Alien: Isolation drags you to fifteen years after the events of the original film dropping you into the role of Amanda Ripley who has been searching for answers to her mothers disappearance. Now an engineer working for Weyland-Yutani ‘The Company’ you are tasked with retrieving the Nostromo’s flight recorder from Sevastopol station. Currently in the process of being decommissioned, Sevastopol circles a gas giant in deep space providing an excellent backdrop to one of the tensest games I’ve played.
I’m not used to this type of game, I took it easy, I was cautious all the way. In the cramped confines of the station, with humans and the Working Joe androids capable of being friend or foe, harassed by the feeling the Alien is always there and ready to pounce has your heart pounding keeping you alert. I soon realised that if it found me I was more than likely dead, a tail through the back while trying to run away will do that to you, that loss of hope encouraged a determination not to be caught. No one ever wants to be the mouse, but if you have to then take a leaf out of Jerry’s book.
With an array of gadgets built up throughout the game you aren’t entirely defenceless, you can leave surprises to scare the beast back into the vent for a short while. They can be used to kill, or at least help to, androids and humans. You also get access to a set of weapons, starting with a basic revolver and getting more deadly as you go along, but remember you can’t kill the Alien. Firing your weapons may alert the beast or any other threats to your location, do you have enough ammo to fight off an attack before it is too late to hide. You constantly have to make survival choices, mine was mainly to cower in lockers and under tables until it felt safe enough to come out.
There are no safe places in Sevastopol station, you save games when you can and while there are warnings if hostiles are near sometimes you must risk the time it takes to create a checkpoint. You regularly find yourself crawling through wall vents accessed through iris gates, these aren’t necessarily safe either, exiting one I found the Alien following me out and I had nowhere to run.
The visuals in the game are brilliant, and very much in keeping with the original film. They help draw you in to a dark and menacing world, keeping the tension high even when no Alien is present. Added to this is some impeccable audio, the whirr of the computers, the clunk of the doors, the hiss of the alien. Sometimes there are rooms with automated audio, hearing this play from down the corridor is enough to tense up your spine, is it the Alien or just a human or android. If you stumble into these areas with it in earshot will it race to kill you or ignore it. I found the audio increasingly giving me help in avoiding certain death, carefully listening to the rumble coming from the ceiling vents to find out where it will jump down, although it sometimes sits at the opening waiting for someone to pass underneath.
While an amazing game, it was not perfect. There was regular stuttering, luckily never at inopportune moments, which broke the immersion. In an attempt to keep things tense, while crawling through vents there can be a significant increase in background rumbling just to make you panic which eventually gets a bit tedious.
I’d definitely recommend this game to people. With a well crafted story pushing you along your deadly game of cat and mouse, pursuing objectives with danger all around. It is exciting, tense and nerve wracking fun which can last anywhere up to 30 hours judging by some estimates (I played for about 26 hours).