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7 Tips For Surviving (And Having Fun) In Alien: Isolation

by Jeff Marchiafava on Oct 07, 2014 at 04:00 AM

If the Alien films have taught us anything, it's that human beings don't fare too well in face-to-face-(to-tiny-face) encounters with the series' deadly xenomorphs. That's true in Alien: Isolation as well, which is why we've compiled a list of tips that might just keep you alive during your visit to Sevastopol station.

1. Hiding Is Not Always Safe
If you've been following our Alien: Isolation coverage, you probably already know that your best bet for staying alive is to avoid confrontation and stick to the shadows. However, just because you've manage to find a good hiding spot doesn't mean you're safe. The xenomorph can still sniff you out when you're hiding in lockers (you'll have to time holding your breath to prevent giving yourself away), and can easily track you down in vents as well. Hiding under desks and tables also isn't foolproof; the xenomorph can still sometimes get a line of sight on you and won't hesitate to pull you out to your death. While this shouldn't prevent you from taking cover in these locations, try to find an object in the environment – a stack of crates, a computer station, etc. – that affords you the ability to sneak around it. This way if the xenomorph or other enemy approaches your location, you can circle around in the opposite direction while using the peeking mechanic to keep an eye on it. This will also let you use distractions like flares and noisemakers, which you can't when you're stuck in a locker. You might not feel as safe as being holed up in a designated hiding spot, but being able to stay mobile more than makes up for it. 

2. Your Motion Scanner Is Your Best Friend
It won't take Ripley long to come across a motion scanner, and from that point on the old-school detection unit will be the most valuable tool at your disposal. In addition to cluing you in on the distance and direction of enemies, the motion scanner also constantly points you to your mission objective and is far more reliable than your map. Just remember, however, that it's a motion scanner – enemies will instantly disappear when they stop moving. Also, the light and beeping that the motion scanner emits can alert enemies if they're close enough, so once that flashing dot shows up right on top of your location, you should probably put the helpful gadget away and hide away somewhere.

3. Save Often To Save Your Sanity
As I said in my review, Alien: Isolation requires a fair amount of backtracking. However, you're going to want to backtrack even more to accommodate the manual save system. Without automatic checkpoints, you'll have to track down and use a save station in order to avoid losing progress. Most locations only have one or two save stations, so chances are you'll be revisiting them plenty. It's time consuming, but sure beats having to replay segments after a surprise xenomorph attack. I spent a lot of time trekking back to save stations after completing objectives, and never once did I feel it was a waste of time. Conversely, my biggest moments of frustration came from having to replay some long segments because I couldn't – or foolishly didn't – save beforehand.

4. To Boldly Go
While this one isn't strictly about survival, it is possible to play Alien: Isolation too slowly. Obsessing over your scanner and crawling at a snail's pace isn't going to help you; the alien is always going to be lurking in your general vicinity, and parts of the game will require a certain amount of trial and error. Instead of being crippled by fear, channel your inner Ellen Ripley and be decisive; pick your route, and then move as quickly and efficiently as possible. Use saves as an opportunity to push forward – you still don't want to stand up and run, but you won't lose any progress if you die, so you might as well see what lies ahead before you get bogged down by your relentless predator.

Coming Up Next: Items, enemies, and the importance of a Plan B... 

5. Get Crafty
Survival-horror games have taught us to be stingy with supplies. However, the tools you can craft in Alien: Isolation are vital to your survival, and you'll come across plenty of resources to build them. By the end of the game, I was maxed out on every item, from noisemakers to pipe bombs, so don't be afraid to use what you have.

Also, while you can't carry that many crafting components at once, you can commit them to the creation of an item before you actually create it, which removes them from your inventory. Can't pick up that sensor you just found? Apply the ones in your inventory to creating your next Molotov or noisemaker, then grab the new one as well. Just make sure you're in a good hiding spot before you start juggling your inventory, as you're not safe from enemy attacks.

What's the best item? While your play style may favor something else, I found noisemakers to be my go-to tool. The beeping distractions work well with all enemy types and can be used to coax the alien's attention toward human foes, providing you with a win-win situation.

6. Have An Exit Strategy
While Alien: Isolation is largely a linear experience, most areas contain multiple entries and exits. Always keep an eye out for these alternate routes – even if there aren't any enemies on your way through an area, your return trip back to the tram or elevator you arrived on might contain some unexpected surprises. Also, always take the time to unlock any doors or vents you see. At one point, I neglected to open up a sealed-off vent with my newly upgraded torch because it was relatively easy to sneak through the adjacent hallway. A later mission brought me back to same area, but this time the hallway was swarming with Working Joes, and trying to burn through the vent kept on alerting the xenomorph, who was absent from the level the first time around. Even the best player is going to alert an enemy from time to time – make sure you're not cornered when you do.

7. Know Thy Enemy
The first thing you should know about your enemies in Alien: Isolation is that confrontation should always be a last resort; Ripley isn't a minigun-toting colonial marine and won't last long in most fights, especially if she's outnumbered. Instead, surviving involves understanding the behavior of your different enemies and adapting accordingly. Here's a breakdown of each enemy type in the game – if you'd rather discover these traits for yourself, now is the time to stop reading.

Humans: Your fellow survivors are the easiest enemies in Alien: Isolation, but are still dangerous in packs. Most unfriendly humans will give you a warning if they spot you; retreating and coming up with an alternate route is your best bet. If you do have to confront a human, stick with your wrench instead of a firearm – as a general rule, guns are noisy and attract all kinds of unwanted attention. Your wrench is quieter, and will temporarily stun humans, allowing you to take them down with a volley of quick melee attacks. If your fight does draw the attention of other survivors, look for a vent to retreat to; they won't follow you in, and you can use the exit on the other side of the duct to escape or plant a distraction.

Working Joes: These blue-collar androids may be cheap knock-offs of their Weyland-Yutani counterparts, but they're still extremely durable and deadly; they can easily shrug off an entire magazine of ammo, and will grab your hand if you try to melee them. In order to take them down, you'll have to short-circuit them first, either with a stun baton or an EMP. However, unlike other enemies, Working Joes are slow. If one spots you, consider running away before you use up a charge for your stun baton – even if you're cornered you can probably still sprint past him, as long you give him a wide berth.

Xenomorph: As you might expect, Alien: Isolation is all about the series' titular extraterrestrial, and the game's rendition of the iconic creature lives up to the hype. The xenomorph is fast, deadly, and largely impervious to attacks; alerting it to your presence is a surefire way to get yourself killed. Or almost surefire, as you do have one helpful tool that can keep you alive: the flamethrower. This fire-spewing weapon won't actually kill the xenomorph, but it will scare it off and save you from an instant kill. Just don't expect the flamethrower to make the game a cakewalk; half the time, the xenomorph will bowl you over while running off, causing you moderate damage, and the deadly predator will quickly gather its courage and return in a matter of seconds. To stay alive, blast it with fire, then use the brief respite to sneak off to a nearby hiding spot.

For more on Alien: Isolation, check out our review.