Alien: Isolation (2014)

Alien: Isolation (2014)

I could only snap my fingers in satisfaction after I finished the game. No comment was necessary I know this was a great game. Of course it's not without it's flaws, but the guys at Creative Assembly made a game that not only is worthy of the Alien movies, but goes one step beyond, because it's even better. If not for the fear I'd have probably finished the game in a few days. And not because the game is so short. But because this game can keep you up at night if you play too much. And this is not a game full of cheap scripted jump scares, you're in constant fear all the time, because of how unpredictable the alien is. There are a few scripted events, but only one of them was obvious.

There were a ton of negative commentary about the game, included amongst the detractors infamously the developer of vanishing of ethan carter, who outright called the people liking this game stupid on his blog, then edited his post to make the commenters look a-holes, when there was nothing offensive anymore in it. But enough of that. I added the guy to my list of deplorable developers right up near Cliffy Bleszinski. So I won't accidentally buy any of his future products.

Apart from him the people badmouthing the game were those who wanted compansation for the shit that was Colonial Marines, and went into the game looking for an action flick. Well this is not that. And trying to play the game as such will give you nothing but frustration. This game is based on the oriiginal Alien movie. The Xenomorph here is not the cannon fodder they later made it into in the franchise. It's an opponent you must understand and respect as the perfect predator, that you have to outsmart and avoid. The best metric to see if you have the right approach to the game is to see how quickly you reach the point where you first encounter the alien in it. If you got to that place in less than 1-2 hours, you're doing it wrong. Either quit now, or prepare to seriously change your attitude. You can't run around here flashlight flashing in the open like some Rambo, you have to take measured steps, assess the risk vs. reward of your every move. And only do something if you're damn sure you covered all your blinspots and have an exit strategy. One wrong turn or one careless move and you can find yourself staring down the xeno, from a few meters. And this in the early parts of the game is hundred percent death.

The first mission where you're pitted against the alien, is a kind of an initaiation. If you can beat that, then you'll be fine for the rest of the game. This is a true test, because it's probably the hardest mission in the game. I bet this is the part where tons of rage quits and bitter reviews were created. This is a map with small corridors and no "safe spaces". Even I had a hard time beating this part, regardless of taking my sweet time getting here (took me about 3 hours) I stopped like a tree stump at every noise, and only tiptoed forward. But despite that it took me dozens of times to finally beat the alien at his own game. You must shed your instincts that you picked up from toying with the stupid AI in other games. It won't work in this one. You can't just wait in your hidy-hole for the danger to pass. It never will. In fact the longer you stay in one place the more likely you'll get caught. There is no other way but to get a handle on your fear, and be on your way as soon as the alien is far enough, but before it starts backtracking. You can buy yourself time with distractions, like noisemakers, smokebombs, but in many cases even a simple flare thrown at the right place at the right time can be enough to distract the alien long enough for you to pass open areas with no cover.

Of course the AI isn't flawless in this game either. Just a lot better than what you used to. And you always seem to be in the same place as the alien. Which can be perceived as cheating from the game, so it can get frustrating.

The most brilliant part of the game is that the alien's behaviour changes trough the game towards you. First it takes you as simple prey, then it becomes more cautious with you after you made it bleed a few times. It could even retreat in certain situations at the mere sight of you. But if you try to use the same trick on it one too many times it will be less and less effective. First it can be sent scampering with one burst of flame from the flamethrower, then you'll need to use progressively more fuel to make it retreat, and sometimes it won't even retreat that far. So stealth must be your first tactic.
So contrary to some people saying "the game is over once you get the flamethrower" it's no less frightening and tense even then. Unless you play in chicken mode. When you're fumbling with an electric panel and you hear the alien's screech, that signals you're fucked, then the game is over but not for the reasons they're saying it is over.

But apart from aliens and facehuggers there are other dangers on the station as well. Like the discount androids that for some some reason start to act wonky. They're slow and they're not as deadly as the alien, but they're creepy as hell. And in numbers they can force you into a corner which is bad for ya. And then there are other human survivors. There are peaceful ones who won't mind you. There are those who won't hurt you if you stay clear of them, and then there are those who'll attack you on sight. They can be used as alien fodder. They provide the distraction you need to slip past the alien. Or if not, they're pretty easy to dispose.

If you know System Shock II then I don't have to tell you much about the gameplay. There are breakable locks, security cameras, voice reocrdings, and hacking. The missions are usually about getting somewhere to do something then get back to a safer part of the station. It sounds dull this way, but the circumstances are so varied that it never gets boring. As you acquire more and more tools you can open up areas of the station previously inaccessible. Your first tool is the wrench, which apart from doubling as a weapon can be used to manually open doors that were sealed with a magnetic locking mechanism. And it can also be used to flip industrial switches. Then you get your hacking tool, to crack electronic locks or computers. The hacking minigame is hands down the best I saw in any game ever. It doesn't break immersion at all, it's integrated seamlessly. And finally you get access to the blowtorch that you can use to cut open emergency hatches. Or to access the manual overrides for doors. And there are various fuse/routing boxes trough the levels that you can use to manipulate lights, and air filtration systems, alarms and sometimes to route power to doors.

Of course on alien game would be complete without the ability to use vents. But those are probably the least safe places on the station as the alien uses them as well. So if you think you can camp there and the alien won't find you think again. And especially avoid overhead openings in the ventilation systems especially if there is movement coming from there. And if you see drooling, well that speaks for itself.

The game is not short. Some even said it's too long. But a game can only be too long if you're not enjoying it. And I enjoyed it all the way. Depending on your speed 15-20 hours is the expectable. The difficulty determines how easily you're detected by enemies, how many equipment and crafting material you find. Yes there is crafting also. Lots of useful stuff, medkits, flares, bombs, and so on.

The graphics is flawless in my opinion. And it runs smoothly even in 4K. Some wiseguy on steam decided the game is not flashy enough so he made a hack that turns up reflectivity of the surfaces tenfold, and enhanches the edges of shadows, but these just spoil the intended look of the game, instead of improving anything.

The story is not too complicated I won't even go into detail: Surveive! That about sums it up. But the ending is a slap in the face, and very obvious set up for a sequel. (That might never even happen?)

The save system in the game is quite unique, some might not like it, it's not bad, it's tamper proof you can't use it to gain advantages in the game. You can't just run to the next checkpoint and be scott free, because you have to manually save at wall consoles, and you can't use them with 12 androids and an alien in tow. This gives some funny situations where there is the save point that you wanted for ages, but you can't stop because the enemies trailing you would catch up.

The controls are allright, but the UI could be better. Especially crafting, and the inventory. I died a few times because I couldn't select the right item fast enough. Bringing up the inventory doesn't pause the game, only the map does. The other issue is that if you want to use something it has to be in the dead center of your screen otherwise it won't work. This is not funny when you're running away from danger and want to get into a vent quickly but you have to fiddle with putting it centerscreen.

+/- shootout


+

  • Atmoshpere
  • Gameplay  
  • Soundtrack  
  • Graphics  
  • Long enough
  • Alien AI and its evolution
  • Scary as hell  


-

  • Sometimes the AI is just too unpredictable. Even if you use the right strategy you need a crapload of luck as well
  • Limited replayabilty
  • The last level of the game seems to have been rushed, even the save system turns classic checkpoint based here
  • Sequel bait ending
  • Lip-sync and facial animations.  


Score card:

Graphics/Realization: 9/10
Story/Atmosphere: 7/10
Gameplay/Controls: 10/10

Overall impression: 9/10

Not for the faint hearted, and certainly not for people looking for a shooter.