I have been dying for a good Alien/Aliens game. All the hype around Aliens: Colonial Marines almost got me to get it but after piss-poor reception at launch, I realized I had dodged a bullet; a Xenomorph-shaped turd bullet. I once again was weary of getting Isolation but the trailers and gameplay footage all looked so good. The same could be said of Colonial Marines though. Was it the game all Alien fans must have in their life; to have and to hold? Or should we kill this sucker dead?
Call me shallow but Alien: Isolation looks and sounds incredible. All the esthetics of the original 1979 film have been perfectly recreated in the game. From the curved padding on walls to the ticks on computers, The 70’s Lo-Fi style of science fiction is something we have not really seen done in games much. From the start-up screen, you are completely immersed in it and I never grew tired of it. The score also lends so much to the game as well. I found myself paranoid from the very start before there is even a truly horrifying thing happening based on just how perfect at setting the mood the orchestral score was.
Also the game is genuinely horrifying. Not in the bad sense either. Alien: Isolation has caused me much dread over the past few weeks from playing the game. I mostly tried to play at night with headphones on but even when I was playing in the middle of the day without headphones, I still would jump and find myself gasping for air after a particularly nerve-wracking incident. You are being hunted in every sense of the term. Not just by the eponymous Alien, but also by humans who have been left to survive far too long by any means necessary and the most creepy robots you’ll see in a long time. There were times when I found myself throwing my hand up to shield my own face while playing. This is survival horror at its purest.
The game really leaves you to your own devices. You can get pretty turned around and lost, missing items along the way it seems, but this isn’t all that bad though. Until you get the amazing motion tracker, you’ll be pretty much turned around on where your objectives are and even then every now and again, you’ll be scratching your head at what to do in a room that is marked to be where your objective is. This helps bring on some of the panic though. You are lost on an unfamiliar space station. The panic is real when you’re sussing around a room, hoping you’ll come across what you need to do before something else comes across you. It can definitely throw a wrench at some players, I can imagine, but one thing it isn’t is unfair. It’s all on you to survive and the game will give you some gizmos but you need to do the rest to survive.
The story is decent too. It’s not brilliant or life changing but the situations and events of the game are spot on with the history of the franchise. It hits all the highs and lows that the films do but in an incredibly personal way. You play as Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s previously only mentioned daughter, as you set upon the space station Sevastapol to reclaim the black box of the Nostromo and then there is a — surprise — alien on board. It’s simple but survival horror plots are usually just “survive and escape”.
Upon all the amazing stylized menus and wonderful graphics, the actual optimizations of the game are terrible. The frame rate dropped numerous times during play randomly. This also happened during a few cutscenes too. The Creative Assembly has a bit of an infamous history with releasing games with some glaring issues at launch. Three good scares were ruined for me too because of this. The game is loaded with terrifying moments thankfully but this was frustrating because everything else hits all the right marks.