Video Game Review – Alien: Isolation

You’re near the next area. You know what’s behind you, the enemy patrol routes, and timings have been noted. You’re good to go.

Shit.

The alarms blare. Your shoulders droop. A light sigh. You could reset it…but no.

GO LOUD. The assault rifle comes out and you fight your way through until things settle down again.

Unless I’m particularly hell bent on a completely stealth play-through this is how stealth games usually pan out. In particular, MGSV and the last two Splinter Cell’s allowed me to effectively kick off and become a one man army when being an invisible ninja failed me.

Alien: Isolation is not like these games. Having a central enemy that you cannot kill under any circumstances will do that.

I was meant to play this game two years ago when it was originally released. But I am quite the King of Procrastination so I didn’t round to it. Seeing it in CEX for a tenner meant I had run out of excuses. Was it worth the wait?

Yes, though the major positives the game possesses are undermined by some frustrating basic decisions.

Aesthetically this game is amazing. The attention to detail, clear affection for the world set up in the first two films and the dedication to creating everything in the same style is readily apparent. This low tech future filled with green screens and oddly marked, chunky keyboards is unlike any other game environment.

A truly terrifying beast, it’s occasional jerkiness is offset by it’s presence and intelligence, with its celluloid history only bolstering it further

Similarly, the Alien itself is very well designed and implemented. A truly terrifying beast, it’s occasional jerkiness is offset by it’s presence and intelligence, with its celluloid history only bolstering it further. This Xenomorph isn’t messing around and demands that you treat it with respect. I got bolshie a few times and was put straight back in my box. In fact I was killed by it over 100 times…

But it wasn’t the toughest enemy in the game. Bloody androids. The reaction to the Alien is very consistent. Have fire or run and hide. But do you avoid the Androids or take them out? Ammo is far from plentiful but if they get hold of you you’re in big trouble. They are very persistent too, as I discovered when one chased me through several rooms. 

It’s a tense experience and fortunately not as dull as I worried it might be. Waiting in a locker as an enemy comes over to inspect your last known location is fraught and well judged.

Amanda Ripley is a lot like her Mother. A bit colder perhaps but has that strong determination to survive. She sure doesn’t take any shit but will always try to help others. Using her seems both a blessing and a curse. I’ll get to the curse a bit later but being the mentioned Daughter of the franchise’s protagonist does lend her an air of importance straight away. I’ve heard complaints about how she’s written but I had no such issues. With a first person game you’re always going to be a bit detached from her as you can’t see her but she seemed rounded enough to me.

There are now couple of very big buts coming your way.

This game is too damn long. The pacing, and at times my attention, were strained as you’re forced to visit previous areas. I don’t mind exploration and things opening up over time but I’ve already been back and forth across a ship in Dead Space. Two hours could easily have been cut from this and made for a much tauter game. But there is a bigger but coming.

I won’t go into detail but you’ll see the disappointing and lazy ending coming from a mile away. If you’ve seen Aliens you know that Amanda lives to see the ripe old age of 66, so she isn’t going to die here. We know this, so why couldn’t the writers play with it a bit? Sadly it just comes off as extremely generic.

Is this the best video game containing the Xenomorph? Alien versus Predator retains it’s crown, but if Alien: Isolation had just been a bit shorter and bolder in it’s choices it would have severely troubled it. As is it’s still a game well worthy of your attention.

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