Alien: Isolation PS4 Review
Publisher: SEGA Developer: The Creative Assembly Genre: Horror Players: 1
Age Rating: 18+ Other console/handheld formats: PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One
If an enemy is dangerous enough, it can be even more intimidating than 10 of one enemy. We saw it with Resident Evil 3, in which the tall, monstrous, powerful and intimidating Nemesis creature was an enemy to be feared every time he showed his ugly face. Alien: Isolation also eventually introduces an enemy that is very dangerous, and you’ll soon realise that it’s best to keep your distance.
In terms of time frame, Alien: Isolation is set 15 years after the events of Alien; the 1979 film which started the franchise. The story is centred on Amanda Ripley, who is the daughter of Ellen Ripley, and she’s looking for closure in regard to the whereabouts of her missing mother. Offered a chance to find out more, Ripley is soon being stalked by one of the iconic alien Xenomorph’s from the franchise, and quickly learns that it is going to be a real fight for survival.
The bulk of the game takes place on the Sevastopol Station, which is so well designed that I felt it gave me a real sense of place. A nice touch is that, even though this is the year 2137, we get the use of monochrome computer monitors, as the game takes much of its inspiration from the 1979 film. The atmosphere has also been executed to a wonderful degree, and many are sure to find it unnerving, which means that developer The Creative Assembly have hit their target when it comes to creeping people out with its mixture of dark visuals and chilling sound effects.
The developer also attempts to build the fear by keeping the alien Xenomorph under wraps for some time before they release it into the game world. This is effective in the way that you don’t exactly know when it’s going to be sprung on you. When the Xenomorph does make an appearance, you’ll learn a few things, which includes that staying out of sight is the best way to go, dealing with this alien creature head on is certain death, and its behaviour is also far from predictable. You’ll also realise that the Motion Detector that you receive in the game will prove to be more helpful to you than any living and breathing ally.
The Xenomorph looks just as intimidating as it should and is by far the best thing about the decent but dated visuals. The excellent animations as it searches for its prey, makes the Xenomorph even creepier. This alien creature drops out of vents, can see you from quite a distance, and will stop at nothing to make sure you are dead if it sees you or hears you. It certainly sent chills down my spine when I knew that the alien was lurking around somewhere through the use of the motion detector, and I felt a mixture of fear and satisfaction in times that it walked right past me, knowing that I was lucky to still be alive.
Other than hiding from the alien when it makes its presence known, there’s little that you can actually do to avoid becoming another one of its victims. Molotovs and the flamethrower will scare it away for a time, but however much ammo you let off in to it from other guns, it will never let up, and it’s impossible to even incapacitate it. As I said, it’s best to stay out of sight; hiding in lockers, under desks and just making sure that you keep out of its vision.
The unpredictable AI of the Xenomorph means that there are certain areas of the game in which the alien can appear at any time, and its behaviour when it shows itself is also far from scripted, making it volatile. Some might even class the alien as unfair, as you never know what exactly it’s going to do, or what direction it’s going to go hunting in, and sometimes it even appears out of the blue so fast, that it gives you what feels like only half a second to react to it. But this randomness makes the creature all the more scary, and I can only advise you to save regularly, and to even backtrack in order to save if you are really wanting to make some progress.
While running about and firing guns can attract the alien and is therefore discouraged, it also appears when you are being as quiet as a mouse. Then again, what would an Alien game be if you never got to encounter at least one Xenomorph? Not much of an Alien game at all. Still, some may grow weary with the amount of times that the Xenomorph can potentially appear throughout the game, and will be glad of the stretches of the campaign that give you a break from it.
The Xenomorph isn’t the only enemy that you have to face on the Sevastopol Station. You’ll also be taking on androids with glowing eyes, as well as human enemies, who are flesh and blood just like yourself. In a nice touch, the alien will kill any person on sight, which means that things feel all the more natural, and you never feel as if you have been singled out by it, just because you happen to be in the virtual shoes of the heroine of the game. As for the androids, these are also pretty tough enemies, although, unlike the Xenomorph, they can actually be defeated, which is made all the easier when you have the right equipment. Of course, like the majority of the other enemies, they can be avoided as well.
When it comes to the equipment and weapons you’ll receive throughout the game, there’s everything from a revolver, a shotgun, a bolt gun, a flamethrower, and smoke and flash grenades, as well as molotovs. There’s also a crafting system, in which you can gather materials on your travels on the station, and then put them together to create new items such as medikits and grenades.
The campaign can last around 15-20 hours, which means that the game is lengthy. The problem is that some of the events in the campaign will lead some to believe that the game is coming to an end, but yet it continues on for hours after some of those events. There’s a few of these false ending moments, and it ends up making the campaign feel as if it would have been better if two or three hours had been cut from it.
Other than the campaign, Alien: Isolation also includes a brilliant survival mode, which suffers from lack of options on the disc. This mode basically has you trying your best to outwit the alien, and getting to the end of the level as quickly as possible. There’s online leaderboards too, which means the mode is competitive in more ways than one. Sadly, the mode only includes one map on the disc, with downloadable maps offered at extra cost.
Alien: Isolation is what I would consider to be a flawed gem of a game. For survival horror, this is a game that gets so many things right, although you’ll either love or hate the brutal and unpredictable nature of the alien Xenomorph. As for the campaign, it’s a shame that it outstays its welcome with the amount of false endings that it throws at you, but it certainly offers plenty of memorable and chilling moments. While it has its imperfections, it’s certainly a game that was given a lot of love and attention during its development, and is therefore up there with the likes of the Batman Arkham games as one of the best uses of a famous licence.