Alien: Isolation provides all the tension, suspense and dread that we had hoped for. It delivers on its promise, even though the experience isn’t constant throughout its 15 hour campaign.
While we were at Gamescom this summer, we met up with some of the people from Creative Assembly working on Alien: Isolation. They showed us a hands-on demo of the game, which explained the core gameplay in some detail. Key to all this was stealth, something that we’ve rarely seen in games based on the Alien franchise. Most developers choose the FPS approach, or throw a Predator or two into the mix.
Alien: Isolation is different, something that became clear during our demo session with Creative Assembly. Finding a good hiding spot, moving at the right time and creating distractions are your key to success – and you stand little to no chance in combat. You’re also not faced with an army of aliens – but instead are trying to evade one large xenomorph whose presence is always looming. Knowing this creates a large amount of suspense, something that’s further enhanced by your use of motion trackers to indicate whether or not an attack might be imminent.
Your encounters with the alien can either be scripted or somewhat randomly generated, and its behavior is AI-based and therefore unpredictable – aside from the part where the alien wants nothing more than to kill you the second it sets eyes on you. It’s these moments where you go into “run for your life!”-mode, and you feel your chances of survival are slim to none. If you don’t feel like that right away, trust me… you will. Alien: Isolation can be frustrating at times, when you feel like you made a perfect getaway only to find the alien charging at you seconds later. Despite its ruthless character, you’ll still feel like it’s not always playing fair.
During the campaign, you control Amanda Ripley – daughter to you know who. She’s on a mission to find out what happened to her mother and as such you’ll encounter a lot of references to the original movie that inspired Isolation. Throughout the game you’ll even see a few familiar faces pop up, making Creative Assembly’s approach to Alien a great homage to the classic movie in terms of both gameplay style and look and feel.
Isolation’s problem in this regard lies in the fact that there are a couple of hours of great content here, but it’s stretched out over too much game. There isn’t enough story and character development during parts of the lengthy campaign, which can take anywhere between 15 to 20+ hours to complete. At times you feel like you’re needlessly backtracking in between the game’s many exciting scenes that invoke memories of what made this series so popular, and this is a shame because those scenes really do make this game worth it.
Alien: Isolation is a single player game only – a deliberate choice by the development team that definitely worked out well. The sense of dread and helplessness that this game effectively creates simply wouldn’t work very well in a multiplayer setting, and believe me when I say that you don’t want to take anything away from the intensity that this game creates.
I wish I could say that Alien: Isolation is the perfect Alien game. It’s not, as we’ve tried to explain in this review. However, this is a still an excellent Alien title that does fans of the series a great justice. If you count yourself in that category, you have no reason not to check out what Creative Assembly has done so far. Let’s hope they take their core concept and refine it into something even better later on.