In May 1979, Ridley Scott’s film Alien would make a lasting impact on two genres of movies at once, and spark an entire franchise of movies, toys, and in later years videogames that would span decades. Alien became a household name, even to those who hadn’t seen the film they could easily identify the who’s and what’s of the original film as time went on, Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley for instance, or the iconic Xenomorph and its towering stature and menacing fangs. But while Alien has lived on proudly for decades in some aspects, there were several times it seemed like the most promising outlet, videogames, tried to kill it with fire. But what about Alien: Isolation? Is the Alien game fans have been waiting for finally here? Or do we have another travesty like Aliens: Colonial Marines on our hands?
The Missing Link
Set fifteen years after the ending of the original Alien film, Amanda Ripley joins a trip to Sevastapol Station, a station currently undergoing a decommissioning process after years of dwindling financial stability. Her reason for coming to such a place? News that the flight recorder of her mother’s ship The Nostromo has been found after several years of not knowing what has happened to her mother. Arriving at Sevastapol on board the ship Torrens, the crew sees that the space station has suffered heavy damage, including the docking bay. That means it’s time for a spacewalk. It’s also the start of a somewhat predictable situation about to spiral out of control.
Just barely making it inside the station after a catastrophic explosion during the spacewalk, Amanda is now alone. No contact from the Torrens or her two team members who were on the spacewalk with her. The stage is set. Within the ship, there are signs of chaos... where has everyone gone? What exactly happened here? As Amanda slowly starts to come into contact with other human survivors, it’s clear that something has them running scared.
That’s really all that is needed to say about the story; from then on it takes a backseat to the survival, with only a few moments actually moving the story forward. Even then it feels like by the time the story is in full stride, it’s over. While I spent a total of fifteen hours in the game, the first and the last were the only ones with any major amount of story to sink my teeth into. These two were also the ones that felt the most on-rails and, while not necessarily bad, not nearly as exciting as the rest of the game. So in between the beginning and the end, I experienced about thirteen hours of gameplay.
Though we play as Amanda Ripley, there are two real stars of this game. Sevastapol Station itself, and the Xenomorph you will come to love and loathe at once. The station’s creepy silence, and mix of untouched environments in some sections while others are littered with carnage and destruction helps set a level of tension unlike other horror titles I’d played before. Encounters with survivors result in silent moments of taking a shortcut to avoid drawing their attention, “Working Joe” androids with their lifeless expression can make the hair stand on your neck in certain instances, and then above them all in the food chain of terror, the main event, who will stalk you and other humans with a ruthless tenacity; The Xenomorph.
Unpredictable Xenomorph provides a new level in horror, setting stays true to the retro-sci fi feel of the original Alien film, several more hours of gameplay than your normal horror title.
Several noticeable major and minor glitches, the title suffers an identity crisis several times where it can’t decide if it wants to be a horror or first person shooter title.