Very few franchises have had as many installments as Aliens. From the original 80’s era installments on the Atari to the fast paced action shooters, the Aliens franchise has been through almost every genre of gameplay you could imagine. And yet, something always felt amiss with the series. Some were entertaining, most were not and as a whole there hadn’t been a game that really captured the essence of Aliens.

Alien: Isolation is another installment that tries to capture that essence, but this time with a different approach. The Creative Assembly, the studio behind the game, had been very vocal about their goal for the game.

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This is the essence I’m talking about

In the end they set out to not only ignore the typical sci-fi action romps that most studios had gone with and instead rebuild the series from the ground up a a survival horror game. What comes out of it feels like the Alien game we should have gotten all along. The Creative Assembly manages to recreate the tension and suspense felt with the first movies, and drives it through a strong narrative that will leave players shaking at the unknown.

Alien: Isolation ties itself to the original mythos by putting players in control of Amanda Ripley, an engineer for Wayland-Yuanti. If the name sounds familiar it’s because she also happens to be the daughter of one Ellen Ripley, the titular heroine of the original movies who has since gone missing.

Wayland-Yuanti gives Amanda the chance to find out what happened to her mother, which sets off the events in the game. Amanda is tasked with joining a team to retrieve the flight recorder of the Nostromo, which has been salvaged and is currently being held at the Sevastopol Station. Of course in true survival horror fashion, things go disastrously bad.

While using references to the original cast and events from the movie could have easily been overdone and used as a crutch, Alien: Isolation pulls it off amazingly. It uses the history as a simple backdrop to breathe a bit of familiarity into the universe, while driving its own story forward with a very strong narrative.

The game steers away from the action and loud bravado of previous Alien attempts and instead goes for a silent terror. There are times when Amanda will be simply walking through corridors alone as the players tensely away an ambush that never comes. Other times she’ll find herself overpowered by enemies with no other option than to run and hide.

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I don’t think they died of natural causes

But that doesn’t mean Amanda is just another damsel in distress, far from it. Amanda Ripley lives up to her namesake and can kick the right amount of ass when she needs to. But thanks to The Creative Assembly’s approach, players will have to think very carefully of when those moments should be. Instead, players can opt to use make shift traps or create other distractions in order to outsmart their enemies. And when things get hairy, there’s always the flamethrower to buy you some time.

One of the best things Alien: Isolation does is allow players to create their own fear. The game forgoes the loud noises and over the top action typical in the sci-fi genre in exchange for steady pacing. The game’s atmosphere can be terrifying at times, with nothing but the low buzzing of faulty wiring and the player’s own breathing.

As you stand alone in the center of a dimly lit hallway with nothing but the sound of your motion detector slowly alerting you to something getting closer and closer, you’ll remember that in space nobody can hear you scream.

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These locations provide more fear than any monster ever could

While as a whole the game does an excellent job of providing a chilling experience, the enemy AI can at times break the immersion.

Enemies are limited in Alien: Isolation, with the focus being on surviving the Xenomorph that quietly stalks you. But as the players make their way through Sevastopol, they may encounter other survivor and rogue synthetics that will attack anyone on sight.

For these scenarios the game provides a few armaments Ripley can use, but players will want to think twice before unloading the deafening sounds of gunfire and breaking the eerie silence and risk being found.

And that’s where the problems can come in. As great as the atmosphere can be, at times the player is left with little choice but to engage in fights because of what appears to be broken line of sight. Hiding behind a corner will have players thinking they’ve avoided detection only to be charged by enemies that just moments ago had their backs turned. While these moments are thankfully rare, they are jarring enough to cause some frustration.

Another issue I found was the implementation of the manual save system. While in theory it can be used effectively to add a sense of urgency, it did not seem as well thought out as it should have been. I’m reminded me of games like Resident Evil, where players had to carry around ink ribbons in order to manually save at typewriters. It added a sense of burden for players when they had to decide if they were better off dropping that extra pack of ammo in the exchange for being able to save the game.

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Treat them well because they WILL leave you

Alien: Isolation attempts to build that same tension with its manual save function, but at times it does more harm than good. Players need to scurry around the levels to find registration terminals that will act as save points. Unfortunately some of the terminals can be easily missed because of how they blend in with the game’s environments. Further adding to the frustration, the terminals themselves seem to be randomly spread about without regard to the areas in the game. this can lead to segments where players will be replaying the same 15-20 minute segments multiple times if they’re unfortunate enough to die.

One final issue the game has is the quality of cutscenes. While the actual in game footage looks phenomenal at full 1080p, the cutscenes leave a lot to be desired. The game suffers from what appears to be exceedingly low framerates during these scenes, making the animations seem staggered and jumpy.

Despite some obvious hiccups, Alien: Isolation manages to deliver an enjoyable experience that brings back the original tension felt throughout the movies.

Amanda, your mother would be proud.

 

[Gamer Assault Weekly’s review copy of Alien: Isolation was provided by SEGA.]
Alien: Isolation Review
While some technical bugs weigh it down, the game still manages to create a great experience and a truly tense atmosphere. This is a great start towards putting the Aliens franchise in the right direction.
The Good
  • Great Atmosphere
  • Terrifying Enemy
  • Intuitive gameplay
The Bad
  • Inconsistent AI
  • Poor Quality Cutscenes
8.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (3 Votes)
8.4

About The Author

Enrique C
Editor-in-Chief

There's no problem that can't be fixed with fire. Doesn't matter what game. If that doesn't work, use more.