It’s 2014. Alien fans have had a rocky time on both the film and game front for a number of years. Since the questionable Alien: Resurrection nearly 20 years earlier, there had been no pure Alien film, instead a couple of dodgy “Vs” films and the much less disappointing Prometheus. Things were even worse on the game front, with numerous Alien games falling short of the mark, the last decent one, oddly enough, being Aliens Vs Predator, released way back in 1999.
In the run up to the release of Alien: Isolation, excitement was reaching a fever pitch as details were revealed. The game was confirmed to be part of official Alien canon, set 15 years after the original film. You play as Amanda Ripley who is looking for her missing mother, Ellen. Instead of the game being another generic shooter, it was shaping up nicely as a stealth/survival horror take which echoed the original film.
It is this element of the game that was so strong, and so well realised; it mostly covered up its shortcomings, of which admittedly there were few. Instead of worrying about characters and objectives, you end up focused on avoiding the alien and staying alive. It’s tough, unforgiving and bloody terrifying. I remember playing it for the first time with a couple of friends, and after a few hours of passing the controller around, our nerves were shot. This is partly thanks to the random nature of when and where the alien appears, meaning you can’t simply learn how to avoid it.
The alien will hunt you using its sight and impressive hearing. If it gets too close, even the sound of your motion tracker will attract it. The alien will appear at random, in ways such as dropping from a vent directly in front of you. Instinct will tell you to run, but running alone won’t save you. The alien is fast, and clever, so you’ll need to hide until it’s convinced you’re gone. It’s these moments where you’re waiting, and hoping, for the alien to give up the hunt, that are the game’s most intense.
If things weren’t scary enough, apart from coming face to face with the alien, your only way of detecting it lies with an extremely simple motion tracker. Unfortunately this just gives you a general idea of where the alien is, but won’t pinpoint it’s exact location. Just like in the film, you’ll see the little red dot roam around seeking you out, meaning you’ll have to hide in lockers and under tables to avoid a gruesome death.
It’s not just the alien that’ll you’ll have to fight off, as murderous androids are also lurking within the deserted space station and can provide the scares just as effectively. There isn’t the biggest roster of enemies on offer, however the few that are in place match the survival horror theme perfectly.
In order to save, you’ll need to reach a terminal. The problem tends to be you’ll be interrupted before you get the chance to. And it’s important to make sure the coast is clear. If you try and leg it to a terminal with the alien hot on your heels, the chances are you’ll be long dead before you have the chance to save your progress.
Alien: Isolation captured the mood of the original film perfectly. It looks and sounds threatening, creating a sense of impending danger at every turn. The use of sound effects for jump scares, combined with the alien’s impressive AI allows for a true survival horror feel. Not only this, but you’re ill equipped to deal with it head on so sneaking and scavenging is your only way to win.
Despite not being a huge commercial success, Alien: Isolation reviewed favourably overall. Currently, only rumours indicate that a sequel is coming, so in the meantime, for a truly authentic alien thrill, this is the place to get it. Mirroring the original 1979 film, which is arguably still the best, Alien: Isolation still remains one of the best gaming experiences the franchise has to offer.
You can buy Alien Isolation right now on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and PC.