevastopol Space Station, a station owned by the Seegson Corporation which orbits a gas giant planet. This is Amanda’s opportunity to find the answers she seeks but it will come at a price as the station is currently in a state of chaos surrounding a deadly intruder and a riotous community.

Throughout the game you will be constantly on alert for the various enemies throughout the station. From the moment you enter Sevastopol, you can sense that it is far from the safe zone it used to be. Along side militia groups and scared citizens there are murderous synthetics who are stronger than humans and harder to kill. There is also the deadly intruder, known to those familiar with the Alien series as a Xenomorph, who is bigger, stronger, faster and more deadly than anything else on the station. Upon entering Sevastopol it’s made clear that leaving will not be an easy task, most of the game is spent trying to survive from checkpoint to checkpoint as you attempt to uncover the station’s secrets, find the answers Amanda seeks and ultimately get off the station.

Alien: Isolation is full of fan service for those who are more familiar with the Alien movies and lore, but it also does a fine job of instilling new fear in those who aren’t as familiar with its source material. This is a game that will keep you on the edge of your seat, it is both thrilling and horrifying but maintains the ability to keep players intrigued enough to carry forward. While I found Alien: Isolation to be a bit overly task-oriented, I must say the overall narrative was very well thought out and put together. While at its core it’s simple, finding answers and learning the truth, but the game itself is full of surprises as it is highly unpredictable due to unforeseen circumstances constantly arising. It feels fresh throughout and aims to keep players interested at all times.

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This game is a first-person survival horror/stealth game that takes a few different turns throughout the game, keeping the player on his/her toes – so to speak. While much of the game is centered around a stealth, non-combative formula there are also sections interspersed throughout that focus on combat as opposed to evasion. The Xenomorph (alien) cannot be fought, it is pretty much unkillable to Amanda and must be evaded at all costs. Bullets will not hurt it, you cannot get close enough to it to melee it, all you can do is scare it away with fire or simply hide from it as you maneuver through Sevastopol. Whenever the Xenomorph is around, stealth is key. Hiding in cabinets or under tables is the best way to avoid detection, but if it senses your presence it will attack regardless of where you are hidden. You will be equipped with a motion detector early in the game which will alert you to any movement around you, making it a bit easier to avoid the Xenomorph, but the noise it emanates can be heard by enemies which may cause them to investigate your location.

You will be equipped with various weapons throughout the game as human and synthetic enemies are killable and can be fought with at various times. The combat involved in Alien: Isolation is very tricky in the sense that you have to plan out your moves carefully. While you can kill human enemies, they often appear in groups or packs and being outnumbered will make your likelihood of survival pretty slim. Synthetics are difficult to kill as they are stronger than you and melee wont always work since they typically block your attack and counter when at close range. They can be killed from a distance with your guns or throwables, though. Once you acquire the stun baton and EMP bomb blueprint they become easier targets, once they are stunned they can be meleed to death easily which saves your ammo.

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I mentioned throwables and blueprints previously and those pair in with the item construction system featured in the game. As you venture through the space station you will come across blueprints for certain constructable items such as molotov cocktails, EMP bombs, medkits and pipe bombs. Collecting scrap and spare parts from containers and drawers around the station helps you to put together these items which may or may not come in handy, depending on how you use them. I found that having at least one of everything constructed at all times was vastly helpful as it made combat easier for me in case I ran out of ammo. It takes time to construct items and you can be attacked and killed while constructing if you are not careful, so finding a vacated area is in your best interest for construction. Along with collecting parts to create new items there are also other collectibles throughout the game in the form of ID badges and computer logs. These can lead to information about Sevastopol and the plot as a whole as well as trophies/achievements for the game.

It’s important to note that at almost any point in the game the Xenomorph can find you and kill you if you are not careful. Using guns or explosive items can alert it to your location which means that using them sparingly is the smartest idea in most cases. Due to the game being a survival horror game, the survival aspects typically associated with the genre are in full effect and conserving ammo due to limited quantities is also important. As I mentioned before, while you can combat some enemies there are times when it’s best to resort to stealth/evasion tactics to get through and area without being attack or having to use your ammo or items.

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Alien: Isolation features some stunning graphical clarity and smooth textures. The game looks beautiful and the level design really captures the claustrophobic, dark and frightening atmosphere of the mostly abandoned space station. Sevastopol is also in a state of disrepair, there are fires and destroyed areas all around the station which further perpetuates the intensified “horror” setting. Crawling through vents and using an ion torch to cut open locked doors feels necessary to fans of the series, but also does a lot to assist in the game’s overall creepiness.

I found the voice acting and dialog in general to be well done, there are various characters who are befriended throughout the game and all of them felt individual and unique. I especially enjoyed the calm yet terrifying way in which the synthetics around the station communicate with humans before attacking them. While running away from them they may say in a calming tone “Running is dangerous” as if they are trying to help you only to later choke you to death. Alien: Isolation is also well written, in my opinion. I found the story to be well put together, there were never times when I thought that what I was doing was a pointless task or just filler to make the game longer. While I have complained about the task-oriented nature of the game before, I felt that it was done in the best possible way – that it kept me interested rather than confused or bored. The tasky nature of the game does help to further progression throughout the game’s story in a positive way.

Summary…

Narrative/Story: The game’s overall narrative is simple at its base, but as the situations change throughout the game it can get complicated in the best way possible – keeping players on edge. I liked the way that the objectives cause the game to change constantly as unforeseen road blocks and new situations arise. It feels like you never quite know what is going to happen next, creating an unpredictable game as a whole.

Gameplay: While I am not a fan of the stealth genre, personally, I found that this game was a good challenge for me in that regard. It felt as though stealth fans would enjoy these elements while non-stealth fans will not be discouraged by them. The gameplay was interesting as it does fluctuate between typical survival horror, stealth and combat scenarios. I felt all aspects were well done and complimented each other nicely throughout the game.

Presentation: The game’s overall presentation is noteworthy. It looks great, runs great (aside from some minor issues here and there) and is well written. Voice acting is well done and the characters are unique and interesting in their own regard. The task-oriented nature of the game as a whole is helpful aspect of the overall presentation as it helps to keep players constantly busy and seeking out the next goal.

Replayability: Moderate/Low. There are some reasons to replay the game, namely trophies/achievements though. If you were unable to gain all the collectibles or view all station logs in your first playthrough you may want to go back through to do those things but it doesn’t feel necessary unless you truly care about the trophies/achievements.

Fun Factor: High. Despite being on edge and/or scared throughout most of the game, it is a really enjoyable experience. There is a lot to discover and as the story progresses and new paths open up there is a lot of enjoyment to be had in discovering new things and learning new truths.

Recommendation Status: If you are ok with a little horror and stealth aspects, I think you will find this game to be rather enjoyable. Fans and newbies of the Alien series alike will enjoy this game for what it offers, a thrilling ride with new discoveries around every corner.

 

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