Post Game Wrap Up! Alien Isolation!
Occasionally, it’s hard to talk about something objectively. I am a huge fan of the Alien series. Have been for a long time. So I find it hard to be objective about something I enjoy by default. Even the worst this franchise has to offer can be enjoyable in some way to me. So after the disastrous release of last year’s Aliens: Colonial Marines, when this game was announced I had doubts. I knew it would find its way into my collection one way or the other, but I was worried, fearful another mediocre product was being rushed to shelves because fans of this franchise will stomach anything and everything. Fortunately, I’m here to tell you that Alien Isolation proves to surpass all my expectations, erases all my fears, and replaces them with entirely new ones.
Alien Isolation is a first person survival horror game, much like Amnesia, that puts you in the role of Amanda Ripley. It’s been 15 years since her mother Ellen and the crew of the Nostromo have gone missing. Amanda, who works for Weyland Yutani, is told by a friend of hers Samuel that a space station Sevastopol has recovered the flight recorder, and she goes with him to get some closure as to what actually happened to her mother. Of course, when she gets there, she finds the station in shambles and the locals less than friendly. See, for the last little while, they have been dealing with their androids acting up, the station falling apart and something sinister stalking in the air ducts…
Clearly a lot of love went into the world and the attention to detail around it. First, the story could actually fit into the series of films, which for a video game can be tough to do. Amanda was first mentioned in a deleted scene in Aliens, which can be seen in the director’s cut of the film, and while she’s long dead by the time Aliens takes place, but she is a character that exists in the extended lore of the franchise. There are some plot holes that don’t seem to be filled, but they are minor ones in the long run. Second, the visual design is breathtaking, with claustrophobic hallways, vast and scenic landscapes out in space, and a sort of haunting beauty to everything in between. This is a game that is worth playing on modern systems/PC, and I won’t say that often. The technology and design of all the ships is reminiscent of the 80’s Sci-Fi look that went into the original film, and everything in the game is reflective of that design. It’s a nice touch and again, a throwback to the original film. It’s charming in its own way. I really wish strangely that there was some kind of behind the scenes audio commentary that would let me just wander the ships like some kind of tour that is of course Alien and enemy free, but, there isn’t one, sadly.
(In space, no one can hear you awe in wonder)
The clear star of the game though is the Alien himself. Like the film, the Alien is a fast-moving invincible menace, and thanks to a highly touted and complicated A.I system, the Alien actually hunts and pursues you in many of games environments, and almost never behaves the same way twice. Combine that with the fact the Alien cannot be killed makes for a tense experience. Sure, there are firearms in the game, but none will kill the Alien. The only weapons that even sort of work against him are the flamethrower, which has limited ammo, and Molotov’s, which require a great deal of components to put together, but all they do is scare the Alien away, and while I can’t confirm this, seems to make him mad. Every time I used an item to defend myself against the Alien, he seemed to grow more insistent that he kill me. The A.I is fantastic, and really lives up the hype it has, making the Alien feel alive, and all the more terrifying. Ripley is an engineer, so she’s able to cobble together tools to function as distractions out of items found strewn across the environment, but in a twist taken out of ROUGE-like games, item placement is randomized, and changes with each and every death. And thanks to the Alien, the androids AKA Working Joes, and the few human survivors with guns, you will die. In fact, you will die a lot in this game, on just about any difficultly. People have complained about the difficulty, and while I can admit the game can be hard at times, there is a real sense of accomplishment when you get past an area your stuck on, and the game, despite being hard, never feels unfair. There is a health bar, but the Alien just flat-out kills you if he catches you, which he’s certain to do if he sees you. In another unique design choice, the game does not auto save, forcing you to save as often as possible at saving stations, but when you do save, and any time you use a computer in fact, your wide open for attack. All this combines together to make a tense as hell experience that has you jumping at every light and sound you see and hear. Thankfully, the game does all it can to avoid jump scares, which is a valuable touch, as too many jump scares would just ruin any of the game’s tension. Jump scares are not scary, they are surprising, and there is a difference. That’s not to say the game doesn’t have any, mind you, but once the Alien comes out, there are no more, which is awesome.
(Granted, this will still surprise and scare you. Then kill you.)
However, for all the good the game delivers and how good the game looks, at times there are some.. glitches and bugs. Creative Assembly is primarily known for strategy games, specifically the Total War franchise, so this is actually a huge diversion for them, and to their credit, they put together an amazing experience. But… there are some technical issues that bring the whole thing down. First, while the Alien looks awesome and the Working Joes look synthetic, like they should, human models look bland, have poor lip syncing to spoken dialog, and look really awkward in comparison to everything else. Second, there are glitches everywhere. I played this game for 2-3 hours spurts over the course of a week. Every time I played this game, I got a glitch of some kind, without fail. Some small things, like the alien peaking through vents in ways he shouldn’t, looking into a locker without opening it, and some other interesting visual oddities, like floating objects. I would have ignored those mundane ones if not for the more game breaking ones. I’ve had weapons that I could not raise to fire, making them useless, not able to use the motion tracker, the motion tracker not functioning, which is a different glitch where you can pull it up, but it does nothing, to being pulled into an alien fatality from across the room, like he were Scorpion. An entire chapter shook terribly, and resetting the game, which usually fixed these glitches, did not work, and I had to stumble through a fairly difficult chapter with the screen constantly shaking. And those are just the troubles I had while playing, there are many videos online of a teleporting Alien, DLC downloading issues for pre-orders, to the scary door, which is a personal favorite of mine. While on the subject of the negative, the game is also a little too long, but the extended levels do work and are very nice and tense. They didn’t feel too out-of-place in my 17 hours of playing, but some people have complained, though I feel it’s not as bad as I’ve seen people complain that it is. The ending is a little quick and disappointing as well, without spoiling it, but I suspect that’s either to set up a sequel, or promote the season pass sales for a future DLC release. Although, the DLC could only be challenge maps, so who knows?
( I had these come out of a save point once, and I still have no idea what they are)
Isolation has been called the game Alien fans deserve, and I agree with that statement. The Alien series has unfortunately been more misses than hits when it comes to its video game releases, and while Isolation is a fantastic game, It’s glitches and bugs do sort of ruin the experience after a while. When the game shines though, it shines in a way I absolutely could not have expected it to. It’s the perfect game to play for Halloween, so it’s October release is also just perfect. So, with that in mind, I rate it 8/10. Maybe in a month or two, when/ if many of those glitches are ironed out, the game may be even better, if not perfect for what kind of game it is. It’s not going to be for everyone, admittedly, but the Alien franchise is a series divided into two styles, a slower paced Sci-fi slasher movie style, like this game, and a Sci-fi action movie, like Colonial Marines was trying to be. We just need a better game to support the latter half.