Let me first start by saying I am a fan of Alien and Aliens. I will admit that that may influence my review and I will do my best to not cloud my judgement.
When Isolation was announced, I was both excited and skeptical. For those who have no idea why, Alien is one of those almost sacred cow kind of scifi/horror movies. The first one is a masterpiece of terror and suspense, and the second is just loads of bad-ass. Then there is Alien 3. Alien: Resurrection was just… weird, and there was the god awful Alien vs Predator movies… its kinda become its own Eldrich abomination, since game developers seem to want to cash in on the fans. There has never been a “good” Alien game. There have been mediocre games and then just fucking dreadful ones, like Colonial Marines.
So now that’s out of the way, lets discuss why we’re here, Isolation.
I did the pre-order, so I got the extra content and decided to try “Crew Expendable” first. I will admit, I did fanboy a little when I found out that the original cast (sans John Hurt, because Kane died before the game started) reprised the roles from the movie. You choose weather you play as Ripley, Dallas or Parker then go with the plan to trap the alien in the airlock. The Nostromo has been recreated down to the folds in the hyper-sleep beds. Wandering the halls to gather gear feels more epic than it should, the sounds play a large role in how the game feels. After gathering supplies, I went to the deck below… and promptly died. I laughed because I wasn’t expecting it so bloody fast. I already had a good feeling about how this game was going to go.
The next attempt I shot the shit out of it… well flame-broiled it. Realizing I was out of ammo, I quickly asked the alien to euthanize me, by hitting a wall with my wrench. I then decided to do my best “Solid Fisher” impression and hide. I have this issue when I stealth in games. In MGS when I’m in a box, the AI never moves. Splinter Cell, its like the guy forgets he’s patrolling when I’m hiding in a corner shadow. In Alien, I was trapped in a locker for god knows how long before he yanked open the locker and promptly liberated my sternum from my body with his mini-mouth. This went on for some time, before I finally decided to lower the difficulty from ‘Hard’ to ‘Normal’ a feat I haven’t had to do since Devil May Cry 3… the original release.
I got a bit further, but overall kept dying. So I decided to quit it for the time being, and boot up the main game.
There is probably going to be a METRIC SHIT-TON OF SPOILERS so if you are planning on playing this game, just skip to the very bottom for the score.
I bought the PS3 version because a) I’m broke and b) I typically don’t buy a “next gen” console until there are at least 5 games I would play for it. PS4 just recently hit that threshold for me, so maybe soonish I’ll get one. My PC is a pile, so PS3 it was. I will say, it is still quite impressive looking. There are some strange artifacts (like one wall didn’t load in so I was staring into space on the Torrens) and some odd focus issues, however, since my PS3 randomly freezes on netflix, it could have just as easily been my PS3 failing. So this will be the only time I mention graphical fuck-ups.
So Amanda Ripley is actually a well developed and detailed character. I don’t know how Issac Clarke carries all those weapons in Dead Space, but at least they gave Amanda a bloody backpack as part of her design. Her facial details and even things like her showing emotion is already on a level that is better than Michael Bein (Sorry Hicks, love you in Aliens and Blood Dragon… but Colonial Marines you sounded like Michael Madson in Bloodrayne) Honestly I think after a few hours Amanda has become pretty high on my “Characters I like list”. Which is pretty damn short.
First, I really dig the saving system. It lets you know if you are not alone (Quite literally tells you if hostiles are nearby) and on the odd chance the big chap drops in unexpected, the location of the baddies who were right on top of you gets scrambled. So if you save, turn around and “become hysterical” to death, the game shows some mercy on your load. Speaking of hysterical, the androids or “working joes” make me laugh. The stuff they spout is so… awkward. I think I heard ‘Tut Tut’ more times in this game than in Winnie the Pooh. Though I will applaud the AI, I thought I got away, but they decided to divide and conquer my narrow ass.
As often as you hear the voices, they’d better be good, and fuck me, they are. All of the sound is good, even little details like sounds being muffled in space, and Ripley can “hear” items that she is in contact with (like the wire from the beginning) because of vibrations. My favorite is the little cues to let you know the big chap is in the area and feeling frisky. Sound is just as important as the motion detector. Then again the environment gives you many cues, like slime dripping from a vent. Walking under that is obviously ill advised. Though this is a horror game, so I’m sure there is a lot of the “too stupid to live” crowd playing this.
One thing I hate is jump scares. Nine times out of ten, they are just used as a cheap filler for fear. Loud noises and sudden images are not a good substitute for atmosphere. (I’m looking at you Five Nights at Freddy’s) There are jump scares in Alien, however they ADD to the atmosphere. One in particular stood out to me, I was walking through an area I went through already, checking corpses. The alien was nearby and I was kinda sneaking around, I walked by what I thought was a dead android and suddenly, “There you are!” I jumped but it wasn’t a bullshit jump scare, I was scared the alien was gonna hear me bash its head in with a wrench.
Alien does one thing that one of my other favorite horror games, Silent Hill did…
Reminded me how much I fucking HATE hospitals in video games. I seriously cannot recall the last time I was in a hospital in a video game and shit didn’t get “real”.
I hate hospitals in real life. I hate them in games. I hate them in movies. More often than naught, they are another cheap ploy to help instill fear. The hospital wing in Isolation… lets just say I have never been so happy to be unnerved. The whole area is well thought out, down to the schedule for the doctors and having to figure out where one doctor who has the key you need was… when he died.
