Alien Isolation game review : Scary gameplay, Cool VHS like interfaces, True to the original movie
The first Alien movie, which came out in 1979, filled audiences with wonder and terror, mostly terror. With it's tagline "In space no one can hear you scream," it set the stage for director Ridley Scott's fantastic set pieces and characters that sent ripples through time, even today. While there have been really good Alien games, the last one — Colonial Marines — left a very bad taste in the mouth. Now, the franchise has gone back to basics and back to its roots for Alien: Isolation.
Remember Ellen Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver in the original Alien movie? Well, now you play Isolation as her daughter Amanda. It's been roughly 15 years after the events aboard the ill-fated Nostromo, Amanda is approached by a Weyland-Yutani synthetic with information about the Nostromo's data recorder, and possibly info about her mother. So she embarks on a quest to find out what happened.
Naturally, something goes wrong and Amanda finds herself alone on a massive orbiting space station — with an alien on board.
The game plays out very much like System Shock or the most recent BioShock series of games, though System Shock will be the closer relative, considering both are in space. As you move around the desolate space station, you'll see the messages scrawled in blood, the little stories in certain places telling the brutal fates of the people who lived there.
Alien: Isolation tells a very straightforward story that may seem a bit too long at times just to stretch out your nerves a bit more; however, it does not disappoint and does eventually get to the point.
Sure, in space no one can hear you scream, but in your living room, you will be screaming a lot. Alien: Isolation is extremely edge-of-the-seat scary. Not to mention, the scariest part is how close the movie is to Ridley Scott's original. Just looking at the simple retro futuristic interiors of the spaceship brings back memories and sweat. The game is, at heart, a survival horror. It's just you, against one of the meanest predators in the movie galaxy (apart from Predator itself). There are weapons you can use, but mostly against the synthetic Working Joes.
Alien: Isolation does something devilishly clever with its horror. Rather than just pre-programme set cut-scenes that give you the usual scares, the alien is programmed to hunt you down in real time. So all that the game has to do is send you on your various quests to fetch this, or put on this generator. The horror can strike at any time, you die, and there no guarantees the alien is going to be there again on your next play-through. Using sight, sound and smell, the alien tracks you, and you have to keep all your wits about in order to avoid it, as it's quicker than you, deadlier than you and before you know it, you will be looking down as the spike on it's tail appears through your chest.
To top it all, the Svestapol space station is massive, desolate and very eerie. Just a few minutes into the space station and you feel every shadow is itching to jump out and kill you. The atmosphere of Alien: Isolation is true to its name and gives you a sense of being truly alone in the most sinister of ways.
The absence of guns blazing, or perhaps Resident Evil like action may put off some. Even the survival horror is at its extreme and is a fitting test of nerves. However, after a few kills you do get used to the alien jumping you, and apart from the occasional starts, it's more of a tense experience, though an experience that not meant for everyone.
Graphics and sound
Alien: Isolation is a treat for those who are fans of the movie, especially the ship Torrens that looks a lot like Ellen Ripley's Nostromo, where you see the hibernation pods and the familiar fluorescent lighting in the more-than-familiar crew mess/rec room. The tape players strewn around as well as the presentation that lapses to the good old days of VHS with tracking bring back the memories of the movie. Even the menus and UI is simple, with minimal ASCII art.
Playing through Alien: Isolation is taking in a deep breath of nostalgia. It's shortlived though, as the terror creeps up constantly, with amazing sound engineering that's everything in a horror game.
Finally, the Alien franchise gets a game that it deserves, though it's not a game for everybody. However, if you love a solid jaunt into horror, straight out of one of the scariest movies till date, then look no further than Alien: Isolation.