Is this one of the best film licences ever? John packs spare underwear and loads up Alien: Isolation
As my twitter handle reveals, UKFilmNerd, I love film. This love also affects my choice of gaming and I’m quite happy to try a game licenced on a film be it good or bad.
Recently I purchased a Sony PlayStation 4. One of the first games I picked up was Alien: Isolation, a title I have been longing to play ever since its release two years ago.
Ever since the invention of the home computer, there have been several variations of the Alien series of films released as video games. Whilst the earliest games were licences that focused on the first two original films, this soon expanded to include the predator license as well. You can read my Retro Review of the Aliens games on the ZX Spectrum here.
Games have appeared on home computers, consoles and arcades with a lot of the emphasis on action, blasting away the relenting hordes of attacking aliens.
Alien: Isolation goes back to the roots of the Alien story in both terms of plot and gameplay.
Set fifteen years after the events of the original Alien film, you will play the character of Amanda Ripley, the grown-up daughter of the film’s hero, Ellen.
Amanda has always wondered what happened to her mother and the crew of the Nostromo. Her research and investigations unfortunately came up blank. She receives an offer from Christoper Samuels who works for Weyland Yutani.
It transpires that the spacecraft Anesidora has found the black box recorder from the Nostromo and is currently being held are the remote space station Sevastopol. Samuels offers her a place aboard the Torrens which is due to fly out to the station.
Amanda accepts the offer and makes the journey across deep space to Sevastopol Station where the Anesidora and her crew who found the black box, are currently residing. Amanda hopes she may finally find some answers.
However, when Amanda reaches the space station, something is very wrong. The Sevastopol is damaged and communications are offline. Amanda becomes separated from the Torrens crew and discovers that the huge space station is almost empty of people. The few she does encounter are fighting to survive. The android work crew known as the Working Joes for some reason are attacking the staff on sight.
Also, a strange creature has been sighted on board. It is killing off the remaining crew one at a time and no one is able to stop it.
Alien: Isolation is a return to the tense horror of the original 1979 film. As you make your way around the dimly lit corridors, you’ll always be on edge wondering where the next attack may come from. Will it be surviving humans, renegade androids, or the alien killing machine?
The game is best described as a survival horror, so trying to use a gung-ho attitude will get you killed every time. The simple act of using a gun will attract others, human or otherwise, to the noise, so hiding and moving around using stealth is vital.
The androids, the Working Joes, can be stopped but it uses precious resources and only if it’s a one on one situation. Take on more than two at once and you’ll certainly end up dead.
The real meat of the game though is the spine-chilling encounters with the alien creature itself. I don’t think this comes as any real spoiler but there is only one alien on board the station and you can’t kill it, hence the emphasis on stealth.
I loved trying to solve the puzzles whilst I knew the alien was stalking me. You can hear its heavy footfalls as it gets closer. It’s then you’ll realise there’s very little time to finds a decent hiding spot such as a locker or vent shaft.
The Alien’s artificial Intelligence is impressively smart. They’re no scripted routines here. Every time you play the alien’s movements will be different. The alien has a keen set of senses. So that handy motion tracker with its loud beeps isn’t always as useful as it seems.
If you can’t see the alien, you most commonly hear it moving around in the air ducts above your head but beware, there will are always several access points in a level that allow the alien to drop down and come and find you.
It will also kill any other people on the same level as you (Which can be worked to your advantage). If it sees you, it will run to catch you and you cannot outrun it! If it catches you in the process of hiding, the alien isn’t stupid, that locker door will be flung open and you’ll find your life has come to an abrupt end. In Alien: Isolation you’ll die, a lot.
This all feels a bit one-sided, but there are options that allow you to fight back in a limited manner. Scattered around the space station are various types of electrical and mechanical scrap that you can collect. During various points in the game, you’ll find blueprints for makeshift weapons and devices which can be built with the scrap you’ve collected.
The type of objects you can build are for distraction rather than killing, for example, noisemakers and EMP bombs (temporarily disables androids) becoming available as the game progresses. To aid you further, you can access wall mounted computers in various locations that allow you to lock doors, open air vents and activate alarms allowing you to manage the situation to your advantage.
If you have any sort of love for the original Alien film then it’s hard not to fall in love with this game. Graphically this game is absolutely gorgeous. Everything looks like it was stolen from the set of Alien scanned and placed into the game. Corridors, air vents, shopping malls, tram systems, you name it. Even if it wasn’t featured in the film, these environments look like they could slot into the film and they wouldn’t look out of place.
Sound design is also very important in the game. Whilst there is music for crucial moments, most of the time you’ll just hear the sounds of the environment. Listen out for human chatter bitching about trying to survive on the station or the thud of the alien’s feet as it tries to find your hiding space. Even the mechanical voice of the working Joes alerts you to their presence so you know trouble is soon ahead.
I usually play these games in the late evening and when I do it’s with the lights out and headphones on. I become completely immersed in this world and I love every second of it.
As the game is now two years old, it can be bought very cheaply. I highly recommend you do as I think it’s not only one of the best film licensed titles I’ve ever played, but also an excellent game in its own right.
Alien: Isolation is available for Microsoft Xbox 360, Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC.