Game Review: Alien Isolation

October 27, 2014
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Game Review: Alien Isolation

The original Alien movie—and I don’t mean any of the drek sequels which have followed it—is one of the scariest movies ever made. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to. Dan O’Bannon and Walter Hill’s script, Ridley Scott’s dynamite direction and the deft cinematography of Derek Vanlint all come together with H.R.Giger’s most famous SFX creation to create a state of horror-bliss. Indeed, Giger’s xenomorph alien from 1979 is the perfect assassination machine, a perfectly realized, ruthless killer. Yet video game versions have always turned out generic and disappointing. “Character is fate!” the master of both the short story and the three-act-play, Anton Chekhov, told us.

It’s a tenet of fundamental storytelling that is often ignored. It even holds true when it comes to video gaming. You can’t create a game that remains interesting beyond the first time if your characters own no character. In the games based on Alien, the creature is nothing but a dumb killer. It has no motivation. Not even hunger. It simply kills and gets hunted. Finally, Sega got it together. So make some room in your Christmas stocking, baby!

This alien gets the kudos and respect it has needed all along, a brutal savage with a breadth of intellectual capacity. Are you a capable opponent? The question here becomes: Can you figure out ways to hide out where it won’t be able to use any of its five senses to hunt you down, a merciless, unstoppable force that can kill you in the blink of an eye? You can’t fight it and you can’t outrun it. All you can do is hide and hope it doesn’t sniff you out.

The heroine of Alien: Isolation is Amanda Ripley, daughter of Alien’s survivor Ellen Ripley. Fifteen years after the events in Alien, she has been sent on a mission to retrieve the black box recorder from the now legendary ship Nostromo. Having just been located, docked in a backwater space station called Sevastopol, Ripley is pressed into service with the knowledge that she is curious to know the details of many unknown aspects of her past. As with the original, when Ripley arrives, she finds an abandoned, ruined wreck. Something lurks, although Ripley has no clue as to exactly what it is.

Game Review: Alien Isolation

Isolation may appropriate lots of stuff from the original, especially the slow unraveling of information. Still, slowly but surely, Ripley drifts toward inevitable conflict with the creature. Slowly but surely as her colleagues are stealthily picked off, they fall into a back-and-forth competition of reactive behavior between human and alien intelligences.  Have you ever been hunted? No? You’re definitely going to find out… You genuinely feel you’re up against an intelligent and devious predator. It is genuinely hunting you, using its keen senses.

So how do you stay out of its deadly jaws and keep its burning acid blood from eviscerating your skin? Thank God for your motion detector. It’s your main means of reaction, giving off a bleeping noise every time the alien shows up in your vicinity.  Still, while you’re being hunted, you get to go over the blueprints and then the architecture of the exquisite corpse of the Sevastopol while always, always, always, you are aware of the basso profundo movement of the gigantic killer and its oversized thudding feet. Clearly being hunted isn’t everybody’s idea of fun, but it definitely worked invigorating wonders for me. And without my giving away too much, be aware that there are other humans, good and evil, meaning to befriend you, kill you out of territorialism or use you for other fiendish means.

Ripley is crafty and she owns an engineering degree, just like her dear mama. As an engineer, she can use many tools and knick-knack type things to make homemade bombs and weapons. All kinds: Hee-hee!

There are plenty of variations to fill up the time. In one part your motion tracker is disabled. Then you become some kind of ruthless creature. In another part, you’re robbed of your weapons. What do you do now with your engineer’s knowledge of gadgets?

A great, fun game I very much recommend that’s also an homage to a classic horror masterpiece. Until now I’ve never thought much about Sega one way or the other. Now I’m a fan.

Alien Isolation

Sega; Xbox 360/Xbox One/PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4/PC: $69.95

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