My ReviewBy Darkness
Well, folks, here’s my review of Alien Isolation which I got for the PS3. We all know the premise by now. The game is set in 2137, 15 years after the events in Alien. Ripley’s daughter, Amanda Ripley, goes in search for the Nostromo flight recorder to find out what happened to her mother. Her journey takes her to Sevestopol station where you go from one objective to the next, going through claustrophobic tunnels, corridors and vents trying to avoid a lone xenomorph. I will say this for Alien Isolation. It is the scariest, most thrilling game I’ve ever played. It completely outperforms the Alien movies in that department. A lot of Alien Isolation is extremely similar to Dead Space/Dead Space 2 which in itself borrows heavily from the Alien franchise. If you liked those games, you’ll love Isolation.
A lot of the scare factor is down to the superb music and sound design. It’s perhaps the best use of it I’ve ever seen in a game. Just walking along a dark corridor, you’ll hear something scurrying in the vents above you, your motion tracker beeps, the music subtly changes – you’re never quite sure what is going to happen. There are a couple of scripted jump moments but the game isn’t about that. The alien’s behaviour is completely random and you really never know where it will appear. A couple of moments stand out for me. When I was trying to slowly creep my way back into a room, I could hear the alien moving about in a vent behind me. As I got to the door trying to open it, I’m frantically looking around behind me hoping the door will open in time, and guess what happens? The door opens and the alien is standing right there in front of me which I completely never expected.
Another moment is when I was in the vents with a flamethrower in hand – exactly like Dallas in Alien. I could hear the Alien moving about in the room above me. I was thinking I would be safe in the underfloor vents – then I heard the vents moving and a few seconds later the alien was crawling straight towards me in the vents. Moments like that are just priceless. No matter where you hide, the creature will find you. What’s great about the unpredictable AI is that everybody’s playthrough will be completely different. The design of the xenomorph is based on the creature we saw in Ridley Scott's Alien with the smooth dome. The legs are different and the tail seems to be incredibly long but it works and it moves gracefully along the corridors or in and out of vents. You’ll be constantly hiding in vents, lockers, relying on your retro-style motion tracker. I actually moaned about Aliens Colonial Marines not having the tracker on the HUD but in this game, it actually works not having it on there. Even if you don’t have it in hand, if there’s something moving, you’ll hear a beep which means you should look at it.
Let me talk about the story. We start out on the Torrens spacecraft which brings us to the station. Most of the game takes place on Sevestopol station and there’s plenty of fan service here. Everything is based on what we’ve seen in Ridley Scott’s Alien. Exactly the same, down to the last detail. The computer terminals and mini games are very retro and match the style of the game. In a lot of ways, it is a very linear experience. There’s always only one specific way to go but generally, there are a lot of rooms to explore along the way with lots of intel to collect. Like I said, it’s pretty much following objective after objective. You will need to use your map a lot but the problem is that a lot of the areas tend to have multiple levels and the objective on the map never indicates what floor you’re supposed to be on. Expect to get lost some times trying to find where you’re supposed to go.
The story is unfortunately pretty weak. You do meet other humans along your journey that either help you or try to kill you, and there frequently seems to be somebody talking to you over the radio so you never feel completely alone. But the narrative is all pretty textbook stuff. Not really many fancy cutscenes. There are two standout moments for me. Major spoilers below:
You do get to explore LV-426 and the Derelict spacecraft (as a different character) which I never expected. It was awesome seeing the Space Jockey again. Midway through the game, you do get rid of the xenomorph that was hounding you but the pacing of the game completely changes. As you know there are no more aliens, the suspense factor completely disappears and all you have to face is androids for ages. The game then borrows a lot from James Cameron’s Aliens and you wind up in an Alien Hive with multiple xenomorphs, eggs and facehuggers. Another positive goes to the sounds in the hive. As you move through the hive, you can actually hear the Aliens howling – it’s phenomenal stuff… puts you completely on the edge. It’s never actually said where the eggs came from – there was no Queen which disappointed me. Though I never expected to see multiple aliens or facehuggers so that was a bonus for me. I sorta thought the hive section would be the end of the game but alas not, the game just keeps going. You have to destroy the hive, then escape in an ambulance shuttle or something, then we have to contend with contacting the Torrens and getting back onto that ship. And the game’s ending? It’s left on a very sombre note with Amanda floating alone in space. Just seems a bit of a sad, sharp ending after the ordeal she’s been through.
