There can be no doubt that videogames are more mainstream then ever, a lot of the time a specific genre can be watered down to appeal to the masses. Alien Isolation does not fall into this category at all. Its one of the few games to pick a path and stick to it no matter what, giving Alien Isolation the potential to be one of the most divisive games released.
Set 15 years after the events of Alien you play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley, who is given the chance to find out what happened to her missing mother by retrieving the Nostromo fight recorder from Sevastopol Space Station. As the game opens its clear how much love and attention has been spent on recreating the atmosphere of such an iconic movie, almost obsessively so. every sound effect bump or bang can be both familiar and terrifying, but always faithful to the source. Walking down a dark corridor to hear the buzz of lights turn on, or to operate workstations complete with flicker and startup times will suck you into the experience. Even the games loading screens and opening logo are an homage to when films came out on betamax and VHS. Its a level of commitment rarely seen in games relating to a time when pausing a video-tape caused part of the screen to show static, which incidentally bringing up the map in Isolation also does. Its not all cosmetic touches though with files and audio logs providing background info referring to both Sevastopol and the Nostromo. You are free to dig deep on numerous workstations to unlock doors or get security codes. It impressive how a storyline has been crafted that ties in, but doesn't interfere with the main films cannon.
There is no hand holding in Alien Isolation. Collectables, items and even weapons can be easy to miss. People who are used to run and gun gameplay or rely on adaptive waypoints may find themselves disappointed and even frustrated at the pace of the game. Alien Isolation isn't a shooter and never pretends to be. But stick with it and it will give you more "jump at nothing" moments then any other game. This can be stopping in a corridor due to strange noises or just a feeling of constant dread due to your surroundings. This isn't helped by the eerily, emotionless "working Joe's" roaming the areas of Sevastopol. Supposedly these androids are here to help. But from the lines of dialogue said and the way they act, androids will not be your friends in this campaign, if you are perceived as a threat to any androids task you are deemed to be an enemy. You can take down an android and although its sometimes necessary its not always an easy task, along with enhanced strength and the ability to take bullets to the head, even setting fire to a "working Joe" it will not flinch and in the process mock your attempts to kill it. It's truly chilling and makes them almost as unsettling as your main foe in Isolation.
Soon after picking up the motion tracker (an ingenious gameplay mechanic) you are introduced to the games main enemy. Your Alien nemesis from here on in wanders the corridors looking for prey, be it you or some unlucky guy wasting ammo trying to take it on. The animation and sheer presence of the Alien is a feat in itself and not being able to tackle it head on or outrun it should it see you, means any noise or motion tracker blip puts you on edge. Your only options are to construct items and cause distractions. This can be done from adjusting camera feeds or security systems to collected parts strewn around the station to construct noisemakers, flashbangs, medikits and so on... should a distraction do the trick and get someone or something's attention its only then you can quietly move around desperately looking for the next locker or vent to hide in should things go wrong. It is worth noting their are weapons and ammo in the game, but they are in such short supply you rarely use them, apart from taking on humans in a firefight (which also attracts the Alien) traditional firearms are usually seen as a last resort. This is only made worse as the Alien for the most part is unscripted. Play a section once and die, go back and events wont turn out the same as the Alien may not be around. In other sections it may consistently hound you refusing to give up pursuing you as you try to escape. Even items found on bodies or in locations can be random as well meaning with each death, of which you will see many, you may have to change tactics
Alien Isolation is mostly mechanically sound, and at times genius. Hold your breath to long in a locker and you will see stars, hacking a door can get insanely tense. Maybe to get to the next save point while you know an Alien is just round the corner investigating a dropped flare. Its random moments like this that can make your heart race. And although some of the cutscenes can look a bit clunky every conceivable trick has been used to immerse you deeper into the station of Sevastopol. Small touches like being able to see your feet or having to do specific movements to open a door go a long way to suck you into the survival and stealth simulator. Because the pace of the game is so slow, when action set pieces do happen they have an impact rarely seen in videogames nowadays. Unfortunately the slow pace and survival nature may not suit a fair portion of gamers.
Alien Isolation certainly is harsher on the player then most games, but then again if it "clicks" for you it has the potential to be a fantastic experience. Its just a shame that along with a poor ending on a few occasions bugs and glitches can rear their heads, ranging from a locked vent which is actually open, to game breaking issues forcing a checkpoint reload. The story is very cleverly woven into the main cannon without infringing or interfering with any of the films plot and its absolutely accomplished in what it sets out to do. Credit should be given to it if only for that one reason. Problem is, being around a third too long, true survival horror isn't always that enjoyable. Its claustrophobic, tense and at times even stressful which certainly makes it faithful to the source material.... but that doesn't always mean enjoyable
+Tense & Chilling
- Very VERY Slow Paced
- Poor Ending