Alien Isolation Review
Welcome aboard a ship of terror, fear, suspense and isolation...Alien Isolation. Today's review is all about horror game lovers or Sci-fi fans of the late, great HR Giger’s most iconic creation and probably the most copied and recognisable extra terrestrial (outside of ET) ever. But certainly the most famous and fearsome Xenomorph in the solar system.
We play daughter of Sigourney weaver s character Ellen Ripley from the movies Amanda Ripley. It's been 15 years since the end of alien and the loss of Ellen Ripley aboard the Nostromo and this game fills in some of the story sections fans of the alien trilogy will know off with the special edition version of aliens having a scene where Ellen finds out about her daughters quest to find her whilst in hyper sleep.
But there is no sleep until death time on this mission. Once you are awoken from your space slumber you then have to investigate your surroundings and get dressed, even having a shower if you got the time. And this slow burn and build up of the game is evident throughout the first 30/40 minutes or so. And you have to bear with it and not be put off as it feels very baron and linear on your mission you come across your mum’s ship drifting in space just in time as you awake. Leading the expedition to this ship it would not be cricket if things did not go disastrously for you and your crew, and they sure do.
Leaving you stranded aboard and alone, defenseless and isolated (see what they did there). You are left with 2 main objectives escape back to your ship and survive this floating death trap. Whist doing this you try to find out what happened to your mum and how/why where she disappeared too. And once through the first desolated area you learn your basic controls and layout of the ship. Being a huge refinery tugger ship it once housed many on board workers and now this is evident in the desolate areas and shops as you venture further on board. Along with intricate attention to detail the developers have paid to the original film and source material which is impressive. Floating above the surface the ship has all the layout and design clearly evident from the 70's futuristic view. Embedded green screen CRT’s adorning the ship allowing you to learn more of its inhabitants and other important info like key codes and sound bites. With retro leather padding/lens flare and blinking lights the terrifying Sci-fi movie atmosphere competed with volumetric lights through grills and steam billowing All over which also is lit from the nearby neon’s.
And this vivid detail in all the small and largest aspects of the game is really commendable and makes this one of the most immersive and atmospheric games I have played. It captures the industrial meets futuristic feel of the original Ridley Scott movie more perfectly than any other attempt prior. The motion tracker even buzzes through the speaker on the DS4 pad as you use it, and these little touches don't stop here. As you use the tracker the background is blurred out using a superb depth of field affect or DoF and this can be flicked back and forth between the tracker itself or the background using the L1 button. Allowing you to walk around with it whilst also focusing on the dangers around the next corner. The pad vibrates if it picks up a moving object within range and it is always reading it right, no matter if inside the room or not! The sheer simplicity of this is genius as the cinematic feel (dangerous word I know) anxiety and ambiance of this really gets your heart racing as you stagger through the gloom and a blip appears that is moving...toward you!. Being one of the most useful tools in the game it keeps on giving by pointing you in the general direction of your next goal. Along your journey of escape you need to salvage scraps, gear and other assortments dotted around the ship to craft your med kits, welding torches and other useful tools of survival. All accessible from the circle button and used when needed. And along with the save process all this is real-time meaning the panic never stops even for a well deserved med kit creation. I also enjoyed the fact that the hacking tool takes a bit of dexterity to use as you are hurried more by the timer within. In the middle of a frantic section to get through a door being chased it just raises the tension. Levels into orbit, which seems appropriate. Again all the little things in this are just a means to an end and that is to scare you into an early death with frenzied mistakes costing you dearly that you will kick yourself for.
Prior to finding this gadget you mostly have the friendly help of crew you find on board. And it becomes. Very clear very quickly that all is not well aboard this cruise. The stranded aboard have split off into every man or women for himself and small groups of humans hole up in areas with their own resource and weapons and are not up for sharing or new members. Luckily you meet a lone wolf who although far from welcoming at least is not trigger happy.
This partnership does not last long and by now you are about an hour in and have only seen many nodding birds and some most unwelcoming crew all sentenced to the same fate as your own. But the money shot does arrive and the build up and tension up to this point is well crafted and the payoff is superb. And this adds the most compelling and well crafted aspect of the game. You have humans out to kill you, defective Cyborgs that have a taste for head cracking but all these pale into insignificance when the perfect hunter can come from anywhere and everywhere.
