I’m a huge fan of the Alien franchise films. I’ve played most if not all of the Alien-based games from the past and yes that also includes that steaming pile of crap called Aliens: Colonial Marines (Oh the nightmares from that game). Given that it took quite some time even for that train wreck to appear  only to crash and burn, I had given up on a worthwhile title from that series. That is until I heard about Alien: Isolation. Could this be the game I’ve been waiting for I wondered to myself? Who’s developing it? Oh please gaming Gods, please don’t let this title suck.

PLATFORMS: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One & PC
PUBLISHER(S): Sega
DEVELOPER(S): The Creative Assembly 
RELEASE DATE: October 7th, 2014
PRICE: $49.99 (as reviewed)
Reviewed On: PC

What’s the story in Alien: Isolation

Unlike previous Alien titles, Alien: Isolation has little to do with the story from the original film other than drawing from the original designs and environments and instead focuses on the daughter that Alien(s) heroine, Ellen Ripley, never had. You play as Amanda Ripley and for the past 15 years she has been looking for her mother and as such as taken jobs that are close enough to the area where she believes her mother was last at. After years of disappointment , she finally gets some good news in the form of a flight recorder from the Nostromo (The original ship from Alien) that may (or may not) have some information as to the fate of the late Ellen Ripley.  

However, that flight recorded is currently located in a supposedly thriving space colony, the Sevastopol Station and needs to be retrieved. Well, that’s all Amanda needs to hear as she takes part on a journey to the Sevastopol Station with fellow Weyland-Yutani employees Nina Taylor and Samuels while hitching a ride aboard Captain Diane Verlaine’s ship called the Torrens.

alien_isolation_ripley

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts, er… Alien.

Of course, things don’t work out as planned, do they ever? Upon reaching their destination their notice damage to the Sevastopol Station and are unable to reach them via the comms. Deciding to go board the station you and your mates attempt a spacewalk to the station and well madness ensures. An explosion happens, tossing you and your teammates through space and you end up being the only survivor who ends up making it in the station and that’s when things really go sideways. There’s no one around, the living conditions of the station are a mess, it’s dark and it’s scary. It’s enough to make a grown woman say “The hell with this mess” but you’re the daughter of an Alien killer, so it’s your job to progress through the darkness, the madness and whatever else to find that flight recorder. Do try to stay alive, ok?

Make yourself right at home won’t you

Upon firing up the game it’s clear to see that Creative Assembly did their homework. Right from the open credits that look like they were ripped from a 1980’s VHS to the presentation of the characters and environment. Trust me, if you’re ever watched the Alien film then you will be right at home. The attention to detail is fantastic and had me grinning from ear to ear, seriously it’s that good. Just take a look at the pictures below and then go compare them from Alien movie. These are spot-on replications in every way.

But it’s not just the visuals and I’d be a fool not to mention how much detail went into the sound production. From the blaring alarms to the pounding footsteps that the Alien makes as he hunts you down, it’s all top notch. And if you’re playing this on a surround setup then you’re in for a treat. This is the real deal folks and the audios are just as immersive as the visuals. The dynamic music quickens at the first sight of danger and can even be a live saver, especially when harm is around the corner and you just can’t see it but you’ll damn well hear it.

And the I’m in love with the motion tracker. Seriously, how many people that have seen the movie and have actually wanted one of these things of their very own? I know I did and I still do. But if you’re going to play with your new found toy, be careful. As much as you enjoy playing with it, it can also turn into a beckon for the Alien to track you do down with. The sound in this game is key so make sure you crack it up, especially if you have chatty people in the same room as you who don’t know how to be quiet and enjoy the ride.

But isn’t this an FPS game?

Unlike most traditional FPS games and even past Alien titles, Alien: Isolation isn’t about navigating corridors with guns blazing and instead places you in a hostile environment and forces you to use your wits to survive. That said there are weapons and items that you either find or create to utilize during your stay aboard the Sevastopol Station, however, they are limited and the difficulty you play on determines just how sparse they can be. You do not play this game like a traditional FPS, doing so will only frustrate you and it may even cause you to put the title down and never come back to it. It takes time and patience (tons of it) to navigate and survive in this title.

You might have a handgun that could be useful on taking out any human adversaries that you met but you have to think about how many rounds that is going to take, how good your aim is and if it just may be been better to hide out a confrontation and later sneak up on them and take them out with a love tap to the dome for example. The key here is survival and not playing the game like an action paced FPS. You won’t survive long if you do.

However, it isn’t just the humans you need to be completely worried about during your stay, oh no, not by a long shot. Along with dark and endless corridors, puzzles and sessions of “What the hell was that?” are also two very dangerous beings that can end your stay pretty quick; Working Joes and the big baddie it’s self, the Alien. The Working Joes are androids that were designed to do most of the heavy lifting and to help the humans on the station, but not anymore. Now they are psychotic killing machines that are pretty humorous, to be honest. I can’t count how many times I’ve walked up to one only to have to taunt me or ask me if I was ok or if I needed assistance, all while it’s choking me to death or punching the sense out me. And if you’re thinking about pulling that handgun to take down a Working Joe, keep in mind that your ammo is limited and it takes a few slugs to take them down. And there are more of them then you have bullets, so think about that for a second.

