Alien: Isolation (PC) Review

By Athanasios 14.06.2019

Review for Alien: Isolation on PC

1979's Alien is an irrefutable cinematic masterpiece, and, as is usually the case with those, it became a franchise, complete with sequels, comics, and, of course, videogames. Good? Bad? It matters not. The frighteningly enigmatic interloper that came from the cold vastness of space was now just a monster; a monster which was insanely cool and all, but had sort of lost its eldritch quality the moment the Colonial Marines from the awesome Aliens started killing its kin with their big, futuristic guns. For many hardcore fans of Ridley Scott's, heavily influential classic (reviewer included), the core, the heart, the "soul" of the original was forever lost... and then came 2014's Alien: Isolation. This survival horror and stealth gem, managed the unthinkable: it let the 'Xenomorph' become alien again, and while it was far from perfect, it surely felt so, especially since it showed that sticking to the roots can *gasp* pay off.

Amanda is looking for the whereabouts of her mom, and since she is the daughter of Ellen-freaking-Ripley, this means that, first, all the searching will have to be done far away from cosy earth, in the crumpling corridors of the decommissioned Sevastopol space station, and, second, that this place has recently become the home of something... a tad dangerous. In other words, our protagonist will pay a visit to Sevastopol, gear up, and start shooting down Xenomorph by the dozen. Correct? Not really. This is purposely slow-paced, and, while a horror title, it relies more in building tension through its atmosphere, than being choke-full of jump scares and rivers of blood.

The world Amanda will have to brave is dark, claustrophobic, on the brink of collapse, and with an outside view filled with the commanding magnificence of Jupiter. Moreover, from the terrified human survivors, and faulty, uncanny valley androids, to the titular stowaway, everyone in here is pretty much a threat. Before anything else, though, it should be noted that Alien: Isolation is the finest tribute to Alien imaginable, to the point that it feels more connected to its source material than its actual sequels, and with the only flaw being that some scenes are way too similar to the ones in the original film.

This also retains the exact same art style, with every single location having that distinct, retro-futuristic (and strangely realistic) look of the movie, with equipment ranging from switches and levers, to computers that belong in the mid '70s. All these aren't there just for the sake of fanservice, but actually help with immersing you into this quest, as everything has a certain "weight" and "tangibility." The audio-visual quality of it all is also fantastic, despite a few minor blemishes, like the annoyingly choppy cut-scenes, or how the, otherwise, quite thrilling, violin-raping music can occasionally get in the way of the actual game, by not letting you hear what's going on around you.

Screenshot for Alien: Isolation on PC

Of course, this carefully crafted atmosphere wouldn't mean much if the rest of the experience was incompatible with it. Thankfully, the gameplay portion of Alien: Isolation wants the same exact thing: to make you feel under constant pressure - and it achieves that even before you get to fight with an enemy, let alone the alien, simply by making everything go wrong for the protagonist, with the bulk of the adventure having her fixing a problem, only for a new one to arise, and inside what is essentially a big maze, where a seriously lethal cat is out to get its breakfast. Like all great survival horror titles, of course, the best thing in here is the fact that you are almost powerless.

Amanda is one seriously tough nut, but don't expect her to wield any plasma cannons anytime soon, as her equipment mainly consists of a wrench for operating machinery, a handful of flares, a hacking device, and other, not that dangerous stuff. Being an engineer, she can also craft helpful items by combining all sorts of (relatively scarce) components, yet these are mostly tools that are meant to distract, not harm. Even the few weapons on offer aren't really that powerful, as androids need plenty of bullets to go down, and the Alien is one resilient S.O.B., meaning that even a flamethrower just scares it away.

In many ways, your best weapon is actually the (insanely similar to the original in look and sound) motion detector, which also emphasises the survival horror aspect by being somewhat unreliable as a piece of equipment, because, #1: it just shows the general direction and distance of an enemy; #2: it can go bonkers in certain areas; and, #3: because it's a noisy piece of equipment that, whenever is used, has a chance of attracting the beast. In fact, it's better to simply rely on your ears, pay attention to every single sound, stay hidden under a desk, and carefully peek around… before heading towards under another desk, and repeat the process all over again.

