Game review by contributing writer Roxie T.
It's been a great year for horror in the gaming world. Between Outlast, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, The Evil Within, and P.T, masochistic gamers everywhere are discovering just how wonderfully sadistic game developers can be. However, between all the gore, suspense, mystery, and pants-shitting, there is only one game this year that's delivers shivers of sheer terror, and nerdy ecstasy. That game, is Alien Isolation.
Alien Isolation was developed by The Creative Assembly and released by Sega in October of this year. It is a first person-stealth-survival horror game, set 15 years after the plot of the original Alien movie. The story centers around you as Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley (the protagonist of the original Alien), as you embark on a mission to collect the flight recorder from the Nostromo and gain answers about your missing mother. However, once you and your crew reach the Anesidora space station where the flight recorder is held, you become separated and are forced to discover the terror that awaits you onboard alone.
As a huge alien fan, it's incredibly exciting to be able to walk around the Anesidora. While many sci-fi creations tend to feel otherworldly and beyond our time, the game designers in Alien Isolation stuck with the true-to-life designs and concepts from Ridley Scott's vision. Terminals look dated and analog, cassettes are still used, loading screens are straight out of the 80's, and all of this familiar looking technology truly immerses the player, making the terror feel very close to home. Visually it captures the original movie to a T, and the use of lighting is some of the best I've seen in a very long time.The game's emphasis on ambient noise is meticulous as the visuals, and add a whole other level to the tension experienced during game-play. At any one time the groan of the ship, beeping of the motion tracker, creaking pipes, or opening of doors can be enough to have you jump out of your skin. The game has moments of extreme claustrophobia as you maneuver your way through pitch-black pipes, only to transition to moments of agoraphobia in as you sneak across completely open engine rooms. It will leave you paranoid and always looking over your shoulder...because everything wants, and can easily, kill you.
is quick to discover that Alien is not your only enemy while
exploring the ruined space station. You'll have to face other
scavenger humans, the few remaining survivors of the Xenomoph
attack. Some will leave you alone as long as no weapon is in your
hand...others will open fire immediately and call for back up. It's
up to the player to use audio clues to determine whether they're
safe to approach, or whether it's easier to use them as live bait
for the alien later. Working Joe's, synthetics created as a stand-in
working class for Anesidora, are another enemy the player will
encounter many times. They are impossibly difficult to kill, as they
can only be taken down by shooting them in the head, and guns make
noise that attract more enemies to the area. They're also happy to
steal away melee weapons before throttling you, forcing you to
escape, run, and hide. Then of course theres the Xenomorph itself.
The AI in this game is relentless, and whether you're opening a
door, reaching for a save point, or just trying to look at your
motion tracker – no where is safe. The alien was designed to be
completely unpredictable, so you never know whether it will leave
you alone for minutes at a time, or drop down from the vent right in
front of you. Only adding to the difficulty is it's ability to learn
as you play. You can utilize Amanda's engineering ability to create
flash-bangs or reroute power to different areas of the station in an
attempt to lure it away...but use the same technique too many times,
the alien stops falling for it. The same goes for hiding. Sure, you
can stay in the same locker and hold your breath as alien smells for
you... But stay too long, and you're dead. Again. Using anything
that makes noise or light (your flashlight, motion detector, or
running) gives away your position. The anxiety of knowing all this
makes successfully reaching a manual save point seem like a less
than minor miracle. This also makes dying just moments before
activating one and being sent back to whatever hard-save you last
had a nerve-frying experience.
This game is so well done, even the hacking mini-games add to the tension rather than distract from it. Don't get me wrong, there were times when this game became so unrelentingly difficult that I had to walk away, especially without any auto saves of any kind. But I was always pulled back in by the pure visceral experience and atmosphere which stays true to the movie which I love so much.
All in all, Alien Isolation is absolute must-play. When most horror genre games rely on gore, jump scares, and straight brutality, Alien relies on the players primal fears: Hiding, helplessness, the dark, and being hunted. It is a heart pounding, breath holding, sensory master piece – one that will make you flinch whenever your vents turn on at home."