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Alien: Isolation

Release: October 7 2014 (Xbone, XBox 360, PC, PS3, PS4), December 5th 2019 (Switch)

I can’t lie to you about your chances. You have my sympathies.

Crew expendable.

Once the Alien game preceding this was released (Aliens:Colonial Marines), reviews were lukewarm at very best. Prometheus soon before it came and went with little fanfare to anyone except long term fans of the Alien series. So even upon hearing that a game in the Alien universe was going to eschew the Call of Duty wannabe aspects that seemingly caused Alien: Colonial Marines to be a damp squib attached to a catalogue franchise name at best.

I have been a fan for years before this, mainly because I bought the Quadrilogy dvd set when I was way too young and the person serving me at the shop probably did not care at all. The aesthetic is entirely ripped from the first film of the series and positively oozes from its pores the future imagined in 1979 in Alien. This is so different and (forgive the pun) alien to how the future looks now from the Apple Store Enterprises. Of J. J. Abrams Star Trek Trilogy (4th on its way to hopefully not date this too much) and the used universe look of Star Wars. This is unnerving to say the least and seldom has various hues of orange been so frightening.

Little things such as the inclusion of the 1979 20th Century Fox logo at the start of the game and the fact all the computer monitors display not the sleek we are used to, but the look from the late 1970’sto late 1980’s of the first two entries into the franchise and the wider society immediately surrounding both upon their release. The only things missing were shoulder pads sharp enough to have your eye out and so much hair spray that the O zone is begging for mercy.

At the start of the game, it asks two things before you rock on with the Amanda Ripley campaign to find her mother. It first recommends you play it on hard mode and have Kinect on so ou can play with the microphone working. Unless you’re a total massacist, please do not choose either of these. There is no shame in playing on intermediate, it might make it closer to how it is supposed to be experienced for sure, but it also makes it less enjoyable over the 16 to 20 hour span of the game. Particularly if like me, you played it with your mates. Making people not make noise for that long too is just way too much to ask.

The Xenomorph in terms of enemy Artificial Intelligence, its just a cut above your more throwaway enemies. Thanks to his unpredictable nature, even now seven years after playing the game, the Xeno is just indelibly etched into my mind.The Alien does not exactly know your position, they are incredibly skilled at playing seek and destroy. Also being near invincible, standing 8 feet tall and having a massive tail help this no end. One of my best friends has not played it since completion in 2014, but to this day nurses a massive grudge for the Alien and has a, well choice variety of words to describe the Alien.

Unfortunately, the same praise can not be lavished upon the other main enemy of the game, Working Joe Robots who are a rip off version of the Wayland Yutani androids in the movies of Ash, Bishop, Cally and David. Basically, they are the end of line Aldi brand versions. They are certainly as creepy as the titular Xenomorph, but large sections of the game are dedicated to them as the enemy and they will just attack at the drop of a hat. Perhaps having their total presence limited to just a few key sections would be more welcome. It is satisfying when you can completely stove one of their heads in, but they are just short of an over powered nuisance towards the end.

Let’s touch on the auto save feature. There isn’t one. Like, at all. Instead your progress has to be saved on these phone booth looking things dotted throughout but decently far apart. Think the typewriters and ribbon in the original Resident Evil games. Just getting to one feels a small accomplishment in itself, sneaking past a Joe or the Alien deserves a reward and this is seemingly it. Once you play, you’ll agree and might even think it is also quite the deserving one too. It also makes me think that most games never miss an opportunity to auto save, so this alone sets it worlds apart.

It might prove a source of consternation for some and you would be well founded to do so, but it just adds (to no small extent) to the over all scare factor this game is going for and achieves it well.

Towards the end of the game, there is a lot in the way of back - tracking over levels you have journeyed in the not so recent past. Like with the save features preferred by this game, it makes it stand in stark contrast to most modern games. However, it is vastly in keeping with the slow world building of the first Alien movie from 1979 and for mega fans such as myself, just adds near endlessly to the replay ability of it as we throughly explore the space ships, Sevastopol Station and the beauty that is H. R. Geiger’s space jockey craft. Bear this in mind.

In the near decade since release, there’s been nothing in the way of a sequel. Most of the DLC was just launch content too. This is a bit surprising given the very sequel bait ending (which i make a point of not spoiling here) but given the relatively lacklustre sales figures which met this game (and its poor fortune to be released in the run up to Christmas 2014, when we were all a variety of poor) it might not be surprising actually. This is only further compounded when one takes into consideration the sheer lengths of time between the films.

Perhaps if it was released alongside one of the films, this might not be an issue, although given that they are seemingly made on a ’when I feel like it’ basis, do not hold your breath. Also, a movie tie in which focuses on a previous entry in a franchise has seemingly only ever worked once in gaming, a very Indy title called GoldenEye. No doesn’t ring a bell either.

Over all, a very satisfying game which offers a genuine challenge to players. To borrow a cliché, some games are critiqued for simply being ahead of their time but over all, still a great experience. Alien: Isolation with its emphasis on its retro future aesthetic and game play such as completely omitting auto saves in favour of manual ones spaced relatively far apart, may be argued as actually behind its time. This may cause frustration in many, it is about as far removed from a typical run and gun Call of Duty entry as you can get. But personally, enduring all the struggles and frustrations (well, apart from the Working Joes, they can just get in the bin), it is just so worth it. This alone would make it worth your time and knocked down price, but it is also on Xbox Game Pass, give it a download and while not everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly is mine.

This is Ellen Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo. Signing off.


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