Alien Isolation

Few games have ever caused me to experience the seemingly contradictory emotions of love and loathing at the same time.  Alien Isolation may in fact be the only one.

Taking on the role of Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen, you are tracking down information on the disappearance of her mother.  In doing so, you unfortunately end up on the space station Sevastapol.  Where an Alien has somehow got loose and started causing all kind of murderous havoc.

What follows is a game in which you will spend 90% of your time sneaking around avoiding the perfect predator.  You will spend more of that time hiding under tables, than you will firing bullets. Because sadly, those bullets won’t work.

Of course, the Alien isn’t the only thing you have to worry about.  There are still some people left on this station and they are not always friendly.  While even more worryingly the station’s androids seem to be going off script.  You can avoid all of this, and the Alien, with the help of a few weapons and crafted items.  Of course, material and ammunition is rare.

These sneaking sections are a mixed bag.  There are moments of brilliance.  At one point I was sneaking around trying to make my way to a doorway when I heard a noise behind me, turning I saw the Alien and instinct took over, I broke into a sprint but barely made it a couple of meters before it caught me from behind, killing me instantly.  It was an exhilarating experience and made me feel like I was being hunted.

Yet for every moment like that, there are several where you just spend ages hiding in a cupboard or the Alien seems to be working on a pattern that you need to figure out.  For all the claims of an intelligent AI, there are still times where the big nasty is going to pop down, no matter how quiet you are.

Which leads to the loathing part of this review.  I really fucking suck at this game.  It took me around 6 months to get through it and I let out a literal cheer when I finally hit the end credits.  Whether this was the game or my own abilities I don’t know, but often I felt cheated.  The introduction of the Face Huggers late on in the game being the prime example.  With them being so small and close to the ground I’d often find them leaping on me before I’d even noticed they were coming.  Once or twice that might be my fault, but it happened a lot more than that.

On the other hand, this game so perfectly captures the world of these films that as a huge fan of them, it is near impossible not to fall in love with it.  They have constructed that low-fi, sci-fi feel brilliantly and you can feel the love for the franchise oozing out of this game.  If you are at all a fan of the Alien series, it is worth giving this a go just to spend a few hours wandering around space ships, which could have been taken straight from the set of the movie.

If you are good at stealth games, it is quite possible that my complaints won’t affect you.  Even so, there are still a few bugs in here.  My character spent at least ten minutes at one point seemingly on fire.  While the Alien once came out of the roof, levitated for a few seconds before jumping up again.  The game then just decided to kill me anyway, presumably feeling that even if the big beastie had failed in its job, I probably still deserved it.

However, all of that is kind of worth it for those brilliant moments.  The moments where the fantastic sound design has you hearing something move and you crouch down glaring around like a mad man.  Tensed up on the edge of your sofa, praying it will just go away and leave you alone.  Alien Isolation understands what made the Alien films brilliant.  It’s the fact that that one creature can take on an entire spaceship without breaking a sweat and this game understands what it’s like to be its prey.

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