A bit after that, you finally meet some humans who don’t really want to kill you. The marshals. It was nice to restock on some ammo I was low on, but what made me happy was the conversation with Marlo and the flashback to his LV426 trip. Actually it kinda helps fill in some gaps, like why “For reasons unknown,” Ripley detonated a “M class star-freighter, a rather expensive piece of equipment.” See, doing a game based on a movie should complement it, not ret-con it… looking at you again Colonial Marines. Anyhow after my chat with Marlo, I got my flame unit and we began to set our trap for the Alien. Too bad there is always that 1 complete dick right? Nothing like being used as live bait and shot toward a gas giant to really make you want to kill someone.
When I got back to the ship, I pretty much just ran everywhere, the alien was gone, but then I was reminded of the androids. Suddenly this game took a very real “System Shock” kinda vibe and I had to go talk to Apollo, the stations AI construct. The sheer amount of ammo I received on my way to Apollo made me think a boss was coming up and my paranoia was reaching yet another high. Would I have to kill Samuels? Would Apollo become sentient like Shodan? Is there a fucking Queen on this station?
Nope. Samuels dies opening Apollo up so I can talk to it. I actually felt bad about his death.
So after fighting my way to Apollo, and walking into a very familiar room the following took place:
Me: Yo, shut down the droids.
Apollo: LOL NO. Somethings not right downstairs. Git
I walk under Apollo and walk into the FRELLING HUGE reactor. Its all lightning, explosions and rainbows and shit. (not rainbows, but it was impressive.) I take the elevator down to maintenance, and step out. I look to my roommate who was watching me play and actually said, “Well this escalated quickly…” as we both then look at the hive that I’m currently traversing. Looking around I realize one other crowning moment of awesome. I can see Amanda’s feet. Breakdown on the Xbox was the last game with a detail that minuscule that actually made sense. Not like I was jumping, but still… My awe was put aside when I saw my first facehugger. Up close.. “Oh look! Face huggers!” I joyfully said, before I grimaced, “Oh shit, facehuggers.” The hive quickly became a place of “All of my nope.” every other word out of my mouth was fuck until I found flame unit ammo.
In one knee jerk moment of awesome, I accidentally wrenched an alien away when it dropped right in front of me. I will never be able to have that happen again, but I will cherish it always.
De-activating the core… or activating… whatever… It might have been the single most nerve wracking thing in gaming I’ve ever encountered. I activate both parts, pretty much run like hell, go to purge the system, and as an extra “fuck you” with the lightning show, I now see that 5 or more aliens are now wandering the ship, pretty pissed at me. I pretty much haul ass to medical again to steal an ambulance. I accidentally found my first Nostromo log while doing this. Parker talking of repairs and pay. These little details kinda make me forget about the bloodthirsty condomhat stalking me. There is nothing like fighting an android and having an alien pop in. I might be gay, but even I have limits to fucking.
After hacking the ambulance and leaving Rodrigo behind I go and confront Marlos. He’s got a good idea, keep it out of company hands, but he does it like a dick by trying to turn his ship into a goddamn nuke with me on it. I deactivate it, but still fail to keep it from exploding, so in true alien style, I run screaming from the explosion, back to the station, yet again. The explosion fucked up the station and now I’m slowly decending into the gas giant… again. I get asked to go manually adjust the satellites, deal with an alien and come back to see Rodrigo facehugged. Seriously, I think Game of Thrones is the only thing to kill this many people off. While griping, my PS3 freezes and I’m forced to take a break.
I come back to the final marathon. I get a hold of the Torrens, and trying to escape, get captured, cocooned and almost run over by a fistful of FUCKING TRAINS. In stark contrast after this white knuckle trip through the bowels of the station, I take quite the leisurely stroll through space. I understand spacesuits are bulky, but with the space station crashing, you figure Amanda would move faster. I get above the ship, and have to self destruct the clamps. As I finish I am met with several quite cross bugs. In a really tense moment (cinematic, thankfully) Amanda detonates the claw and painfully enters the ship. I’m safe, the games over… why is there an alien looking at me?
I’m not going to ruin the ending, I will say, compared to the rest of the game it felt like a bit of a letdown, but at the same time, left it wide the fuck open for a sequel. Overall I really enjoyed this game, and I’m currently going through it on hard now, something I haven’t done in ages. Alien Isolation is a true horror game experience, you have an active foe that you have to outwit and beat. It has great characters, well written dialogue and adds something new to an already established set of 2 good movies (because 3 still didn’t happen in my mind.) A few minor glitches that could have easily been my ps3 and some glitches that were just odd (like when I walked into a sealed room and an Alien spawned on me, giving me a cardiac) I still feel this game deserves every bit of praise it can get. It is a true horror game in a sea of abysmal jump-scare action games.
Since This is a new blog I’ll do a 0-100 rating system. 0 being ET 100 being… well I’m told Ocarina of Time is the highest reviewed game, so I’ll use that as my “gold standard.”
Alien Isolation gets a 91/100 that’s like an A- pretty damn good, but there’s just a bit of room for improvement. As I sit here looking at that last line, I’m wondering if I’m fanboying, or being honest. As a horror game I think it deserves it for sure. As an alien game, I think it’s the best. So I honestly think that while I might be fanboying a bit, this game will definitely be a gold standard of horror for some time.