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Alien Isolation Review

By Bond OO7

I should probably mention right now that the only Alien movies I have seen are Alien and Prometheus. So it should go without saying that I am not part of the huge following that the series has. I was skeptical when Isolation was announced. More than skeptical in fact. Many of my friends will probably remember me blowing that game off from the second I saw the headline and I’m sure you can guess why!

Colonial Marines

Developer: The Creative Assembly
Publisher: Sega
Format: Xbox One
Released: October 7th, 2014
Copy purchased
I could see no way in which I could do a review on this game without addressing that train wreck. It’s what was on my mind when the game was announced and I’m sure I was not alone. However, if you can just push past the thought of that game and give the Alien video game series another chance, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Isolation and Colonial Marines are NOTHING alike. Sure they share the same title and universe but that is where the comparisons end. It would be like comparing Mario 64 to Mario Kart.

Isolation puts you in the shoes of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of the movies heroine Ellen Ripley, as she attempts to find out what happened to her mother aboard the Nostromo. The game sets up with Amanda doing her job as an engineer when she is told that the Nostromo’s flight recorder has been found aboard another ship, the Sevestapol, and she joins the crew on a mission to retrieve it in hopes of getting closure on the fate of her mother.

Obviously being Alien it isn't going to be as simple as rolling on up to the Sevestapol, grabbing the flight recorder and then going home. Before Amanda and her team even get aboard the Sevestapol things go horribly wrong and she is separated from the crew from which she proceeds to investigate the Sevestapol alone…

From a gameplay standpoint Isolation is very much a stealth game. If you get caught by the Alien you are about to have a really bad time as one touch from the titular creature will instantly put you back at your last save phone, which can sometimes be further back than you realize. So your best bet is trying to get around the enemies without so much as a peep which is much easier said then done! With Androids, Aliens, Facehuggers and even fellow humans out to get you it’s a very stressful experience.

The first half of the game is truly terrifying. With the constant threat of being a blink away from being the Alien’s next victim, the tension reaches heights that not many games have ever managed. The sound is superb at making sure you don’t relax for even a second too, whether it be the intense music or just the banging in the vents getting louder and louder.

With that being said once you get the flamethrower at around chapter 10 all sense of dread is abolished as you no longer have anything to fear from the alien. Couple of squirts in his face and he’s a cowering mess, retreating into the nearest vent. You can still get the occasional jump scare from him getting behind you without you realizing, but the tense feeling you have felt for the entirety of the first half of the game, is very much dead.

The game also features crafting which I feel is not as important as it should have been. I spent most the game using not much more than the odd med kit. I used a couple noisemakers here and there to move the enemies away from the path that I wanted and I used a couple pipe bombs to get rid of a few pesky androids but other than that I used none of the selection of items available to me. They seem very much like they are not meant for the stealth play style that the game almost forces upon you.

Weapons in the game seem almost useless too. Aside from the flamethrower (which like i said earlier pretty much breaks the game) the other weapons are extremely feeble and not worth giving up your position to use. By the end of the game you will have got the chance to use a revolver, a shotgun, a stun baton, a flamethrower and a bolt gun. I will say the bolt gun is extremely effective at taking out androids if you need to, but you get it very late in the game and ammo for it is far from plentiful so you can’t just slaughter all androids in your path, which is a good thing, this isn't a run and gun shooter!

Graphically the game looks great. It really nails the effect of a futuristic space station from the point of view of the 1980’s! The high point for me is the couple of spacewalks you do. Standing outside looking at the station, sun and planet around you really is breathtaking. I don’t very often in video games stop to enjoy the scenery but those moments in Isolation I sure did.

I haven’t spoken very much about the other kinds of enemies outside of the unkillable alien. As I was playing with a pure stealth play style I didn't engage in combat a whole lot. I didn't kill a human my entire playthrough and only a handful of androids felt my wrath. The androids are menacing. They are strong and if they get a hold of you your health will drop fast while you mash the prompted button to break free. Aside from the aforementioned bolt gun, which one well placed headshot with it would immobilize them, expect to use most of your ammo just trying to take out one android.

Facehuggers, much like the alien, will instantly kill you if they touch you and with the size it can be challenging to get them before they do. However you will never see them without your trusty flamethrower in your inventory so if you can spot them you can fry them with one quick burst. You can also easily tell one is coming for you from the screeching sound they make.

As I have said, the game is very heavily based on you being sneaky and not causing a ruckus, so when the game threw a section at me in which I had no choice but to fight toe to toe with 5+ androids I wasn’t too happy. The combat and gunplay in the game is not that great, but it didn’t matter anywhere else in the game so long as you stuck to the shadows. This section though, which only lasted a couple of minutes, felt like it was put in just so you could try out the different weapons and craftable items. It is by the far the lowest point in the game and from what I could tell had no bearing on the story so could have easily been cut.

Speaking of story, the story here seems very solid. Like i said earlier I’m not a huge Alien guy so there could be some problems with it tying into the movies but on it’s own Isolation stands it’s ground in the survival horror genre. For the people who want to flesh out the story there are 151 archive logs to read and listen to from various crew members that were aboard the Sevestapol prior to the incident. There are also 10 Nostromo logs to find but I am unsure if they are to do with the movies or the game. Hopefully they are a service for the people who are Alien fans.

The games length is both a strength and a weakness. It took me somewhere between 18-22 hours to beat the game on the recommended Hard difficulty setting. Which is 3-4 times longer than most games are nowadays. But i couldn’t help but feel some of the objectives were being deliberately drug out to achieve a longer playtime. Multiple times the game will have you go to point A then come all the way back again to do something and then go back to point A again. Also you will feel like you are seeing the same places again. That’s because you are, the game will send you in circles a fair few times, usually to access that one door you saw earlier that you didn’t have the equipment for.

In short Alien Isolation is the Alien game that FINALLY managed to capture the look, feel and sound of the movies. With a lengthy 18+ hour campaign that will terrify the pants off you for at least the first half it is an incredible game that is definitely worth your attention. Creative Assembly have shown that RTS isn’t the only genre they can master and I hope SEGA continue to use them going forward in the franchise.

+ Intense atmosphere
+ Great stealth mechanic
+ Stunning visuals that capture the feel of the movies
+ Same with the sound
+ A nice change of pace from most games out there today

- Combat and gunplay are not very good
- Flamethrower destroys the tension
-That one section that forced combat with androids
-Having to backtrack to get an item to proceed

Score: 8/10

What I Played: Completed the story on Hard difficulty.
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