“There’s that. And there’s the fact that you’re a heartless bastard” – Ripley
There has been a lot of buzz around the gaming community about this particular game. We haven’t had a good Alien game in years. With the support of SEGA and the showing at the different conventions, Alien: Isolation was being watched closely by quite a few people. So how did it turn? Is it worth the investment? Are we still looking for that great Alien game we all want? Let’s discuss how this game performs.
You play as Amanda Ripley, a technician from the Weyland-Yutan Corporation who is in search of a flight recorder from the ship her mother was on before it disappeared, the Nostromo. During these events you will encounter human patrols, Synthetics also known as Androids and of course the Aliens. This game is labeled as three different aspects, stealth, survival and horror.
The first hour of the game, or so, will actually make you think twice about playing. It is boring and there are a lot of noticeable glitches that goes on. It gives you the feeling of a not very polished game. After that hour or so is past the game opens up and everything starts to smooth out to what is expected of it.
The glitches, as I mentioned just above, are during the cut scenes. The game seems to run in a mixture of frame rate issues and lag. The characters, while moving, will jerk around. Not by a large amount though. If you are not paying that much attention you won’t even notice it at all. If you are the type of person who studies every scene and keeps a close eye on things then it will definitely jump at you. It made my console feel like it was struggling to keep up with the graphical output of the game.
There are a few other glitches along the way. I played through the campaign four times. Each of those times I encountered this one glitch at the exact same spot. This is towards the end of the game when you get off one of the elevators. After making your way through the nest and back to the same elevator you got off of. My gun that I was carrying at the time would be floating in the air. I would switch to it by the weapon wheel and it would still be there. If I pulled it up to aim, it would snap out of its suspended state and jump in my hands. A few other things I would notice didn’t make much sense too. When I was crawling through the air ducts, while using the light off the Flamethrower to see, everything was fine. Once in a while when I got out of the air duct I would end up with the pistol in my hand instead. There are a few other little things but nothing major to go into. Those two where the top things that I noticed the most during my play through.
The sound quality was very well done. Not a single time did I notice any hiccups or “static” during the dialog. Everything was very clean and sharp. Even with the subtitles on I don’t remember their being a difference between what was spoken and what was showing on the screen. The sound from the explosions and the voice reaction was spot on. You could feel the emotions, haste and shocked from your character and the supporting characters around the area.
The detail of the Alien is what stood out the most in this game. She was amazing looking. Even up close you could tell the differences in her skin texture and color moving around low and high lighted areas. When you couldn’t physically see her you defiantly could hear her. From the breathing, the growling, the hissing and the heavy foot steeps. When she was close by it created a tension that made you quickly look around. If you heard her screaming and then running it was already too late for you. At any given moment she could drop down from the ceiling and pick you up. This is part of the game that you really had to take special care with. If you heard her up in the air vents, then she was really close to you. There are some scripted spots while trying to escape a few areas. If you watched the vents you could see some “black breath” and goo dripping out. If you see that stay clear as much as you can. The Alien is right there waiting for you to walk underneath. The only downside to the Alien was the way she would walk. If you were hiding under a desk and she walked right in front of you, she would slide on the ground instead of taking steps. This only happened really up close. Any other time she would walk like normal.
The different aspects of this game, stealth, survivor and horror, all go hand in hand. This is not a game that you can just run and gun your way through, even on the easiest setting. If you try that, the Alien will get you every single time. There are a few sections of the game that you have to play stealth to make it through if you want to survive. You could craft and throw a noise maker to distract the human guards and then let the Alien take care of them all. You could also throw a Molotov at them once they are all gathered around. Either way you will attract the Alien and have to avoid her. The Survivor aspect of the game is pretty simple. You have to survive, period. You start with hardly nothing and with scavenging and some story plots you amass parts to craft items, but only if you find the blue prints for that item first. The ones I used the most were the ones I have already mentioned, the Noise Maker, Molotov and of course the health syringes. While this game can be classified as a horror game it is pretty light on that subject. I would consider it more of a jump scare game. There are some pretty intense moments and edge of your seat type scenarios. As far as an actual horror game, this is not.
Everything might be perfect in a game but if the actual gameplay feels wonky or just not very sharp, it can ruin the entire experience of that game. As far as Alien goes, the gameplay experience is pretty good. Not perfect mind you, but it is really good. Maybe it was just me but there something that felt off about actually firing a gun. It might be that I was so tense I couldn’t aim correctly but something did fell off. Luckily I didn’t have to fire my guns all that much. I relied on the Flamethrower once I required it. That makes the game a lot easier to manage. Besides the slight weird gun mechanics, everything else felt just fine. The pace of which Ripley moved felt fluid and controllable. The camera movement was very acceptable. The way she crouched to hide under things felt like you were actually doing that. Every once in a while Ripley would get caught on something walking through narrow doorways. All I had to do was take a couple of steps back and proceed forward again with no issues. The one thing that I really did like about the game was the ability to look around and over objects. By holding down the L1 button you could move the left joystick around and peer around corners and objects. This really helped a lot and needs to be implement into more games.
There are times when the objective you are supposed to be heading towards did not feel very well explained out for you. Even when pulling up the map, your story objective could be off to the side with no mapped area around it. There are lighted up areas throughout the game that you can interact with to update your in-game map. Sometimes even these wasn’t enough to see how you are supposed to get from point A to point B. Good thing for us is fairly early on in the game you come across a hand held tracker. This will show you if any enemies are nearby within a certain range and will also let you know which direction the main objective is in. Without this you could be wandering around for hours trying to find your way.
So in all, is Alien Isolation a game that needs to be picked up and played? Absolutely it is. Even with some of the flaws as mentioned above, it does not take away from the experience at all. Not once did I run into a game crashing or glitch stopping moment. It was a suspenseful time, after you got past the first hour of game play, all the way up to the last second. I personally enjoyed the game so much that it made me want to go back and watch the movies once again.