Confession time: I’m not very good at handling scary games. The only time I ever saw the end of EA’s Dead Space franchise was by cowering behind my brother while he played through the series while I tried to control my heart rate. Under any normal circumstance, I wouldn’t dive into such a frightening sounding game, especially one featuring the dreaded but beloved xenomorphs from Aliens, but with Alien: Isolation’s interesting cat-and-mouse premise, I was excited to find out what really hid in the shadows.
The answer: nerves, sweaty palms, loss of breath and more tension than in the back of Nicki Manaj’s pants.
Unlike most other video game adaptations of the Alien franchise, Alien: Isolation features a single Alien throughout the title’s duration that cannot be killed, requiring the player to use stealth tactics in order to survive. It’s a concept that flips the whole action-horror-shooter framework that many developers have tried with the source material, and instead turns it into a strategic, yet terribly-frightening, experience.
Right off the bat, it’s easy to point out that Alien: Isolation looks incredible. The new technology of the next-gen systems really takes the atmospheric elements to a new level. Fog pours of out of vents, doors and the lighting effects cast shadows that you’ll be flinching from throughout the game.
The ship is reminiscent of the actual location from the original films, featuring the old CRT monitors, big swirling fans and emergency lights situated throughout the spacecraft. Everything just seems to fit in Alien: Isolation, and nothing seems out of place – leaving the experience feeling more like an extension of the universe, rather than an adaptation.
As for the gameplay, the Alien AI really does live up to the hype. It’s unpredictable, frightening and often pretty confusing, which is what you’d expect from a blood-thirsty xenomorph.
There are times when its actions and moves are a bit awkward, but for the most part, when it slinks into a vent or stomps along the hallways, it all looks pretty authentic.
While weapons are available in the game, your best chance of survival is to move slowly and strategically and to stay quiet. And when a potential threat is in the area, you’re rarely far from a place to hide: a locker, a cupboard, under a desk, in an air vent.You wait until whatever’s walking around moves on and then you do likewise.
It sounds simple enough, but when the alien comes into play, things can get pretty tricky. 99 percent of the creature’s behaviour isn’t scripted, you see – it’s driven instead by an advanced A.I. system that responds to sound, movement and changes in light. It actually hunts you, and when it’s nearby you never, ever feel safe.
Turns out aliens have really good hearing. Make a noise above a whisper and, if it’s lurking nearby, it’ll come and investigate. And if it spots you, you’re almost certainly done for. Weapons are largely ineffective (later on you can make it run away by blasting it with a flamethrower, but it’ll be back soon and it’ll be angrier than before) and your chances of outrunning it over open ground are zero.
Overall, Alien: Isolation does a really good job to recreate the tension and horror aspects of the Alien franchise, which is something that has often been sidelined in exchange for action. The interesting premise, incredible visuals and unique AI features make the game a must-play for horror fans looking for something different.