Saturday, 19 September 2015

Alien: Isolation

In space, no-one can hear you scream, but in game journalism, this next game heard it all. Not all of it was good. I'm talking about Alien: Isolation, of course. I'm here to tell you why most of the critics got it wrong. 

For starters, Isolation is the Alien title that we've all been waiting for. Finally, roid-rage marines aren't running the show. You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of the series' heroine, Ellen, in her search for her mother. In a bold move, Amanda has boarded the Sevastopol, where her mother's last message from the Nostromo (spacecraft from the first film) is being kept. Of course, things immediately begin to go wrong.

I can't be sure, but it may have something to do with the alien that's also on-board. That damn, evil, beautiful killing machine.

Similar to Dead Space, the ship is experiencing problems that take you all over, and one constant remains; the xenomorph is hunting you down. As you're trying to complete objectives - such as finding key cards here, or repairing systems over here - you're going to want to move slowly, keep quiet, and use the iconic motion tracker to watch over any movement in the immediate area. If you decide to run about, knock things over, or get into a firefight with one of the less-than-friendly androids that seem to have taken over the ship (I miss Bishop), the alien will join the party. One minute you're going about your own business, and the next it'll come drop into the room from a vent in the ceiling. The game has changed. Hide.

It doesn't matter how you do it, but avoiding the alien at all costs is the best way to survive. Hide under a desk, crawl into a vent, climb into a locker, crouch behind something while androids and humans alike are ripped to pieces... Whatever it takes. I've never felt quite as tense in a game as when I had found a hiding place and the alien stopped right by me. Sometimes it seemed to look right at me, and other times I'd watch it skulk past, its deadly tail slicing inches from my face. Other times, worse times, the alien would seem to give up, only to appear seconds later and plunge its tail through my chest or its tongue though my face. Did I mention that the dying animations are pretty cool? It's almost worth the potential heart attack.

There are weapons and items that can delay the inevitable, though. Most weapons, such as the handgun or shotgun, are only effective against hostile humans or androids (which is almost all of them), and act as nothing more than a minor annoyance for the alien. That is, until you find the flamethrower. This weapon actually sends the alien screeching into the nearest vent it can find, and leaves you feeling as triumphant and badass as E. Ripley in any of the iconic flamethrower scenes from the films. Don't get too cocky though, because this only scares the alien off a few times before it won't back down at all. 

This is why avoidance really is the best method, and there's a couple of items that help with this. One is a 'noise maker', a device that you can place or throw, and after a few seconds it'll start making a racket. Perfect for if you need to draw the xenomorph into a specific room or area so that you can sneak past unharmed. Another possibility is the flashbang grenade, which essentially works in the same way, but for a short duration.

Isolation also has a different kind of distraction at its core. It's called nostalgia, and it's a beautiful thing. Remember the spaceship with all the eggs on LV-246, where Ripley and her team first land in Alien. You get to explore it for yourself, first-hand, in a playable flashback sequence. And remember when Bishop was torn in half at the end of Aliens, in the fight against the Alien Queen. Well, at one point there's android fluid all over the floor, along with a pair of android legs. To anyone that's a first-timer to the series, this may just point to the nature of what's to come... for Alien fanatics like myself, they're Bishop’s legs. It's these little touches, and the attention to detail throughout the game, that I feel elevates Isolation above its marine-infested brethren.

Sure, it can be a little much to replay one area over and over because you just keep dying. And yes, people do seem to have incredibly wet, shiny faces. But it all takes place in an environment that Ridley Scott himself would be proud of.

While Isolation may not be perfect, and it's surprisingly hard, it is great for anyone looking to take themselves back into the atmosphere of the film that started it all. One Ripley, one xenomorph; that’s a tale I'm not going to get sick of anytime soon. Head into Alien: Isolation without expecting a complete masterpiece and I can almost guarantee you will enjoy it. If you don't, there's a chance that you may be broken, because we're talking Ripley vs Alien, and that's a classic horror story.

No comments:

Post a Comment