Alien: Isolation

  1. Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

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    In the film Alien (1979), the crew of the commercial towing vehicle Nostromo were killed off by a monster from space. The only survivor was the flight officer, Ellen Ripley, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Fifteen years after the events of Alien, Ellen Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, is informed that the flight recorder of the Nostromo has been recovered. She travels to a run-down space station, Sevastopol, to find out what happened. Unfortunately, the flight recorder is not the only thing from Alien to have ended up on the station: an Alien is on board, and as well as killing most of the crew, it has triggered a rapid descent into chaos.

    Alien: Isolation is a first person computer game in which you (as Amanda) uncover the mystery and try to avoid being eaten by the Alien, throttled by robots or shot by demented gangs of looters (someone clearly enjoyed Bioshock). Amanda can build devices to help her survive, such as explosives and smoke bombs. However, unlike the heroes of most stealth games, Amanda is most definitely not the top predator in the game’s ecosystem. Not only is she fragile and limited in what she can do, but the Alien simply can’t be killed by normal means. And if it sees you, you’re pretty much dead.

    In fact, a more accurate title for this game would be Advanced Wardrobe Simulator, because Amanda spends a fair amount of time hiding in various lockers and cabinets while her enemies prowl around outside, hissing or saying menacing things to entice her to come out (a particular favourite of mine is a crazed android stating “You and I are going to have a talk about safety” while trying to beat Amanda to death). The game makes a good job of depicting stealth as it actually would be, which is a double-edged sword. While you can’t stand next to someone and remain invisible because the lights are down low (as per Thief), the mechanics mean that the game is sometimes rather unfair, and you die because the Alien just happened to turn around at one particular moment. Alien: Isolation can be rather frustrating, especially since you can’t save whenever you want.

    It's also slightly overlong. While time spent in the Alien setting is time well spent, by the end of the game I was starting to think "Whatever next?". Some slightly drab plotting means that you start to realise that about 80% of the game consists of "sneak over there and pull that lever". At points, I got the feeling that Alien : Isolation had been made by a genius who had only heard of computer games by rumour.

    But it is also very scary and an excellent depiction of the world of Alien (singular rather than plural). Without the smart-guns and pulse rifles of later films, the Alien is much more than just an attack dog that can run up walls. It feels like the unstoppable Lovecraftian god that it ought to be, and this is definitely its best depiction in a game. Sevastopol Station is beautifully realised, full of 1970s space-age technology, together with dated billboards and clunky machines that never quite feel kitsch. The story is a bit weak, with The Company doing its usual evil stuff (you would have thought that the Weapons Division had something else to do than try to catch an alien, like build guns or something), and serves to put a slightly excessive amount of obstacles in Amanda’s way. Voice acting is fine.

    Perhaps the best thing the game adds to Alien’s rather small setting is Seegson Inc, a second-rate corporation whose station is going to hell and whose cheap androids all look like rubber mannequins and are pure nightmare fuel. This is what space travel would look like it it was run by Ryan Air. The sense of a thin veneer of jollity over a sense of betrayal and desperation is well portrayed. Even more than the swearing and the gory violence, this is where the game seems really grown up.

    It's hard to put a score on a game like this. You might love it, or find it incredibly irritating, or both. Personally, I thought it was a very polished and entertaining game. But be warned: it's not easy and can be frustrating. I won't like to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.
     
  2. Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

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    ... and I spelled "lie" wrong. Idiot!
     
  3. Tower75

    Tower75 I am the Night

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    Good review. I must admit, this game wasn't on my radar, but it sounds fun, and frustrating. I'm currently trying to beat, and subsequently crying into my controller over, XCOM-2.

    Is there a cheat code to become The Predator? I will settle for a code that turns you into Danny Glover too.
     
  4. Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

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    Well, there's an add-on that lets you be Ellen Ripley, Dallas or Parker, and the original cast members do the voice acting for them. However, Danny Glover isn't in it, possibly because he's too old for this sh!t.
     
    Steven Sorrels and Tower75 like this.
  5. Tower75

    Tower75 I am the Night

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    But she dead...
     
  6. Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

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    Well, there’s sort of a reason for that. The two add-ons are set on the Nostromo during the film, as Dallas/Parker/Ripley tries to close the airlocks around the Alien, and later in the film, when Ripley is the last crewman left and is trying to get to the shuttle. Although the Alien kills Parker and Lambert (off screen) in the second add-on, their deaths are actually somewhat sanitised, especially regarding what can be heard over the intercom. Which is, frankly, for the best.
     
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