“Alien: Isolation” pays homage to original movie

Courtesy of Sega
Courtesy of Sega

“Alien: Isolation” is a survival horror game by British video game developer Creative Assembly. You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of “Alien” franchise protagonist Ellen Ripley. Amanda ventures with her team to Sevastopol, an android-manufacturing space station holding a flight recorder of the “Nostromo,” the ship her mother was stationed in before she went missing. She finds herself stranded after a mysterious explosion on board separates her from her team. Amanda must then evade various threats to regroup and uncover the secret behind the chaos that surrounds her. The game is great if players accept it for what it is — a homage to the “Alien” franchise. But other than that, the game lacks variety.

Sevastopol is a hostile environment, and everything that can kill you, will. There are multiple threats such as the Alien, an unkillable extraterrestrial crafted to be the perfect predator who runs amok on the ship. Or Synthetics, biomechanical humanoids who operate the ship and become hostile if individuals are caught breaking the law. Even other stranded humans have several ways of disposing of Amanda. Players must use their brain and trusty motion-tracker to survive. Weapons can be crafted, but they only work to inconvenience enemies rather than eliminate them.

The game rewards players for making smart decisions. With a vast amount of controls at the player’s disposal, being quick on your toes is a necessity. Players can hide under desks, crouch behind cover, turn on radios to create distractions, or evade threats via the ventilation system (not recommended by the way): How you choose to survive is your decision. But recklessness is only rewarded with a swift death.

The game brings the suspense of the “Alien” franchise to life through these elements. Players will find themselves falling into classic horror movie moments as the game progresses. Experiences like the terror of hiding in a closet while a monster is just inches away from finding you, or the anxiety of having to watch your back as you hack a machine to get to another part of the ship are common — and threats are always around the corner. The game creates the genuine feeling of helplessness needed for a survival horror game.

However, the game lacks consistency in being frightening. Act one is effective because everything is unexpected. But leading into act two, even on the hardest difficulty, the game becomes less scary because its mechanics are predictable. After dying a few times the players know everything they need to know to progress from one place to the next. The game does not continue to provide the player with new challenges and gameplay. And once players receive the motion-tracker the suspense vanishes. The game becomes an intense version of “Metal Gear Solid” from this point on, and death is not scary but just plain frustrating.

This game is for fans of the “Alien” franchise with few true aspects of a survival horror game. The combination of a popular franchise with a medium as interactive as a video game creates something unique for the fans, but not much for anybody else. “Alien: Isolation” is the sequel that never made it to the big screen, but this time fans not only get to watch it, they can live it.

Rating: 3 stars

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