- Alien: Isolation
- Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC (reviewed on PS4)
- The Creative Assembly
- ESRB Rating
- M: Mature
- Release Date
- Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Genre: Survival horror.
What it's about: Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen (Sigourney Weaver in the Alien movies), is on a quest to find her mother. Set after the 1979 classic film.
Why we should care: This game abandons the fast-paced action of recent (terrible) Alien games and goes back to its roots with horror.
What happens in the first hour: Grainy flickers of the screen invoke the feel of 1970s sci-fi. We meet Amanda Ripley as she's welding aboard some non-descript space ship.
A guy from the company – that evil corporation that permeates the Alien franchise – wants her to go find her mother. The flight recorder of the ship she was on has been found and the guy says it'll help Amanda get "closure."
It's hard not to notice how rubbery the animation of their faces looks. What if everyone in the game is in fact a Bishop android?
First objective: get dressed. I push "X" and mission accomplished! This game is easy.
What does pushing an unmarked button on the wall in Amanda's quarters do? Oops – it turns out it's the shower. Now her clothes are wet. Okay, maybe this game isn't that easy.
Some British lawyer goes on about how she's being sent to check out the Nostromo because it cost the company a lot of money, blah blah. Is she going to start talking about trade federations and midichlorians next? Where's the alien, already?
The Torrens – the ship that's transporting us to the space station where the flight recorder is – is totally retro. Exposed pipes, monochrome monitors running what looks like DOS, venting steam. It's a fun reminder how unimaginative 1970s sci-fi was.
We finally arrive at the space station and some explosive action happens during the space walk over. Alas, we're forced to spectate as it takes place in a cut scene. Twenty minutes in, all I've done is take a shower. So far, so bored.
The station is mostly deserted. Graffiti provides foreboding hints at what may have happened. "F… the marshals" and "Everyone knows a working Joe" don't mean much until you discover emails, which reveal the marshals to be the station's de facto police force and the Joes to be androids.
All of a sudden, the Torrens pulls away. Amanda swears enough to earn the game its "M" rating and wonders what's going on. Hmm. Stop me is you've heard this plot before: Ripley is purposely left alone by the corporation in a deserted outpost. Could there be, I don't know, a Xenomorph (that's what we call the creep Geiger-styled alien monster) on board, and might they, I don't know, want it to impregnate her?
The action quotient revs up as Amanda… cranks several generator handles to restore power. By the 40-minute mark, this is actually exciting.
Then, a Scottish dude named Axel shows up and pulls a gun on her. He tells us there's something on the station that "you wouldn't believe." Considering we've seen the movies and bought the game… trust us, we're going to believe it.
There are still some survivors on board, but some of them have turned into vicious looters. "Someone should be doing something," says Amanda. "They are, it's called surviving," replies Axel. Ah yes, but surviving without the actual horror isn't much of a survival horror game now, is it?
A quick showdown with the looters leads to an escape to another section of the station and finally, Axel is impaled by a Xenomorph's tail. I almost stand up and cheer.
The music picks up as Amanda waits for the station link train to arrive, not knowing where the monster might be. The train arrives and… she takes it to safety without incident.
Highlights: The retro feel is amazingly well done. Even the crafting screens, where you make the medikits that will presumably come in handy later, have a late-1970s vector-graphic feel. The lighting effects are also top-notch, with both replicating the classic Alien feel nicely.
Lowlights: Nothing happens in the first hour. Amanda is considerably more shallow than the original Ripley and the acting can't hold a candle to her "mother's."
Time-suck factor: If the first hour is any indication, Alien: Isolation looks to be a long and drawn-out game.
Worth more than an hour? This is either a slow-burn game that takes a while to build in intensity, which is good, or it's thoroughly padded with filler, which is bad. Either way, it's not a good option for the time-strapped player.