Alien: Isolation / 25th of September 2014
In 1979, Ridley Scott’s Alien, and the tormented, ragtag crew of the mining ship, Nostromo, became permanently engrained into the annals of cinema lore, as the English director’s sci-fi masterpiece was not only one of the most terrifying films ever made, it was also one the very best. With the enormous critical and commercial success that it garnered, Alien was transformed into a mega money making franchise, spanning sequels, spin offs, games, comics, books, and merchandise right across the universe. That said, most of the money has funded poor sequels and film spin offs, as well as a list of terrible games that bare the title; Alien. However, Alien: Isolation appears to be the exception, developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega, Alien: Isolation looks like a return to the first person, atmospheric horror genre that has been lacking from the mainstream. And quite frankly, it really couldn’t come soon enough.
Set in 2137, 15 years after the events of the original film, players take on the role of Amanda Ripley (yes, Ellen’s daughter) who has been sent to the Sevastopol Space Station to investigate what happened to her mother and the crew of the Nostromo. Needless to say, things don’t quite go according to plan, and naturally, this ends up pitching players into a relentless battle for survival against the remnants of the desperate station populace, and a terrifyingly ruthless Alien resolutely hunting you down. The Creative Assembly have promised us that we will be “Underpowered and underprepared”, and that “you must scavenge resources, improvise solutions and use your wits, not just to succeed in your mission, but to simply stay alive”. Well, that sounds promising then, doesn’t it?
The audio, level design and graphics are slammed full of rustic 70’s sci fi aesthetics, which, along with fact that the main part of the original Nostromo cast will be making a reappearance in the exclusive downloadable content, will surely be enough to make every Alien fan boy foam at the mouth. What’s more, this authenticity creates the atmosphere of terror and suspense usually reserved for the Alien films; steam slowly seeps across darkened rooms and lights flicker incessantly, whilst the protagonist’s motion tracker beeps in heightened tones, slowly increasing in speed almost in tune with the beating of one’s heart as a superior enemy approaches. And in classic Alien style, it is a foe that represents a challenge for which there are almost no ways through which it can be overcome. It is this aspect of Alien Isolation, more than any other that both appeals to me and scares me the most; being hunted by an enemy you can’t kill easily. It reminds me of Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head or Resident Evil’s Nemesis running me down over and over, each time making me scream a little more as I run or solve a puzzle under pressure. In this game you have similar tasks to compete from hacking systems, navigating through your environment at speed, collecting needed resources and gear to craft items to give you what little advantage you can get over a dynamic and reactive Alien.
One thing that has become somewhat apparent about Alien: Isolation is that it appears you may die a lot, maybe not as much as Dark Souls, but possibly enough to remove your interest in a mission from frustration, making it considerably more difficult to keep you immersed in that atmospheric veil of impending doom. That said the game needs to be challenging, it is that very challenge that adds the element of fear that needs to be ever so present as you embark on your quest for truth. A game that springs to mind with similar atmospheric traits is Condemned: Criminal Orgins (another title published by Sega funnily enough), one of my favourite horror games of all time. In this, developer Monolith, throw the player into an investigation of a terrifying serial killer, as they are forced to confront their inner demons whilst contending with a city full of drugged up maniacs with little in the way of resources or equipment. One other pit fall for Alien: Isolation could be the already apparent scripted events that happen as your progress through the game, potentially limiting the game’s replayability, which is one of my real fears for this title.
Alien: Isolation certainly has a great deal of promise, and from what I have seen so far, it undoubtedly has me intrigued, so I am eagerly looking forward to spending a great deal longer with it. I am anxiously anticipating the opportunity to once again be immersed in the universe of Alien, and having the fortitude of my bowls challenged under extreme pressure! But aren’t we all.
Alien: Isolation will be available on October 7th for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC, so keep an eye out for our definitive verdict nearer the time.