Please, I'm here to help you,, I mean kill you.

Please, I’m here to help you… I mean, kill you. Please don’t run.

And then there’s the Alien, the bastard himself (herself?). While you don’t encounter it until an hour or two into your play through it’s evident by either the NPCs that are spooked by it or by the crawling and running that you hear at certain times in the vents or floor above you that the Alien is most definitely around. And when you do finally see the Alien your character reacts to it and probably a lot better than most people actually would. But one thing is for sure that once the Alien appears your time aboard the derelict vessel is about to get worse. Much much worse! 

There have been times that I’ve been stuck in a particular section cause the damned Alien simply would not leave the area. It’s as if it knew I was there and was playing a waiting game with me, a game that I lost more times than I won. One of the best things that Creative Assembly did was make the Alien and Working Joes totally unscripted AI and set them lose aboard the abandoned derelict. Yes, my friends, this Alien is a 100%  player hunter! It will hunt you down if it sees or hears you. It will wait it out for you. If you screw up, make no doubt that it will stop what it is doing no matter where it is and it will find you. Thankfully there are safe havens in the form of lockers and various other hiding locations such as desks and tables that you can take cover in.

“Helpful tip: Don’t attempt to fight it, as you’ll either waste resources doing so and you can’t actually kill it. Just run!”

But don’t abuse them! Don’t expect to wait until the last second when the Alien or even the Working Joes are upon you cause those hiding spaces will not save your ass. Oh yes, the baddies can break down the door and kill you where you originally thought you were safe. I’ve also noticed that when you crawl you’re pretty much in ninja mode and you are deadly silent. Use that to your advantage to sneak around NPCs and hostiles, including the Alien. I was surprised at many times I was able to sneak around areas with while crawling without being heard, though you can still be seen.  

While I’m talking about movement, DO NOT USE THE SPRINT BUTTON. Trust me, it’s there to screw you over. When you run you have a chance to knock something over and make more noise on top of the sound that you’re already making while running. If you have to run it better damn well be to get to a locker to get to an elevator. And no matter how fast you run, the Alien is faster!

And expect to save your game often. If you suspect that there is even a remote chance that the Alien is down that hallway or if you know that you just pissed off those Working Joes and they’re waiting around the corner for you. SAVE SAVE SAVE!

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Oh and there’s plenty of Easter eggs to be found, but I’d be ruining your experience if I mentioned them, wouldn’t I? Just pay attention and you’ll find them, maybe.

Summary

The Creative Assembly team have done what no other development house has been able to do in quite some time if not ever. They’ve managed to create a suspenseful title around the helplessness of being stranded on a derelict station with little to no help and no official training what so ever. Normally those ingredients would seem like a recipe for a slaughter but Ripley is a tough gal and she manages to hang on to dear life, regardless of what’s thrown at her. And no don’t bring up my other favorite sci-fi title, Dead Space. Isaac Clark had it easy compared to Ripley.

That said this is a title that requires patience and thought. Stealth and wits are your best weapons in the game and using them will help you survive. And that’s what makes this title so good. The tension and suspense that is created are determined by the situation you manage to end up in and how to plan on trying to get out of it. Thrown on top of that is that the AI in the game is completely unscripted and take makes for some interesting times. Both the Working Joes and Alien can and will hunt you down if you make the wrong move are heard or seen so you have to be careful and think about your actions, humans not so much as they’re just as scared about their time on the derelict vessel as you are.

And while I didn’t get to walk around the station blasting face-huggers and taking a flame thrower to some Alien eggs, hopefully, that’s something planned for the future of this series. One thing to keep in mind folks is that this title is called Alien: Isolation and as such has nothing to do with the sequel, Aliens. so with any luck and if the title does well that we may get a sequel to the title. Fingers crossed!

And I got NO love for that Alien, none at all! It needs to get sucked out of an airlock or something, get my drift?

Bottom Line: This is perhaps the best game to recreate the Alien film, ever!

Pros:

  • Completely unscripted Working Joe and Alien AI
  • Creative Assembly has completed a suspenseful atmosphere and the game shines due to it
  • The games manages to capture mood and tone of the Alien film
  • Being able to use my very own motion track (beep beep beep)
  • The game is pretty lengthy, it took me 20 hours to beat it

Cons:

  • Completely unscripted Working Joe and Alien AI (You will die a lot)
  • Minor collision detection issues
  • The ending closes on a cliffhanger and I’m not sure if the DLC will address this or if were left waiting for a sequel.
  • Survivor being added as DLC instead of included in the game
  • Run, there's an Alien behind me!
Overall
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About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Keith Mitchell is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grid. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. Available for podcasts upon request.