Video Game Review: Alien: Isolation Is Terrifyingly Awesome

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Alien video gamefile_176723_0_shock-score-8.90x72Alien: Isolation was met with a lot of resistance when it was first announced. Coming hot off the heels of the disastrous Aliens: Colonial Marines, there was understandably a lot to prove. Well, this week, Alien: Isolation has finally dropped on Playstation, Xbox, and PC, and I am pleased to say that, for the first time, the alien has truly arrived.

The game opens up 15 years after the events of Alien. Amanda Ripley, who works as a technician, is approached when the Nostromo’s flight recorder is found and being held at the space station Sevastopol. She is being offered the opportunity to be part of the Weyland-Yutani expedition in order to get closure (and if you believe that is the real reason, I have a piece of land to sell ya!). Ripley joins the party aboard the cargo ship Torrens and we’re off. Things are smooth until they get to the Sevastopol and find it deserted and torn up. As she explores the vessel in search of help, she soon discovers that she is not alone.

What Isolation does so well is to actually make you feel, well, isolated. This is a cold and lonely experience. Every corner you turn to has the remnants of a life lived and it only feeds your need to find others. This is a game about true fear and the reactions to it. Not just for the characters in the game, but for the gamer as well. The excellent POV rally drops you onto the ship and leaves you there alone and looking for answers. 

Now on to the technical mumbo jumbo…starting with the art direction. Where nearly all of the other games seemed to base their designs on James Cameron’s sequel, this game stays true to the original, right down to the boom box and cassette tapes that litter the station. Everything from the lighting to the sound effects are first rate.

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Character designs are also sharp and feel more like seventies casting than they do CGI artistry. I can almost imagine some of these people in other films from the era. Speaking of the time from which it came, the Torrens Captain wears a button down Paisley shirt…awesome! This is the kind of design detail I’m talking about, a lot of love went into this game.

The mechanics are smooth.There are imperfections of course, it is simply a game, so they are not worth mentioning. The length of the game is something that has been called into question and I find that interesting. At 20 hours, give or take, it’s a lot of game. Many felt it went on too long and to that I say…what? You get a lot of bang for your buck here and at $60.00 a pop, I would definitely want more banging. Besides, I’m sure somebody will come out with a video where they do it in 2 hours. Take your time people. Don’t be in such a hurry.

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Let’s talk interaction with the Alien itself. This game is hard. Period. When you meet the alien, you will most likely die. This is not an action game, it is a survival horror in the truest sense of the word. Be warned! There will be a lot of dying, and though it can be frustrating, it’s the right game for the franchise. With each encounter, you must learn to be a little more cautious and a lot more clever. And you are gonna need to be because the alien is not the only threat. 

The station has a gang of unsavory human survivors that have been driven mad with all that has happened. They are a shoot first and ask questions later type bunch so they must be avoided, or killed if you feel the need. Then there are the synthetics. This humanoids are truly creepy and have an agenda of course. They are just as dangerous as the alien, so don’t underestimate them.

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In addition to all the sequel goodness that this has to offer, the first DLC, Crew Expendable is a great refresher of the original film’s key moments. Taking place after Brett’s death, the remaining crew (who all return with the exception of Ian Holm who was probably off hobbiting about), must figure out a way off the ship. You have the option of playing either Ripley, Parker, or Dallas, so there is something for everyone. It is a short DLC (30 minutes tops), but it is designed to simply give you a “what if” style scenario. 

Alien: Isolation is more an exercise in survival simulation than anything. It is a game that will test your nerves and resolve. Be prepared to invest time and, more importantly, learn from your mistakes. It’s a great game, though a little slow at times. Some may also find the repetitiveness of death annoying but the danger is the point. This game won’t please everyone (nothing does), but it is a hell of an excellent ride. Like I said, the game had a lot of resistance coming in, but it does its job nicely, giving us a Alien game worth having. Stay frosty and alert on this one.