Alien: Isolation is a first-person survival horror stealth game set in the Alien universe. In the past we've had some excellent Alien games like AvP (1999) and AvP2 (2001) but more recently we've had bad alien games like AvP (2010) and even more recently the truly terrible Alien: Colonial Marines (2013). It could be said that the vast majority of Alien games have been based on the second Alien film. People have long been asking for an Alien game with more in common the first Alien film. Could this be it?
You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley (film Ripley) who is searching for the flight recorder of the Nostromo (first film ship) which has been located on a space station called Sevastopol Station. Sevastopol station is owned by a failing competitor to Weyland Yutani (mega corporation from all the films), Seegson Corporation. Using the first-person style you do a series of objectives which inevitably lead to Amanda needing to find her way off of the station. The first half of the game is a stealth heavy mission not to get killed by the alien, which started to drag on as the alien was relentlessly hunting me and never far away. The second half of the game increases in intensity and is the most fun part, you get weapons capable of temporarily making the alien run away and are left to decide if you should hide or fight.
The station is designed in an open world type of way. You go back and forth through some areas but not in a way that it ever felt repetitive. As you go on you gradually unlock more powerful tools to open doors which couldn't be unlocked on your previous visit. Hacking is another important part of gameplay involving simple mini-games to complete. A lot of lore is picked up by using computers found on the station. Dotted around the world you will also find wall mounted computers called Rewire which allows you to enable/disable systems in your immediate area, a cool concept but the implementation felt neglected. I kept finding them after I'd snuck past or murdered everyone in the area or they only had one seemingly useless option available. Opening doors, using computers and hacking takes time, time in which the alien could well spot you. Saving is done by clocking in at a terminal. Save terminals are strangely scattered, some seconds apart and others twenty minutes. The terminal will notify you if an enemy in nearby to avoid instant death saves.
Alongside the indestructible Alien you also have to deal with humans and androids. They all have slightly different properties when it comes to detecting you. Different methods and tools work best for avoiding or fighting each type of opponent.
Crafting is used to create a variety of items such as pipe bombs, medical packs, molotovs, noisemakers, emp traps, etc. from ingredients found in containers, bodies, vents, etc. The items you can craft are unlocked as you go by collecting blueprints and upgraded by collecting better blueprints. This allows you to pick the method to deal with a situation such as ‘Should I try and kill these humans with a pipe bomb?', ‘Flashbang them and try to run past?' and ‘Throw a noisemaker at them and let the alien deal with them?'.
It wouldn't be an Alien game without the motion tracker and it behaves much like you'd expect. Combining the motion tracker and leaning to figure out which way the Alien is facing is the best way to navigate without being detected. You also get a flashlight but I rarely need to use it. The flashlight requires batteries which felt a bit pointless, given its rare need.
Graphically the game is fantastic, I can't fault it. The audio is also very good and serves to keep you on your feet by leaving you wondering what caused the noise. The music is atmospheric and intense. One thing that did bug me was the alien sound positioning wasn't very clear (maybe on purpose?), I couldn't tell if the alien was to my right or left, despite him loudly trotting.
The game has a few bugs but nothing game breaking. Sometime particle effects didn't fade away and I once encountered a floating flame thrower. Physics can sometimes be a bit on the shady side, walking into a table with some cups on it and the physics behaved like I'd crashed into it with an elephant. When attacked, the alien appears to have some pathfinding issues, more than once it sort of stood there deciding what to do while I burnt it with a flame thrower.
It has taken me 18 hours to complete but I probably spent more time hiding than I needed.
Is this the Alien game everyone has been waiting for? Yes, I think it. I very much recommend you pick this one up.