As I step slowly into the room I raise my motion tracker to see if there’s any sign of movement. There’s none. It’s not here, at least I don’t think it’s here. I keep low to minimise the sound I make, scan the desks for anything I can make use of. Anything that will help me survive. I hear it. I move quickly but quietly to a locker just ahead of me, crawl inside and wait in silence. That sound it makes, it’s getting closer. It’s in the room with me. I keep still, my eyes fixated on it as it searches. Does it know I’m here? Is it toying with me? As it leaves the room I hear it scuttle away into an air duct. Relieved, for just a second, I come out of the locker and head towards my destination. It won’t be long now, I’ve nearly made it out of here…
I consider running as I’m so close but I’m scared the noise will bring it right back. So I stay low, stay quiet and keep moving. There are no doors ahead except for the exit I so desperately need to reach, the only way it can get me is if it comes up behind me. Still won’t run, don’t want to mess this up. My heart rate lowers, I turn around to make sure it isn’t following, if it is i’ve got enough in my flamethrower to scare it off once, maybe twice? I move backwards towards the exit. I hear a noise and look up. Before I even realise what’s happened it has me. I scream but even if anyone does hear me it’s no use. I’m dead.
All this has happened before, and all this will happen again…
That’s the nature of Alien: Isolation. You learn from your mistakes (and you will make them), and realise that Alien: Isolation isn’t one of those Alien games you’ve played before where you slaughter Xeno after Xeno. There’s only one here, and absolutely nothing you do will kill it.
Alien: Isolation takes place between the first two Alien films. You take on the role of Amanda Ripley (daughter of Ellen Ripley from the films), and are offered an opportunity to find out what happened to the Nostromo; the ship your mother was onboard before disappearing. During this journey you’ll board a space station named Sevastopol, owned by rival ‘company’ Seegson in search of the Nostromo’s black box. But you’re not the stations only new occupant, there’s an Alien onboard and it’ll do what Aliens seem to do best, Kill everything. You’re not a soldier packing a pulse rifle, you’re are an engineer, so you’ll have the ability to build things. After scavenging anything you can make use of you’ll have the choice between making medkits to heal you, noisemakers to divert enemies or molotov cocktails to make the Alien reconsider it’s attack. Sadly for you the Alien isn’t the only threat, humans on the station are trying to survive against the Alien, other humans and the androids that seem a lot less friendly than they should be.
The space station is pretty much a character in itself, designed to remind you of the original Alien film’s gritty and low-high technology. It does this well, distancing itself from the instant-open technology found in Star Wars or Star Trek and limits a player’s movements which helps build up tension. The very 70’s style interfaced computers onboard, are accessible and can be used to manipulate your environment to your advantage by turning lights off/on, opening/locking doors and such. Combine this with the game’s soundtrack, which again borrows highly from the original Alien score, and you genuinely feel that this game belongs alongside the film.
I noticed that the game’s length was getting a lot of attention after release, that people felt it dragged on a bit. There certainly are times where you feel it’s about to end and it doesn’t but on the most part I think they’re justified. The Alien films themselves definitely play a cat and mouse game with the audience with regards to an ending, it’s almost rude not to have the alien sneak onboard as you’re escaping. To this effect I think the game’s length is perfectly justified, except for one section in particular. Part way through the game you come across one of the people who found the Nostromo’s black box. As he tells Amanda his story you take on his roll in the game and visit the derelict vessel from the first alien film. This is actually a very good section of the game, especially story wise as it connects Alien Isolation to Alien deeper than any other level does. The problem I found with this level however is that it’s such a good story in itself that it detracts from the overall Alien Isolation story and certainly helps convey the feeling that the game is never going to end. I can’t help but think that this section of the game would have been perfect as DLC, allowing players to revisit Alien Isolation’s story from another point of view at a later date.
Prior to Alien Isolation’s release it was revealed that we would get a chance to play as Ripley, Lambert, Parker or Dallas from the original film by pre-ordering the game and that the respective actor’s would reprise their rolls. The first pre-order DLC ‘Crew Expendable’ has you jump into the first film where the crew attempt to trap the alien and vent it into space via the airlock. Sadly the gameplay here is quite basic and whilst you fight to alter the film’s destiny it’s all for nothing as the alien merely escapes.
The second pre-order DLC ‘Last Survivor’ was a bit more exclusive and came from a version of the game restricted to a few retailers. Being a fan of the Alien films in general and having completed the game’s story/Crew Expendable I decided to go ahead with the purchase. Last Survivor throws you into the part of the film where Lambert, Parker and Ripley decide to leave the alien on board the Nostromo and take their chances in an escape shuttle. Regardless of how fast you run when you hear Parker and Lambert with the alien their fate is sealed and you’re left on your lonesome to set the ship’s self destruct and leg it before boom time. This is where this DLC outperforms Crew Expendable in my opinion as instead of sneaking around you have of a sense of urgency to escape. Red lights flashing wildly and constant unhelpful reminders taunt you as you run through the ship, avoiding the alien as much as possible as you’ve such limited ammunition.
Run, run as fast as you can, you CAN catch me because you’re a GOD DAMN ALIEN!… otherwise known as Survivor Mode is exactly as it sounds. You start at one point of the level and need to reach the end, avoiding death and building up a score in one of two ways; how fast you can finish the level and how many objectives you complete on your way. I didn’t like this mode at first because basically I got killed a lot by the alien whilst fumbling around a level without a map.
Numerous reincarnations later however you start to remember where not to go and where the exit is. At this point you can compete online for the best time or score… if the scoreboards were not occupied by hackers that is. Hopefully this problem will be taken care of quickly, especially considering that Alien Isolation’s entire six months of DLC are all Survivor Mode based.
As mentioned Alien Isolation has six months of DLC planned over five add-on packs (also available via a season pass). The first of these is planned to launch on October 28th and will be called Corporate Lockdown. Here you’ll take on the role of Ransome, a Seegson Executive and attempt to escape the station both alive and with the valuable data from the Nostromo’s black box. Whilst none of these DLC’s will be a story mode as such it’s expected that you’ll gain further information on the characters and events surrounding Sevastopol in the way of gameplay and in game audio/text.
Overall I’m quite satisfied with Alien Isolation. The game is sold as a survival horror and it doesn’t just fulfil that genre but redefines for me. The alien itself is genuinely scary at times and makes you realise how futile you are against it. I even jumped at points, something films these days tend not to cause. The station is highly immersive, the story both interesting and loyal to the film series and I’m left wanting more. I would very much like a sequel to appear and hope to see Creative Assembly be allowed to expand on Ripley’s story. If you’re an Alien fan and a gamer I can’t express how badly you should pick this up, you won’t be let down as some Alien games have let you down before. Go on, show that alien how fast you can run before it gets you 😉
Oh and one more thing. Amanda Ripley-McClaren (married name), died age sixty-six, two years before her mother’s return. Do you believe everything the company tells you? More on this later!
Game Reviewed on PC