Having to explore the ship for clues and solve puzzles with powered of sections or hacking terminals with your other useful gadget all adds to the urgency and desperate struggle of survival. With the ever present fear of this sharp tongued adversary making you listen for each bang of a vent or hiss of a steam pipe, with the onboard Cyborgs also pushing you onwards with frantic urgency whenever you spot them and close calls leaving you relived until the next eventual one. But the intelligence and compete randomness of these near always fatal encounters of the alien makes you think far more about your actions. The head torch helps a great deal in darker unpowered areas, but using this means it could attract her. Finding a gun early on is again a double edged sword. Cornered but a cyborg or human adversary you could choice a quick escape and head shot them, but this may attract a bigger headache in more ways than one.
The game delivers atmosphere and tension better than most horror games I have ever played, which with the intelligent and most non linear enemy in a game of this genre! even when you fail and die you really never know if the next time she will show up at all.
Tooling up with flairs or cases for distraction are sometimes much better than a fully equipped flamethrower which only buys you time until the next encounter. Watching it skulk about and strike onboard it really delivers the terrifying and seemingly hopeless situation you find yourself in. And really shows how even more compelling and engaging games can be at times over films with such an engaging experience like horror, the team at creative assembly have really delivered a game that is the truest representation yet of this iconic series. So much passion is clear and as much as they can put in they have. If you have the PSeye camera or Kinect you can use head tracking to look around corners as you peak. Or the mic to record the sound you make as you play which if you are loud or things make you jump this adds even more tension as it could attract the alien to your location, in space no one can hear you scream but they can in your living room.
Graphically is delivers exactly the right amount to visual splendour with film grain evident in the game along with strong but appropriate chromatic aberration which gives edges a fringed coloured edge to them which also helps to improve IQ. Which with this game having such a dark contrast between dark and light it is full of light reflections across the entire metallic surface and this specular map highlights the strong aliasing in this game. It is a native 1080 presentation on the ps4 and runs at 30fps but the game seems to run no AA or at least a weak one. But is such a crisp image so it certainly is not running the console mainstay of FXAA. But it actually fits well with the game and does not distract that much as the low level lighting in the game with the plastic design 70's style all making it feel entirely accurate. Lighting is a huge part of the game with dynamic shadows cast all over the environment by humans, Cyborgs and you know what, In fact the only thing that does not is you. Which is such a shame as it really kills some of the at atmosphere so lovingly crafted elsewhere and with such a focal centre stage lighting model in the game it seems odd this was not picked up even in pre-play or At the QC stage. And there are some minor bugs like the save process failing on me twice needed a full restart or the FMV sequences stuttering and skipping at about 10-15 frame a seconds. Which again is a shame with such a well made game elsewhere. Also the character models are decent but the animation and facial animation are very subpar and only stand out more with the pre-rendered cut scenes as do the cyborg type action they all have, a hark back to placeholder games but this is such a minor niggle as they play such a small part of the game. What is not lacking is the sound design and implementation in the game. From the majestic use of the original Jerry goldsmith soundtrack playing out as you explore and building even more tension and impending doom as you play. Whether it be the compressed air vacuum sound of doors opening or the tapping of the VDU terminals, arcing of electric or the rattle and hiss of the Alien. Crawling around the vents. They all really deliver a fearful and suspenseful experience that would be far less engaging without and it is not only the sound design but delivery, with Music echoing through the metallic corridors and occluding accurately when blocked off by walls or doors, if you can playing with earphones heightens the experience even more.
Along with the single player you also get survival mode which is basically a time trail of death and survival. How long and far can you get through each section avoiding or deflecting the attention of the acid bleeding villain? Add in extra challenges for competing under times or not using motion sensor etc all adds additional replay value after the single player is done and dusted. This method like a death trap time trial is what I played at the EGX show and it shows of the immediate danger from the title character perfectly. But even the single player has more replay value than other games of this genre like Resident Evil or Outlast with the exact same scenario and set piece and encounter playing out each time. Here the dynamic conflict allows the game to feel sufficiently different in its play through even on failed retried section on your first run through. Having completed the game I have loved every panicked filled, frantic action and entrancing minute of it. Being a huge fan of the source helps but even lovers of horror games in general will find many things that you will love and I cannot give a better recommendation than that. If you don't like to have jump scares and slower paced, victim centred games that do not allow you to fight and conquer but rather crawl, scurry and run to survive then this will not change your mind. But if you are after a fresh and atmospheric experience where your own heartbeat, motion tracker and torch for company then this will serve you well. But be careful the bitch bites!.