Alien Isolation  Review

Alien Isolation Review

A masterwork of atmosphere and environmental design, Alien: Isolation may be standing on the shoulders of giants, but it's also one of the few franchise games to do so that doesn't topple off disastrously. By allowing Sevastopol – an orbital backwater of failed commerce turned supersized game preserve – to tell the story (which is good, as the plotting and dialogue is often quite poor), CA has finally nailed the true horror of Alien in video game form. It's only taken 35 years.

As well as ad-hoc familial relationships and sexual violence and imagery, the films are about (inner)space. Scott spends a lot of time establishing the oppressive enormity of the Nostromo, and Aliens in particular is obsessed with it, all motion trackers and meter counters and marines shouting out proximities. In Isolation you can't fight, so you must take flight, and so the obsession with space – crossing it, navigating it, using it, is the same as in the film.

The rest of the game's mechanics dovetail expertly. It's non-linear, similar to Metroid, so you'll be revisiting old areas with new ways to access certain parts of the station. Along with Ron Cobb's famous designs and the changing nature of the environment, the structure gives the game a good sense of not just progression but also of mounting despair, as Sevastopol, its population, and your chances of survival seem to disintegrate.

An early concern was pacing, and while the game is long (over 12 hours at least) and your tasks fairly repetitive it's the Alien itself – and your relationship with it – which proves the key to keeping things fresh. An adept hunter with a keener sense of sound than sight, it's merciless and cunning. And yet once you've feared it, you'll naturally start to respect it, around about the same time you acquire the tools to stand against it. Not necessarily toe-to-toe, but after hours of being afraid – and you will be scared, if for the sheer physical power of it, towering in height and startlingly quick to intense violence – the Alien starts to (slightly) change its attitude towards you.

It's a sublime shift, and one that near-totally changes the dynamic of the game, enabling it to keep your attention throughout. There are issues: it has about 17 endings, the first Alien encounter is clumsy and irritating, and the hostile human/android element doesn't add much other than frustration. On Hard, the recommended difficulty, you'll be hiding so much it might as well be called Lord Lucan Simulator 2014.

These are minor quibbles however, in the face of an Alien game that asks you to think, rather than fight, one that recognises that the haunted house itself is as scary as what's in it.

Version Tested: PlayStation 4.

9 / 10

  • Creature is genuinely terrifying.
  • Superb environmental design.
  • Cutscene writing is poor.
  • Human element is an annoyance.

Click above for enlarged Alien: Isolation Screenshots

11 Comments

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User Comments

DNACowboy's Avatar

DNACowboy@ EverTheOptimist

Yes, you can craft items that confuse and even disable some enemies like the Joey androids, later on in the game you obtain cutting edge weapons that help even the score and make the experience less cat and mouse.
Posted 14:55 on 10 October 2014
DNACowboy's Avatar

DNACowboy

The game is a masterpiece, nuff said.
Posted 14:54 on 10 October 2014
scaz2244's Avatar

scaz2244

Sounds like a great game but gameplay could be more clarified like what does each mission entail? Anyways i will find out for myself sounds like a good game though
Posted 15:59 on 09 October 2014
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist

Quote:
I actually enjoyed the read, though more on the mechanics of the game would have been nice.

Agreed, I'm still not sure what happens when the alien comes bounding after you. Do you just run and hide? Can you trigger things that give you more time or confuse the alien?
Posted 14:24 on 06 October 2014
BritishWolf's Avatar

BritishWolf

interesting how varied the score for this seems to be
Posted 17:38 on 04 October 2014

pblive@ TomO

Good work Tom. A word limit is a silly thing to bolt on to a review. Short reviews are fine, but a cap like 300 words never ever made sense.

Sounds like there are lots of cogs turning in the background of VG now. I'm confident that the site will only get better from it.

But back to the review, it seems like a real marmite game again, based on all the reviews out there, this being one of the highest scoring and most upbeat of them. I actually enjoyed the read, though more on the mechanics of the game would have been nice.
Posted 10:53 on 04 October 2014

Neon-Soldier32@ TomO

Cheers for the update!
Posted 09:14 on 04 October 2014
TomO's Avatar

TomO@ Neon-Soldier32

We're changing reviews in the coming weeks. One part of that is extending the word limit. They'll still be shorter than almost all other online reviews.
Posted 09:09 on 04 October 2014

Neon-Soldier32

This review is pretty ostentatious - not only in how it's written, but also that the review is half game review, half self-indulged film wankery. If instead of the latter the issues with the game were more than bulletpointed.

Also, the review is 458 words long, so some clarity as to what's going on with that please.
Posted 08:58 on 04 October 2014
gonzalobot's Avatar

gonzalobot

Sounds like my cup of tea though. Lots of reviews complaining about the excessive walking and backtracking and menial minute-to-minute actions, but surely that's the necessary foundation to an experience like this.
Posted 14:51 on 03 October 2014
gonzalobot's Avatar

gonzalobot

How's it feel to be reviewing above the curve, Steve? That positivity is toxic.
Posted 14:46 on 03 October 2014

Game Stats

Alien: Isolation
9
Out of 10
Alien: Isolation
  • Creature is genuinely terrifying.
  • Superb environmental design.
  • Cutscene writing is poor.
  • Human element is an annoyance.
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 07/10/2014
Platforms: PS4 , Xbox One , Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Creative Assembly
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Survival Horror
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 177 14
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