Release Date: October 7, 2014Platform: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 (Reviewed)Developer: The Creative AssemblyPublisher: SEGAGenre: Survival Horror?
***This review contains minor spoilers for Alien: Isolation.***
Man vs. beast — it’s a tale dating back to prehistoric times, and a common theme in video games. There’s a unique sort of fear created when you create a battle between a single person and a single beast, isn’t there? When the beast seems all-powerful and indestructible, you grow quite afraid of it. That’s the best part about Alien: Isolation: the xenomorph, itself, is terrifying as all hell. But stealthing about to try and avoid this all-powerful alien is, unfortunately, a small piece of the Alien: Isolationpuzzle, as the fear is short-lived and interrupted by strange-looking androids.
To me, Alien: Isolationis a disappointment. There — I said it. That’s not to say it’s an absolutely terrible game (although, it’s not exactly a winner, either), but it didn’t live up to my expectations in many ways. For one, it just doesn’t feel like a survival horror game for long. About two hours in, and you’re introduced to new enemies that aren’t of the alien variety, but are instead, lifeless androids. Sure, these androids are tough, but they’re not scary by any means.
I first began feeling that Alien: Isolationwould be a disappointing experience in the first few minutes of the game when your protagonist, technician Amanda Ripley, is tasked with getting dressed. Yup, here’s your first mission: go get dressed. Oh, great way to peak my interest, guys. I suppose this was a way for The Creative Assembly to try and build up tension that would pay off later in the game (why am I being tasked with getting dressed? Is something going to happen?) Spoiler: No. Nothing happens.
The environments and characters are highly detailed, and you’ll definitely be taken back to the Nostromo from Alien1979. The hallways and rooms all look like they are out of the 1970s flick, and that’s a good thing. It’s unfortunate that the game suffers from screen-tearing issues. And while the game captures the general look of the ship, it doesn’t catch the general feel; it’s not dark enough. Some of the best moments in Alien were because of the xenomorph lurking about in the darkness, but in Alien: Isolation,that fear is never really translated. Although, the game’s soundtrack does its very best in creating tension.
And while there are some scares contained within Alien: Isolation,they are few and far between. Some of the moments that were intended to be frightening in the game felt like they were directly ripped off of the flick. For example, in the game when you’re following Axel and you’re taken into a lab with hanging chains and he gets killed. This is the same place and basic situation from the movie, where Brett was looking for the cat and gets killed by the alien as Pepper is looking for him. It worked very well to strike terror in viewers in the movie, but it didn’t translate well to the game because, well, we knew it was coming as soon as we saw the dangling chains.
The characters are strong, but the voice acting is also not up to par. Amanda is likeable enough, and even sort of looks like her mother (Sigourney Weaver as Ripley). And Axel, who you’re briefly introduced to, is an interesting enough gent, but his character is ruined by the over-perform-y voice acting, as is Amanda.
The frustration with Isolationcontinues in that there is no autosave; you’re instead forced to find save terminals. And, you die a lot in the earlier moments in the game, so you’re forced to play the same sections over and over again.
While Alien: Isolationisn’t even close to being as bad as the abomination that was Aliens: Colonial Marines,it doesn’t do much to ignite the franchise either — it’s sort of just there. It’s not a must-play game, though, and you wouldn’t be missing much if you passed it up. The game is at its best when you’re using your meter to determine where the alien is, but, again, those moments are few and far between. Isolationquickly overstays its welcome after about three hours of gameplay, making the rest of the game feel like a chore. And once you begin reaching the later moments in the game (which is about 18 or so hours on the hardest difficulty), you’re fooled to believe that the game might actually be over, but it’s not. So, you have to keep playing. If you want to, that is.