Jeff Markiewicz On November 10, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Alien Isolation 09_1402071194When everyone thinks of making a videogame based upon the Alien franchise, most dream of one based upon the Colonial Marines from Aliens. A lot of classic videogames take more than a slight inspiration from that second movie. Unfortunately, the recent game based upon that concept proved disastrous. Developer of Alien: Isolation, The Creative Assembly, has taken a different approach. They have crafted a game based upon the first movie, the one of pure horror and survival. It’s a bold approach that has a lot of risk. On top of that, The Creative Assembly is best known for the Total War series of strategy games and not much experience in crafting this type of game. Can this developer make the jump to a new genre while simultaneously doing the Alien series justice?

Alien: Isolation has you take the role of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley from the movies. Fifteen years have passed since Alien and the whereabouts of her mother and what happened to the Nostromo are currently not known. At the beginning of the game, this mystery appears to be nearly solved. The flight recorder has been recovered and the company is sending a couple executives out to retrieve it. The closure that Amanda desires may be soon at hand and the company has offered to take her along. She obviously agrees and the team is taken out to a space station called the Sevastopol. Once there, it’s obvious that communications are down and something has happened on the station. From here, it’s up to you to investigate and obviously, survive.

The story is quite good and for games these days, also quite lengthy. The choice of playing Ellen’s daughter is quite daring. On its surface it feels cheesy and possibly pointless but overall it works quite well. Just like having Ripley in the second movie go back to LV-426 as a consultant, having her daughter come along for the ride to Sevastopol feels like it fits within this universe. The biggest thing missing from this game is character development. Either the people you meet are gone too soon or they lack so much development that you simply don’t care about them. Even your team falls into this issue. You’re offered the ride along and instantly put into stasis after which you wake up, get a small briefing, and get thrown into the survival situation. This entire introduction entails only a brief time. It may have been on purpose but despite encountering others from time to time, you always feel alone. For how nice and slow the game gets story-wise, it would’ve been nice to take some time to get to know some people.

Overall, this is the great sequel to Alien. I didn’t know I wanted it but The Creative Assembly did a good job crafting this story and it fits perfectly between the first two films. To truly appreciate the work, it’s much recommended to watch the first movie. There are several homages to it, not to mention it is a direct sequel to the movie. While some may be disappointed at the lack of character development or its pacing but if you have patience, you’ll be rewarded.

When it comes to the gameplay, Alien: Isolation is a first-person survival horror game. The first thing to note is that the player character, Amanda Ripley, is not a gun toting space marine; she is an engineer. Her toolset will allow her to be creative with what she finds and the obstacles she encounters but she is not a damage sponge. What will allow here to survive is pure and simple, avoidance. Throughout the game, an alien will be on the prowl hunting you. Sneaking around is fairly simple. Crouching, staying in the shadows, and not making noises are the primary ideas. The game has a fantastic lean function that allows you to peak around corners and over railings. For enemies outside your view, the motion tracker is your next line of defense. On here the Alien, androids, and fellow humans will pop up like a Christmas tree. The other function is that it will serve as a directional tool to your next objective. When staying quiet isn’t completely viable, the game has offered a complete crafting system. This system allows you to craft a variety of tools like noisemakers, smoke grenades, and Molotov cocktails from useful scrap collected around the station. These can distract enemies or rebuff their attacks.

When all else fails, the game does offer some offensive options. You’re get a handgun, a shotgun, and even the iconic flamethrower. While the Alien is the perfect killing machine, you can keep it away with Molotov cocktails and the flamethrower. The traditional weapons are for the humans and androids on the station. Most of the humans are just trying to survive and may leave you alone whereas others will try to kill you. The androids are typically running their programs. If you’re in a common area, they’ll merely leave you alone. If you’re in a restricted area, they’ll get rid of you in quite a violent fashion. When all else fails, you’re equipped with a basic wrench that works quite well for humans or for stunned androids.

For the pacifists, instead of direct action you can hide. This is the preferred method as resources are scares. The game offers lockers, small cabinets, and tables to hide in and under. If you keep making noise and not progressing, you’ll find the Alien will start closing his search pattern more and more until he’s on top of you. At this point, it’s best to remain still and hope death is not coming soon. If you’re inside one of the lockers, you’ll even have to hold your breath to remain undetected or else it’ll soon become your tomb. Eventually though, the Alien will leave and you will be able to get away but those moments are incredibly tense.

The gameplay of Alien: Isolation is quite unexpectedly good. Having a single alien throughout the game was a bold decision rife with possible downsides but in practice there are not much. The developers have perfectly captured the feeling of being hunted. They also have given you the right tools to survive. This is where some of the incredible atmosphere is broken. When you throw a noisemaker or a flare, the enemies will stand there staring at it for a long time. This of course allows you to get around them easily, it makes it painfully obvious it is a game. There are also times it feels like the Alien is obsessed with you and for some reason can’t find other humans that are out in the open in the area. On the other side of the coin, the Alien feels and acts like you would expect it. The first part, is that it is unpredictable. Unlike other games where you watch a guard patrol the same pattern over and over and learn how to avoid him, you can’t do that here. This choice may lead some to find frustration in the save system and dying but both choices are right. The unpredictability of the Alien boosts the realism and atmosphere immensely. The save points are located close to each other yet far enough apart to give you something to strive for as well as help build tension. The androids can be annoying when they chase you down but they cause you to pay the price for failing to stay undetected. This also typically causes you to eliminate them, which causes noise, which attracts the Alien and others, which develops even more tension. This is a game best played in small chunks as to catch a breath between sessions. There were times I was so scared, I would run up to the next save point, save, and then turn off the system only to turn it back on and keep going only a couple minutes later. The game offers plenty of options to explore and collect but I would only do as much as I needed to, not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t want to die. The minigames for accessing computers and opening doors were well done. They are simple enough to understand but take long enough that you try to rush as quickly as you can through them. Overall Alien: Isolation is a ridiculously scary and tense game that never really lets up. Each element of the gameplay builds upon each other to near perfection. Finally we have a game worthy of the Alien franchise.

