Sega Corp.’s Alien: Isolation or Sony Corp.’s Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox One, Xbox 360, and the PC is a first-rate survival horror title that preserves the tension and terror of the first film in a consistent duel between the player and the formidable Alien.
Developed by Creative Assembly, Alien: Isolation is a first-person survival horror title that includes Amanda Ripley, daughter of franchise veteran Ellen Ripley.
The title takes place 15 years after the first Alien film with Amanda in a mission to uncover the truth about her mother’s disappearance.
Ripley is equipped with basic equipment to survive, including a motion tracker, flare, and a wrench, but can craft additional items including a Noise Maker, Pipe Bomb, Med Kit, and EMP Mine. Subsequent items include a Revolver, Bolt Gun, and the trademark Flamethrower.
Controls include solid movement and aim, in addition to well-mapped controls for instant access to the Motion Tracker and short cuts to quick-access weapons or items.
The Sevastapol space station is a maze of rooms and hallways that Ripley can explore to uncover details about the abandoned facility. Users can log into Seegson Terminals and view logs in order to read statements from the corporation and former employees to gather information. In addition, a number of codes and keycards must be found in order to proceed to the next area. Users can save at Emergency phone boxes that require a three-second wait to create some anxiety.
Aboard the station are other human survivors that can be friend or foe. If a user aims a weapon at other survivors, they can become hostile and kill the player. In addition, a few Seegson Synthetic robots called Working Joes that care for the facility, have become violent and can stalk the player until stopped. The Working Joes are inherently creepy with vacant faces and glowing eyes that are fascinatingly terrifying in their directive to either help or destroy.
The Alien AI invokes pure terror and tension as it stalks the player through sight, sound, and motion. It is alert, fast, and can kill instantly in most encounters.
Users must proceed with caution by hiding behind objects, crawling, hearing the Alien in nearby air ducts, and using the Motion Tracker to view the blip of the Alien nearby. Also, users can distract the Alien with Flares, fuse box rewires to activate alarms or air purification fog, or Noise Makers. The distractions can even cause the Alien to takeout nearby human threats to clear the room of any obstacles. While the Alien can’t be killed, it can be frightened by a burst of fire from a Molotov cocktail or the Flamethrower.
There are some scripts in the AI that keep the Alien tethered to the player in certain levels which can detract from the otherwise realistic nature of the beast. And while the space station includes plenty of lockers to hide in, the action instantly prompts the AI to sniff out the area to make it a poor option throughout the game.
The graphics engine is impeccable at 30 frames-per-second on console and 60 frames-per-second on the PC. Creative Assembly has reconstructed the low-fi sci-fi blueprint from the original film with bit-mapped monitors, CRT green screens, and cassette audio tapes to log passenger entries. Sevastopol is an homage to the original Nostromo space station, from the 70’s inspired beige furniture and to dark, vent-lit hallways that flicker on as the player enters.
Cutscenes seem to stagger in all versions of the game and character model animation can be stiff. Most times characters don’t mouth any of the audio dialogue.
Audio is outstanding with orchestral cues taken from the Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack, in addition to first-class sound effects, from the simple blip of the Motion Tracker to the Alien rustling through the air ducts or stomping in the halls to cue its proximity. In addition, new audio recordings from Sigourney Weaver and the original cast of Alien help to establish the title as an authentic extension of the franchise.
Alien: Isolation is the definitive video game version of the classic film. From the slow burn of tension to the viscous Alien, Creative Assembly has crafted a tension-filled work of art from start to finish. As a game of survival rather than offense, it stands alone much like the first film, and for that, one must admire its purity.