Alien: Isolation (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 17.10.2014 9

Review for Alien: Isolation on PlayStation 4

For decades the Alien franchise has traditionally been using the James Cameron film Aliens as the backdrop for almost every video game adaptation. Whether it was actually based on the film or not, almost every game tied to the franchise would almost always fit the aesthetic and style of the hit action movie that many fans believe to be the series' high point. Game developers all over the world were inspired by the movie, which was featured on the cover of TIME magazine in 1986 and got Sigourney Weaver an Oscar nomination for her performance in a sci-fi action movie. The original film Alien, which was helmed by Ridley Scott, didn't quite inspire game developers the way Cameron's movie did, nor did 20th Century Fox commission developers to make as many games inspired by it. Even the second sequel Alien 3 got more video game adaptions than the original classic motion picture. When The Creative Assembly decided that it would make a survival horror game using Ridley Scott's film as the inspiration, many people took notice. Has The Creative Assembly, a studio with a long history of developing real-time strategy games (the Total War series) made a game that honours the insurmountable legacy of Alien? Cubed3 reviews Alien: Isolation on PlayStation 4.

Alien: Isolation is a survival horror game set in the first-person perspective, where the player assumes the role of Amanda Ripley. Much like the SEGA Saturn classic Enemy Zero, a large space station is navigated, rife with winding corridors and solutions to various situations must be found, all while avoiding very lethal threats in a stealthy manner and gathering supplies to cobble together IEDs. From the outset, it becomes very clear early on that The Creative Assembly wanted to make a semi-remake or reboot of the original film Alien. Perhaps the notion of having an Alien game without a character named "Ripley" felt too risky. While the narrative in Alien: Isolation is perfectly serviceable, it is meant to create the conditions and atmosphere established in the 1979 film.

The aesthetics and art direction is spot on, and truly captures what the artists in the late 70s thought the far future would look like. Wonderfully retro but never kitschy or sarcastic, the almost Atari-esque computer graphics really give the impression that technology can only do so much and cannot be relied on 100%. This point is further illustrated in the game's most useful item, the motion tracker. A heavy looking, bulky device, the motion tracker will become Ripley's most valued asset to avoiding the game's most horrifying enemy, the Alien. While the tracker can't determine if subjects are above or below Ripley, nor can it detect things that are stationary, it can't always be relied on to illustrate any movement within the player's line of sight.

Screenshot for Alien: Isolation on PlayStation 4

Resource management and stealth are the core pillars of the gameplay of Alien: Isolation. Knowing how to negotiate the artificial intelligence of the characters requires strategy, as well, whether they are the uncanny valley inducing androids, "Working Joes," the panicky crew of the Sevastopol, or the unrelenting Alien itself. Each of these characters has their own unique behaviours that define them, and have their own distinct means of interacting with the environment. Of course, the star of the game is the Alien, which has been endowed with a very complex artificial intelligence that truly makes the beast feel alive and very dangerous. Early on, the game will ease the player into the beast's introduction by peppering a few scripted appearances, but before long the game takes the silk gloves off and sets the monster loose for much of the game.

Even when the player decides to not continue the story missions and chooses to re-explore past environments with the right tools to open up previously inaccessible areas, the Alien will almost always be able to find Ripley should enough noise be made to attract it. It isn't until the Alien is actively stalking Ripley; The Creative Assembly's expertise in making strategy games becomes very apparent. There is a great deal of planning and careful manoeuvring required to survive in Alien: Isolation, and being able to quickly improvise when something unexpected happens can be an intensely relieving sensation. Whether it is making a distraction or luring the Alien to attack other humans, there are so many ways to interact with the monster. It cannot be stressed enough just how challenging Alien: Isolation is and how small victories like accessing a save point can feel like an awesome wave washing away much fear and terror.

Screenshot for Alien: Isolation on PlayStation 4

The Creative Assembly truly muscled out some very impressive visuals that were originally designed to run on PS3 and Xbox 360 hardware. However, on the PS4, Alien: Isolation is quite beautiful and at times looks almost photographic due to the various depth of field and soft focus effects. There is also an ingenious film grain effect added that is very subtle, but truly gives it that Ridley Scott flourish that the artists were slaves to in order to make this game match up with the immortal classic film. For the most part, Alien: Isolation runs very smoothly and has very quick load times, thankfully. The expediency of these load times are actually very important for gameplay reasons because during the 20-plus hour campaign, expect Ripley to die… a lot. It is very helpful to have such a fast reload time in order to maintain a steady ebb and flow of the gameplay and to keep the player from waiting too long.