For the world of Alien: Isolation, you are largely stuck to the space station Sevastopol. This place is run down and in the late stages of being decommissioned. The graphics perfectly capture this place and its look fits quite well into the universe. It is industrial, dark, and clunky. The shadows and lighting are phenomenal. There are parts when you walk into a room and the lights click on just like in the movie. There are also a lot of other subtle homages to the films. A small drawback is that while you are move about this station and sometimes backtrack, the feeling of a true space station is a little incomplete. It is not as bad as Bioshock where it felt like a series of levels strung together by bathyspheres but not quite as good as System Shock 2. For example, a lot of elevators feel like they only go between two floors. You never feel like you know where on the station you truly are and rely much more on your motion tracker to guide you rather than your natural sense of direction. The other minor complaint is that on the Xbox One version, there are some minor slowdowns. It never got me killed but it did take me out of the game slightly. Overall though, the graphics succeed on almost all fronts and are simply gorgeous.

The sound design is fantastic and is a powerful game element. You will spend a significant portion of the game just standing still under a desk or in a locker simply listening and absorbing the world. Listening will let you know if the Alien is close and if he is in the vents or out in the corridors passing through doors. It’s an integral part of the experience and crucial for survival. Once you believe the threats are outside your hearing range, it’s time to pull out the motion tracker. It sounds marvelous. It must have been a deliberate action but the blips on the tracker sound close to the noise that the save points emit making you never feel safe even when you desperately want to get there. On that point, the Alien and other enemies can hear as well. If you run, you will make noise, and you will die. The only noise you will make that won’t get you killed is the lockers. Despite sneaking around without making a peep, the developers decided to make the locker doors incredibly loud. Most likely to make you panic that much more as that locker has a high chance of being your tomb.

Amanda’s voice actor sounds fantastic and believable in the highly tense situation she is in and the supporting cast is quite good as well. There are some familiar voices to hear too as you make your way through the game, most notably in the DLC which have a lot of the actors from the first movie lending their talents. While these type of things typically are phoned in, it is certainly not the case here but their parts are relatively brief.

The music on the other hand, is not brief. It will surround you the entire game and ramp up the tension dramatically. There are times where you are fairly certain that you’re safe but the fantastic music has your heart racing because it sounds like you are under constant threat. Then there are other times where you know death can be around any corner and the music is making the situation so tense it almost causes you to want to shut the game off and curl up into a ball. It does its job. It’s frightening. It also perfectly complements the original music and builds off some of the original themes. The audio in this game is a large part of what make it fit in the Alien universe. It sets the tone, crafts the atmosphere, builds the tension, and causes your heart to race.

Alien: Isolation is a thematic sequel to the first Alien film. It is frightening and tense. The Alien is unpredictable and dangerous. But you have the tools to succeed. The game is fair yet challenging. The Creative Assembly has managed to craft the best game based upon the franchise yet. First, the choice to have a single alien hunting you was a bold choice. Whereas the second movie made the aliens almost disposable, this game takes us back to a nearly unstoppable predator. The story falls into some horror game clichés but is nicely crafted and there could definitely be more character development. The gameplay has a couple blemishes and the length of the game may be a tad long but overall it is fantastic. The graphics are amazing. Not only did the developers match the look and tone of this universe, they also put several homages to the first movie. Unfortunately there are some slowdowns in the Xbox One version. The sound design is frighteningly good. The situation and the graphics are scary enough from the sound brings the entire thing to life and ups your heart rate by a significant amount. The music particularly stands out. Alien: Isolation is an impressive addition to the Alien universe. A lot of people debate if the third and fourth Alien movies are a worthy entry to the franchise. No one will debate if Alien: Isolation is worthy, it’s that good.


Bold choices pay off in this game, having a single Alien hunting you and playing as Ellen Ripley’s daughter. The story does lack some character development and the game is quite long but despite this, it’s still a fantastic experience.


Watch the first movie before you play the game because The Creative Assembly has mastered the look of this franchise. The dark industrial spaceships and clunky technology are perfectly recreated. The lighting is impressive. Some slowdowns mar the experience slightly.


Incredible sound design. You truly feel like you’re on a massive space station being hunted. The music is so frightening that there were times I thought about turning it off because it was making the game so scary. Did they have to make the locker’s door sound so loud?


The Creative Assembly has managed to craft the best game based upon the Alien franchise yet. A lot of people debate if the third and fourth Alien movies are worthy entries to the franchise. No one will debate if Alien: Isolation is worthy, it’s that good.

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