Alien: Isolation is the latest game to tie in with the highly successful film franchise of the same name. Thankfully it departs completely from the formula of the last game, Colonial Marines, as first-person shooting is replaced by a genre far more befitting of the films; survival horror. Minimalist story elements, a terrific soundtrack, breath-taking graphics and more tension than you can imagine: SEGA’s latest release is one not to be missed.
The game takes place between the first two films in the series. You play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of the films’ protagonist Ellen Ripley, who is searching for her mother and is consequently led to the Sevastopol space station. It quickly becomes apparent that the station has fallen into disrepair, and with members of staff merely trying to survive one day at a time. But it also begins to dawn on Amanda that something far more horrific is stalking the space station’s inhabitants.
And it’s this basic premise which is arguably the game’s greatest asset. The age-old, but nonetheless extremely effective method of creating fear: tasking the player with objectives whilst alluding briefly to something that is somewhere in the vicinity. You’ve got a job to do and searching rooms for evidence, discovering hidden areas and accessing computer terminals are all fun to do in the usual gamey way. But it’s just the knowledge that something unknown might surprise you at any one time makes for some fantastic tension.
SEGA have done a stellar job with the gameplay. There are (almost) no guns, and any that do crop up are generally ineffective against most enemies. The most precious thing you have is a motion-tracker, sensing movement and showing the object’s position in relation to the player. It’s an ingenious move. It really does evoke the horror from the films of something getting closer and closer, or being engaged with a computer terminal and hearing the faintest of bleeps whilst pre-occupied.
Though what might come up on the tracker is more diverse than you might think. SEGA have included a number of different ‘enemies’ that require you to assess the situation and act accordingly. Perhaps it’s actually some harmless engineers who will recoil when seeing you. Or maybe it’ll be a ‘Working Joe’, an android gone haywire so they now attack humans. Or maybe it’s the creature itself. The way the Alien is introduced to you is very good indeed: a few chilling scripted encounters lead on to the scary realisation that it’s always around and can attack you whenever you slip up.
And this excellent atmosphere is bolstered by the game’s technical elements. The graphics are very good. Even on the old generation Xbox it looks nice, and the PS4 version looks sumptuous. The art style is exactly like in the films, and plenty of little knick-knacks are around for the player to see and sometimes interact with. The darkness level is inherently low and forces the player to make the decision of whether to risk identification through using their flashlight or not. And the audio deserves a similar amount of praise. From characters’ dialogue to the creature’s hissing to some unknown footsteps it sounds truly great. Particularly noteworthy are the chords struck when you’re seen by a Working Joe. Terrifying.
SEGA have outdone themselves here and created an Alien game which really does its movie counterparts a fantastic service. A gorgeous, nail-biting plunge down a sci-fi rabbit hole awaits all those who purchase this game. Two things: play it on hard mode; play it in the dark.