It’s no secret that the last Alien game, Colonial Marines, was terrible. I would have loved to be in the room when SEGA made the decision on how to move forward with the license. With Alien Isolation the publisher seems to have used what little magic it has left, using Creative Assembly to put together one of the best uses of the license yet – not to mention one of the best horror games to date as well.
In the same vein as ‘Outlast’, Alien Isolation places you in a first-person perspective and leads you on a journey filled with tension and jump scares. Compared to Colonial Marines, Isolation sets out to provide a much more authentic and fun Alien experience, taking place in between the original trilogy. It’s been fifteen years since Ellen Ripley’s disappearance on the Nostromo, and when the possibility of finding the flight recorder to her ship comes around, Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s daughter, is tasked with obtaining it and finding any lead she can.
It’s a slow burn to start, but throughout the lengthy campaign the tension remains high, and the scares are well-balanced. I didn’t get to see an Alien until nearly an hour into my journey, but regardless of that fact, even the flickering lights were enough to keep me uneasy. Since I’m such a huge fan of survival horror, I couldn’t have been more pleased with what Isolation threw at me. Whether that was a face hugger wrapping around my neck, or a deranged, mass murdering android looking to terminate me. I played most of the game with my Astro a50 headset on, and I dread to think how loud I must’ve sounded to my neighbours.
Unlike most of the dangers you encounter, the main Alien can’t be killed. This intensifies any confrontation with it, since stealth options are your only effective strategy. I constantly found myself crouching around to my next objective and hiding under desks, since if I ran or made any loud noise, I’d get found out and be back at the last save point in next to no time. If I didn’t save the game whilst traversing through different tasks, I had a lot of slack to pickup if I died. Though it can be seen as both a good and bad thing, especially since it makes you acutely aware of your movements, I often found it frustrating getting far ahead with a mission and then being thrown back due to a pesky face hugger jumping out of a box.
Most objectives will task you with restoring power to a certain area, picking up new equipment and backtracking to enter a previously inaccessible area. I found this Metroid/Arkham gameplay to be very satisfying, and it helped provide me with a real sense of progression. With the ability to pickup new tools to hack through doors or upgrade my plasma cutter, I often relished the opportunity to head back and explore unseen areas. With such a lengthy campaign, Isolation doesn’t shy away with a short story, but towards the end of the game I did wish for the credits to come sooner rather than later. I enjoyed most of my time with the game, but after being told to restore power a generator for the fiftieth time, things began to grate a little. I also found navigation to my objectives a little tasking at time, and the map system doesn’t help much.
The gameplay won’t be to everyone’s taste. With such an emphasis on stealth, progression can take a while and there are some repetitive sections. The save system isn’t quite as forgiving with automatic saves as I’d like it to be, but if you’re wise enough, then making a necessary pit stop to a glowing save point shouldn’t be a problem. If you don’t stock up on supplies and run out of ammo, facing androids could be a problem due to their ability to absorb bullets, but if you’ve been negligent in keeping your stocks up, then you might also be partly to blame. Once the main story is completed and you’ve encountered all the twists and turns, then heading into the challenge mode should help provide you with enough to keep you busy. Completing certain objectives without using the Motion Scanner, for instance, will require some sneaky skills. As a side-note I played on Xbox One and noticed slight frame rate issues, but nothing major.
*Alien: Isolation’s Xbox One code was provided to Start Replay by Xbox.
- + Great atmosphere, filled with tense moments
- + Stealth mechanics work well
- + Upgrade system makes you conserve supplies
- - Navigation to objectives can be frustrating
- - Manual saves points are hit and miss