In total, the campaign’s eighteen missions took me just over 14 hours to finish – that’s with a good amount of exploring and being killed dozens of times. I sorta wished they’d have trimmed down the last few hours of the game and maybe worked on the narrative a bit more.
Amanda Ripley is voiced by an actress called Andrea Deck who does a decent job. You’ll hear some dialogue from Sigourney Weaver and other actors from Alien via these Nostromo Logs you find. I only managed to find a couple. There are a lot of places I didn’t explore and you can’t really go back after you’ve finished the game to find the rest of the logs. (Unless you go via mission select). It would have been nice if you could explore the ship without being pursued constantly. Trust me, when you encounter the xenomorph, your only worry is getting out of there and reaching the next save point. I also haven’t played the DLC missions yet – still not sure where to find them so I’ll post further impressions when I play them.
Now, for the difficulty rant. This is an incredibly hard game. I was killed more times in this game than anything else I’ve ever played. First of all, there’s no checkpoint system and you have to search for manual save points which are scattered all over the station. In the xenomorph segments, you can literally spend a good 30-45 minutes just trying to get from one area to the next and when you are killed over and over again, it f**king grinds on you. It does feel like no matter what you do, it ends in the same result and the whole thing becomes less scary each time you do it. To be fair, when you reload you will play at a lot quicker pace than before so you don’t really lose that much time. The deaths are extremely cheap though and until you get the flamethrower after around 5 hours you can’t defend yourself against the xenomorph. When it finds you, it’s an instant kill and you’ll have to reload your save again. I’m in two minds of about the manual save points. On the one hand, they do add a lot to the tension and it is a relief when you actually find one but at the same time, you’ll be tearing your hair out when you’re killed a few feet away from the next one.
You’ve also got annoying androids that seem to attack you on sight which you can kill with the shotgun or pistol but you really don’t have a lot of ammo. You can run past them if you’re quick enough – just don’t let them come near you. It’s not an instant kill but you need to just keep your distance. Again, you will suffer cheap deaths at the hands of the androids. In the later stages of the game, you’ll come across these even tougher androids that you’ll have to kill. The Bolt gun is crucial here which took me ages to figure out how to even use it.
There’s a retro-style crafting system in place where you can create various weapons and you can also find blueprints to upgrade certain things. Smokebombs, flashbangs and Molotovs are useful for getting you out of jam with humans but it’s fairly easy to sneak by them and leave them to it. You will have to use noisemakers to distract the xenomorph to clear a path. EMP, guns and the Stun Baton is useful for androids. You will be constantly scouting for supplies. I did as much exploring as possible on my playthrough and never really ran out of stuff to use. Though towards the end of the game, the flamethrower is absolutely crucial and you’ll definitely run out of ammo for it.
There are some technical issues on the PS3 version. The framerate drops a lot… even during the cutscenes. If there is a lot happening on screen – especially if something’s on fire, the game will slow to a crawl. There are also some graphical glitches and some textures not loading correctly. While the environment graphics are really nicely done, the facial graphics are pretty poor and lack a lot of detail. I don’t really want to fail the game on the technical issues as these things may not be an issue on the PS4 or PC versions. The graphics are definitely better than Colonial Marines though.
So where do I stand with the game? There were a lot of times I wanted to give this game 9/10 – Creative Assembly did what I thought was impossible. They made the xenomorph truly terrifying and not just cannon-fodder like in previous titles. The fan service, atmosphere, music, sound is absolutely top notch. But the high difficulty and cheap kills will destroy you and the campaign does drag on for too long. Saying that, it may be the best game to come out of the franchises. There is so much that Creative Assembly nailed perfectly. I highly recommend any Alien fan to pick this up. My advice is not to rush through it – thoroughly take your time.Positives
+The scariest game I’ve ever played.
+The xenomorph is truly frightening.
+Completely random alien behaviour.
+Incredible creepy atmosphere.
+Amazing music and sound effects.
+Plenty of fan service.
+Graphics/gameplay perfectly match Ridley Scott’s Alien.Negatives
-High difficulty with cheap kills.
-Story could be better and does drag on for too long.
-Map objectives could be better displayed.
-Framerate issues on PS3.Final Score