The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Alien fans are as unapologetic for their love of the films as they are for
their disdain of games that fail to live up to the potential of the IP. While
most Alien games take the James Cameron "shoot everything that moves" approach
to the iconic sci-fi horror series, The Creative Assembly instead focuses on
the original film's claustrophobic intensity and the feeling of being
relentlessly stalked by a far superior predator. The result is a game you must
learn and play the way it wants you to, but the cat-and-mouse chases provide an
experience that's finally worthy of the Alien moniker.
Players take on the role of Amanda Ripley, whose desire to learn the fate of
her missing mother brings her to a space station that has descended into chaos
thanks to the appearance of a single, deadly xenomorph. Ripley must explore,
fight, and – more often than not – run and hide to survive and find a way off
the Sevastopol, while simultaneously trying to ensure that her extraterrestrial
hunter doesn't reach civilization. If that sounds familiar, most of Isolation's
plot points and twists will, as the script all too often parallels memorable
scenes from the films. I had fun reliving these iconic moments, but would've
preferred some more novel surprises along the way. Amanda exhibits little growth
or personality, other than concern for her fellow humans and a desire to not
die gruesomely, which – spoiler! – is going to happen to you all the time.
Isolation's gameplay is far more engaging than the story, albeit in its own
methodical and unforgiving way. Your encounters with the xenomorph are
impossibly lopsided, as the vicious extraterrestrial is leagues faster than
you, impervious to damage, and kills with a single hit. As such, caution is
paramount; whereas many games try to accommodate as many styles of play as
possible, your options in Isolation are to be quiet and smart or dead. The
occasional mad sprint to your objective may be a viable choice, but most of
your time is spent under desks, in lockers, and peeking over railings. While so
much hiding might sound boring, the constant threat of your unseen predator
keeps you engrossed in the action, and every narrow escape and successful
distraction instills a genuine sense of accomplishment. You unlock a variety of
craftable items to help you in this regard, and while these new gadgets are
empowering, they're not foolproof. No matter how safe you are, you'll still
need patience for trial-and-error gameplay to fully enjoy the game.
When you're not running from the alien, you have two more enemy types to deal
with. Armed human survivors will shoot you on sight, and are best avoided when
possible (or used as a tasty diversion if the alien is lurking nearby). Worker
Joes, on the other hand, are cheap synthetic androids that require a jolt from
a stun baton or EMP before they can be taken down, and aren't on the alien's
menu. Each enemy type sports its own traits and A.I. behaviors, and figuring
them out and adapting your tactics keeps the action fresh. The Creative Assembly
does a good job of mixing up the enemies and adding new wrinkles throughout the
game, though on the whole the 25-hour campaign still feels too long. Most areas
require sneaking through a maze of long, winding corridors and air ducts, only
to trigger an objective and then make the long trek back. Exploring a new level
is exciting the first time, but you return to most areas multiple times. By the
end of the game Ripley has crisscrossed the station so many times she could
probably draw the blueprints from memory, despite the fact that most of the
areas share the same sterile, "what-the-hell-happened-here" aesthetic.
While players must contend with an unhelpful map system and some annoying
quick-time event sequences, the biggest source of frustration comes from the
checkpoint system, which requires players to manually save at designated
stations. While this structure necessitates even more backtracking, reaching a
save station always provides a much-needed sense of relief, and I grew to
appreciate the old-school mechanic. That said, the save system elicited more
than a few curses. Losing a bunch of progress when the xenomorph pops out of
nowhere and kills you with a single, unforeseen tail stab isn't scary, just
In fact, despite the setting and source material, very little in Alien: Isolation is actually scary. Tense, certainly, and I jumped at more than a few surprise xenomorph
encounters, but the environments and action fail to instill the sense of dread
that the movies or other horror games have inflicted on fans. Despite taking
more than its share of inspiration from the Alien series, I found Dead Space to
be scarier than Isolation, even if playing through the genuine article is far
Unlike its titular organism, Alien: Isolation is decidedly imperfect. The story
falls flat, your objectives lack a sense of accomplishment, and the campaign
drags on longer than it should. When the gameplay is at its best, however,
Isolation delivers the thrill of being in the Alien universe, something fans
like me have waited a long time to properly experience.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.