21 November 2014

Alien: Isolation (PC) review

Alien: Isolation may be one of the best survival horror games that I have ever played! 
I finished the game not long ago and the impression remains, it's a solid game with few flaws imo. Oddly enough the critics keep underrating this game while the community gives the game the rating it well deserves.

The story is that you are Amanda Ripley, daughter to Ellen Ripley from the Alien movies. The action takes places in between Alien and Aliens, the company has found a transponder from the Nostromo and is researching the data aboard a far away and soon to be decommissioned space station called "Sevastapol station". 

As you may imagine things go wrong immediately, as your ship arrives at the station it is already falling apart. Not being able to communicate with it part of your crew attempt to board it by making a space walk, you get separated and after finding an airlock enter a dark and eerily silent reception. Soon enough traces of trouble appear, walls painted with insane writing, body bags lining walls, flickering lights and life support systems malfunctioning - and groups of survivors fighting each other and scavenging supplies throughout the station.  On top of that you have the station AI controlling artificial workers "Working Joe's" that have started killing humans due to some kind of flaw in the programming and everyone is talking about the monster that stalks the station killing off the remaining crew one by one.

All in all the main protagonist could not have arrived at a worse place and at a worse time. The great thing about the game is that it is a survival horror that sticks to being about surviving and not shooting up the opposition. Amanda Ripley is an engineer and begins the game with no combat gear, she can collect various pieces of scrap metal and components to craft decoy grenades that emit sound, pipe bombs and stimpacks and even when she starts to come across weapons the ammo is very scarce and using anything that creates noise is soon deemed extremely risky due to the constant threat from the romping Alien. 

The Alien in Alien: Isolation cannot be killed with regular weapons which makes it a lot more frightening, it is also unscripted in where it appears and how it hunts in each area that you visit. It is attracted to noise, so running, fighting, shooting or setting of an alarm signal will attract it - and it will be on top of your location within seconds. Being able to hide from enemies becomes your biggest concern, and you will do well to scout hiding spots as you explore the station as you never know when human, artificial or Alien enemies show up. You will need to use decoys, to throw off your enemies and sometimes you can turn two groups on each other to slip by unnoticed. The latter often includes provoking the arrival of the Alien that goes on a killing spree.

Alien: Isolation does a fantastic job to create a great atmosphere and a feeling of fear of your enemies which is rare these days. Countless times did I button mash my keyboard in panic to escape death or almost pass out from holding my breath as I was sneaking about enemies looking for me. The Alien showing up and hunting for you adds to the constant tension that does not let go until you finish the game. You are offered a multitude of memorable locations and events throughout the game, including a flashback revolving around the alien spaceship found in the movie Alien, an incredibly frantic life & death situation where you are locked up with the Alien in a small area and exploring an Alien hive. Alien: Isolation is a very long game considering its genre, and you can spend well over 25 hours of gametime before finishing it. Most of the time you will spend in sneaking about, but the game does offer certain areas where gunplay is encouraged to let you play with the guns you may have collected up to that point.

If there are any flaws in the game it may be the story itself which may seem a bit drawn out and not that interesting when you think about it. Another thing that could be better is the save function in the game, you can't save freely but have to use save stations scattered across the maps. This adds to the tension of not being able to save/load as soon as you encounter danger but the save system also makes for easy mistakes when saving/loading a previous save. Several times I managed to overwrite my progress by accidently loading an earlier save (there are only a few slots) which meant that I had to replay a few of the maps twice...

However, the gameplay, the enemies, areas that you explore and the sensation of dread makes Alien: Isolation one of the best games released this year and one of the best survival horror games that I have ever played. Add to that the "retro" style interface/computer interaction in the game and other details that can be directly traced to the original Alien movie and you have a very well made game with fantastic attention to detail being true to its inspirational source.

I give Alien: Isolation 8,5/10

6 comments:

  1. Great stuff, must admit, I've seem mixed reviews, but always assumed it was, in fact, a very good game; you have confirmed this - nice one ;)

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  2. Sounds *amazing* but how do you ever survive? I had enough trouble staying alive in the System Shock games...

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    1. Key to survival is to sneak around each area, staying as quiet as possible and listen for sounds that indicate enemies being nearby. The disturbing thing is that the Alien is crawling around in the air ducts and makes a lot of noise as it moves over your head, using the movement sensor is also risky as the sound it makes attracts enemies that are nearby. The Alien in particular can hear it clearly when used - so you only snap it out for a couple of seconds at a time if you have to :-D

      I finished the game on the hardest difficulty, which is recommended by the developer to get the "proper experience" and it was a thrilling experience.

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    2. could you review "this war of mine" game? I would like to read such article.

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    3. Thanks for the tip, that game sounds really damn interesting! Will check it out ASAP :-)

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