As beautifully as the game runs and plays, it does have a few flaws that really distract from what can be considered a very good game. A particular flaw that truly is disappointing is just how choppy the frame rate is during cut-scenes. It is disappointing seeing such beautifully rendered characters animate so choppy during these scenes, but thankfully the gameplay is not indicative of the technical failings of the unplayable segments. There are a few instances of character models clipping through level geometry, but then again, these flaws are only so noticeable due to how great everything looks.

Screenshot for Alien: Isolation on PlayStation 4

Much like the film inspired by it, Alien: Isolation always manages to increase the stakes or jeopardy. Gameplay is always pulling surprises and tugging the rug from beneath the user, or possibly throwing a wrench in their plan. Since the gameplay offers a lot of agency from the player, everyone who plays the game will have their own stories to tell given how the AI of the Alien is incredibly dynamic and is capable of learning. Some of the strategies the beast will try may include hiding in open shafts and waiting to pounce on unsuspecting players, but anyone who is familiar with the films knows the tell-tale sign of dripping saliva is an indicator of a stalking Alien.

Alien: Isolation doesn't hold the player's hand too much, either. Many of the zones in the Sevastopol can be quite labyrinthine and intimidating. All of this is part of the challenge that is specifically designed to recreate the terror and panic that the original characters of the film experienced, and Alien: Isolation does it very well. Players who have never seen the original movie will be in for all kinds of surprises and will be privy to one of the most feared monsters in science fiction. Their chances won't be lied about, but they do have this reviewer's sympathies.

Screenshot for Alien: Isolation on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Densely atmospheric, challenging and intricate level design, Alien: Isolation hits all the right notes to be an unforgettable survival horror game. Immaculate sound design that is very authentic to the source material will haunt players' minds as they traverse the corridors and rooms of the Sevastopol. Alien: Isolation stands alone as by far one of the greatest and most daring survival horror titles in the past decade, and is possibly the most important entry in the Alien canon since James Cameron made the beloved sequel. What begins with a few scripted sequences will quickly become an unpredictable nightmare of being pursued by a deadly creature, only for the pacing to ease once more, and then to unleash the Alien's carnivorous wrath again. If some of the technical issues could have been ironed out, such as the choppiness of the cut-scenes, clipping, or when the HAVOK physics engine goes berserk, this might have been a 10/10. As it is, Alien: Isolation is a very pure gem with some minor hairline fractures. This is a worthy game and comes highly recommended to anyone who enjoys excitement or is a fan of Ridley Scott's Alien, or for fans of survival horror in general.

Developer

The Creative Assembly

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Sounds so good. Glad they've made a good alien game at last.

Our member of the week

Azuardo said:
Sounds so good. Glad they've made a good alien game at last.

Aliens: Infestation on DS is awesome too Smilie (not for graphical reasons in that case Smilie) and that was a mere 3 years ago Smilie.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Good point. I still need to pick that up.

yeah, this was a real good game guys.
thoroughly impressed with this one.

considering how this game goes against most modern trends in AAA development, it is a miracle this game exists at all.

it is such a bold and daring experiment gone horribly right.

Will have to pick it up eventually.

Very pleasantly surprised by a licensed property (especially one SEGA holds the IP rights to) turning out so damn well. Hopefully SEGA will keep a good relationship with this dev team.

It's just a shame that one of the main attractions (a scenario with actual Alien characters) is locked as pre-order DLC..

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

SuperLink said:
Very pleasantly surprised by a licensed property (especially one SEGA holds the IP rights to) turning out so damn well. Hopefully SEGA will keep a good relationship with this dev team.

It's just a shame that one of the main attractions (a scenario with actual Alien characters) is locked as pre-order DLC..

this was a game made by a team of people who were clearly in love with what they were making.
they were inspired and had a clear vision of what they wanted.  this much is very clear.

i did play the dlc that was following the original cast, and to be honest it wasnt all that substantial or as robust as one might hope.  it could have been a demo to the game.


Great review. This looks like my kind of Alien game. I hope it deserves the score.

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

if you like hard survival horror and stealth, then this is for you.

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