Alien: Isolation (2014)

Alien: Isolation (2014), directed by Alistair Hope, written by Dan Abnett, Dion Lay and Will Porter, developed by the Creative Assembly, published by Sega

The company man Christopher Clements approached Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley to inform her, that after 15-years, they might have a clue about what happened to her mother. The Weyland-Yutani representative has had the clearance to offer Amanda the opportunity to accompany him to the space station Sevastopol, where the recovered flight recorder of the Nostromo is. It will be just a simple retrieval mission and perhaps an opportunity for Amanda to get some closure.

The journey itself is smooth enough, on a board of Torrens, a ship of similar mark and model as the Nostromo was. But when they finally arrive at the location of Sevastopol, they find out that something has gone wrong. There is extensive damage on the ship and the comlinks leave a lot of room for improvement.

As they are unable to contact the ship, they decide to take a short spacewalk to the station. Here things start to go even more awry, as an explosion separates Amanda, Clements and an executive administrator Nina Taylor of W-Y corporation. Not knowing, if her companions are alive or dead, Amanda finds herself aboard a station, where everything seems to have gone wrong. Chaos seems to have swept over the station and there isn't life in sight, so she has to find her way to the coms in order to contact Torrens.

Torrens circling around Sevastopol. Now, how on earth can you contact them with the whole communications shut 

As you might suspect, the reason why things have gone terribly wrong aboard Sevastopol is the always deadly presence of the apex predator the movies are based on. At first, you don't see the monster itself and you are only spooked by the extremely well-done soundscape and the detailed environments. It is funny, that while I know it takes a while before you see the alien itself, the beginning still manages to be unsettling because of the atmosphere alone.

In order to move around Sevastopol, Amanda has to find several tools, which she can later upgrade to open more paths. Doors and vents are locked with bolt locks, codes, keycards and locks, that need to be cut with a plasma cutter. As she is an engineer, Amanda can build all kinds of things from the stuff she finds, as long as she finds the instructions to those things first. All the stuff she can build will help her get further to the rabbit hole in order to get out from it.

While the game has several weapons as well, it isn't a shooter by any means. You can, in fact, play the game through without actually shooting anyone. And as the ammunition is quite sparse, it is actually best practice to try and avoid situations where you might have to shoot, so slinking in shadows and ducking behind obstacles is the best way to go. When you finally meet the alien, shooting at is pointless, as it is a tad more durable than what it was in the movie sequel. So hiding places are the key to survival, but depending on the difficulty level you play, the alien can learn your tricks.

Amanda finally meets another living soul and it's not a smooth start.

It isn't only the alien you have to worry though, as the monster has caused the whole station to enter into a panic mode, where people have grouped together and are not above shooting anyone they don't know or trust. Then there are the creepy, plastic looking Working Joe android,s controlled by Apollo, the AI of Sevastopol station. These androids don't care much of you at first, but after you are forced to enter unrestricted areas, they become another potential threat.

Graphically Alien: Isolation is a treat, especially if you like the low-tech aesthetics of the original Alien movie. Everything in the game is based on things existing 1979 or prior, so all you see has a quality of low-tech about them. This all is very much in vein with the original vision and props of the Ridley Scott original.

Nowadays this kind of style is called retrofuturism, but it really suits Alien. It gives the world a lived-in look, as not only does everything look old and worn, it makes places look like the companies running the world prefer functionality over flare.

Admiring Sevastopol through a window.

As I mentioned before, the sound design is topnotch. Sevastopol, a station that was in the middle of being decommissioned before the alien infestation, creaks and clanks. At times you hear the voices of other people, sounds of someone, or something moving around you. It is easy to become paranoid and constantly monitor the air ducts and peek around the corners in order to see if something is there or not. The soundtrack has the fantastic pieces by Jerry Goldsmith on it, so that brings the nice final touch to the game.

The voice acting deserves a mention as well. The voice work is all around very well done and even has some little pieces by the original cast of the Alien. This is a treat you can enjoy even further in the DLC packages, where you play through two additional missions based on Alien. In the first you need to chase the alien in the air vents, on the other you need to, as Ellen Ripley, turn on the self-destruction mode of Narcissus. They are not long, mind you, but they still are nice.

Alien: Isolation is the best game based on the franchise. In many ways, it is a sequel I prefer over James Camerons Aliens, as it manages to keep the alien scary and the emphasis is about survival in a hostile environment. While there has been some talk about a sequel to the game, one hasn't been at least officially announced yet. But here's hoping one will come out at some point.

It takes a moment to finally see the alien, but when you do, the best thing is to duck and cover. And be as quiet as you can.

If you are a fan of the Alien franchise and haven't yet for some reason tried Alien: Isolation, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. It is a great game with a good sense of aesthetics and it just absolutely oozes atmosphere, no matter if you are dodging paranoid humans or a murderous alien predator.

It isn't a perfect game by any means. At times its controls can feel a bit stiff and the AI seems to bit flaky at times, as far the enemies go. It even has a checkpoint save system, which I'm not a fan of. But despite all that, all in all, Alien: Isolation is exactly the kind of survival horror game a genuine Alien game should be, as the monster in it is a deadly creature, that can take you down fast and suddenly.

Then again, some people would rather be space marines with big guns.

Alien: Isolation is available for PC, Linux and Mac through Steam and for PlayStation and Xbox consoles.