Alien: Isolation – A Review

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The jist:

Alien: Isolation is set in 2137, 15 years after the events of Alien and 42 years prior to Aliens. The game follows Amanda Ripley, who is investigating the disappearance of her mother Ellen Ripley. Amanda is transferred to the space station Sevastopol to find the flight recorder of the Nostromo only to discover an Alien has infested the station.  Underpowered and underprepared, you must scavenge resources, improvise solutions and use your wits, not just to succeed in your mission, but to simply stay alive.

This review was first posted over at The Pixel Junkies.

There hasn’t been a great game set in the Alien universe since Rebellion released Alien Vs. Predator 2 back in 2001 on the PC. Thanks to the completely terrible Colonel Marines, and recent sub par reboot of AvP, people were losing faith that we’d receive a good Alien game.  Creative Assembly and Sega decided to see if they could finally capture the sense of dread that Rebellion so easily captured over a decade ago. With about 15 hours of game play under my belt I’d say they succeeded.  Not only did they capture the essence of Ridley Scott’s Alien with both the look and sound, but the story they’re telling is one I actually care about.  A daughter looking for her mother connects with me much more than being a faceless badass grunt shooting things over and over.

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Much like Super Hans says in Peep Show: “the longer the note, the more dread.” is the motto of this game.

This whole game is one long note.  You’re never safe, secure, or protected.  Your “weapons” are mostly useless and only serve to buy you an extra 30 seconds of pulse-pounding terror while you attempt to hide. That’s what this game is.  One giant hide and seek game.  In this game the seeker can smell you, hear you, and wants nothing more than to kill you.  There is no break, nor is there a safe place.  Unless you count under tables, in closets, or in vents.

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I hope you like this view.  You’ll be doing this all the time.

This is not a game to play when you’ve had a rough day at work or want to unwind.  This game demands the player’s full attention AT ALL TIMES. The Alien doesn’t care if you’re saving the game, reading a comm log, or crafting a weapon.  You can die doing all of these things, and you will.  I love it.

During development much was made about the unscripted and dynamic Alien AI.  The only buzzword missing was something about the cloud but guess what?  It mostly works.  There is no pattern to how the Alien hunts you.  This isn’t like memorizing an enemy’s pattern from the NES days. The Alien hunts you differently every time you die, and you will be dying a whole bunch. What may have worked in one level may not work in the next.  Not only will you have to watch out for the Alien, but also androids, and even other humans will hunt you as you slink your way through the game.  I recommend that you play it on easy though.  That’s right, this is one of the first games in the longest time that I had to bump down the difficulty for.  Normal is just too hard and I don’t even want to attempt Hard.

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I hope you like this face.  You will see it a bunch of times throughout your playthrough.

Alien: Isolation is not with out flaws however.  One of the biggest ones is the HORRENDOUS frame rate during the cut scenes.  It’s terrible. It’s so bad I dread seeing the cut scenes.  It completely breaks the immersion for me. It feels as if the frame rate drops to 15FPS.  I’m not sure why this is as the in game engine is amazing, it has some of the best lighting effects I’ve seen recently, and the frame rate hardly dips even during frantic scenes.  So it’s a weird issue yet one that should have been fixed prior to launch.

Another issue that some people may have is that this game starts off INCREDIBLY SLOW.  I played for about an hour and a half and nothing happened.  It’s all a build up for an amazing scene, but the slow burn may turn off some players.  It also doesn’t explain some of the game mechanics or if it does, it glosses over them quickly.

The save system is another point of contention for some people, but not me.  This game does not auto save except between levels, so you’ll always need to be on the look out for a save point.  Which functions as a mini-reward to the player.  Believe me, you’ll want a reward for the stress you’re being put under, but again, even when trying to save the game there is a chance you will die.

Other reviews have pointed out that they stretch this game out during the last third of the game which kills any momentum for users.  I have yet to make it that far (only a little more than half way through the game), but so far I’m having fun.  Except when I run into an Average Joe.  Fuck those guys.  I hate them more than the Alien.  Seriously.

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I HATE THESE GUYS.

Another fun bonus is the “Crew Expendable” DLC mission which allows the player to play as Ripley, Parker, or Dallas from the original movie as they try to outsmart the Xenomorph.  It’s not worth buying the game for, but it’s nice to finally live my dream of playing as a virtual Yaphet Kotto.

Alongside the DLC content and the single player game they also added a Survivor Mode.  Survivor Mode is you versus the creature, against the clock and in a desperate bid for survival. With few resources on each map, players will have to take full advantage of what they can find to complete objectives and escape.  It’s a fun diversion and I enjoy letting my friends attempt to beat the scenarios while I watch and laugh as they get murdered.  Over and over again.
Even with these issues the bottom line is that if you are a fan of the original Alien flick, then you owe it to yourself to give this game a chance.  It’s a step in the right direction for future Alien games.

Here are a few quick snippets of game play I recorded while playing:
The alien kept coming back in to this room for about 5 mins.  I couldn’t leave.  It was making me sweat through my goddamn shirt.

I screamed way too loud during this segment.  Loud enough my next door neighbors pounded on the wall.  That should be a pull quote.

RATING:

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reviewed by Rob on the PS4

 

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