Screenshot for Alien: Isolation on PC

But now it's time to talk about the star of the show. As previously mentioned, Alien: Isolation takes its sweet time before unveiling it, and rightfully so. When it finally makes its appearance, in all its original, elegant H.R. Giger-ness, the real game will finally begin. Whereas humans carry revolvers, and androids are very durable, the Xenomorph is simply relentless and unbeatable, meaning that, if it manages to see you, and you are out of any sort of seriously strong bug repellent, then pure ol' Amanda is pretty much dead. Simply put, you can't outrun or overpower it. You can only outsmart it. Problem is it's quite the canny bastard.

The alien's biggest strength isn't its powerful arms and jaws, but its heightened senses. So, when against, say, three or so androids, the biggest threat aren't these artificial morons, but the noise you'll make while trying to avoid, distract, or destroy them, which will make the alien come out of its hiding place to hunt you down - and usually through the ceiling air ducts, which means that one must always be aware of what's above. You think that being quiet will ensure your safety? You thought wrong! The alien is, above all, a foe with a capricious behaviour that will frequently start searching around the place for no "apparent" reason.

It's this unpredictability, however, that many times proves to be a big flaw, since, more often than not, the alien will manage to kill you literally because of your bad luck. You see, unpredictability can be perfect for a horror movie monster, but in videogames most players want to be able to understand and "read" what's going on. It should also be noted that its AI isn't as great as touted, as it can be very unreliable at times, either by seeing you when it shouldn't (or the other way around), or by not reacting "correctly" to noise, with one example being how it doesn't really care about the immersive-breaking way Amanda slams locker doors after exiting them.

Screenshot for Alien: Isolation on PC

Here's the thing about Alien: Isolation, though: this should not be viewed as a typical survival horror title that you just... play, but one that, first and foremost, is meant to be experienced. It's a highly engrossing film-turned-videogame kind of situation that relies more in creating tension, than providing well-crafted gameplay elements. In that regard, this is excellent at what it does - or, more specifically, almost excellent, as, depending on who is the one pushing all the buttons, the few issues at hand can either slightly agitate, or straight up annoy, with the length of the adventure in particular, being something that even fans agree that should be much shorter.

From Resident Evil to Silent Hill, the vast majority of horror games tend to clock at around seven hours or so. This has benefited those in two ways: apart from making them more replay-friendly, such duration also keeps their atmosphere from turning from thrilling to straight up boring. Alien: Isolation falls victim to that by requiring about 15 hours per play-through (or more), which, combined with the overall feeling of repetitiveness, as the gameplay isn't exactly that varied, soon ends up decreasing the initial feelings of dread, unlike say, the much, much shorter DLC mini-missions, which do a better job at captivating you.

Even worse than the length, however, is the way the developer handled the alien. Oh, don't worry, the awesome monster remains awesome in here as well, and trying to deal with it is certainly stimulating... but it honestly tends to appear way too often. In fact, even when it doesn't, the motion detector constantly notifies you of its existence, in essence damaging the scare factor quite a lot. Now, did the last paragraphs felt a tad negative? Probably. Is this a bad game? Far from it. Alien: Isolation is great. It's really an Alien game done right. Due to the aforementioned problems, however it has lost the opportunity to be a flawless gem like the original film that was its inspiration.

Screenshot for Alien: Isolation on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

First, Alien: Isolation is a good, yet flawed, stealth game; second, Alien: Isolation is a very good, yet flawed, survival horror game; and, third, Alien: Isolation is an almost flawless tribute to the original Alien film. Rest assured, the third reason makes putting aside the few issues at hand quite easy, in order to enjoy what is one of the most thrilling sci-fi rides ever.

Developer

Creative Assembly

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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