Game Review: Alien Isolation

Felipe Cabrera

Platforms: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC

Not only is “Alien: Isolation” the best survival horror game I’ve played in years, it is also the best video game adaptation of a movie franchise ever made.

“Alien: Isolation” is a first-person survival horror game that picks up 15 years after the original film left off. You play as Amanda Ripley, Ellen Ripley’s daughter, as she explores the space station Sevastopol in search of a flight recorder that may shed light on what happened to her mother. But in true “Alien” fashion, the space station is flung into chaos after a Xenomorph goes loose, and the horror begins.

The story does not have the mystery or intrigue it strives for. If you watched any of the films in the “Alien” franchise, you already know what happened to Ellen Ripley and so much more.

If you started playing “Alien: Isolation” after watching the original 1979 film, it would be a seamless transition. The Sevastopol looks like a space station that was ripped right out of a 1970s sci-fi flick. The lights give off a saturated humming white glow, the computers run old school disk operating systems, and even the Working Joes (synthetic androids) look like they could have only existed in a 70s movie.

The sound design and lighting are phenomenal. This game is best played on a good gaming PC, or the next generation consoles.

The gameplay is more flight than fight, in true survival horror fashion. As Ripley, the player will have to move from objective to objective throughout the Sevastopol, while avoiding homicidal Working Joes, desperate humans, and the big bad Xenomorph (the alien) itself. You can hide under tables, in lockers and in small cabinets to avoid your would be murderers.

Combat is an option, but a grave decision. You won’t survive head to head encounters with Working Joes. I have tried many times and been choked and beaten to death. Most times you’ll have to sneak around them. Other times you’ll have to utilize your limited resources to create an electromagnetic pulse bomb or use a stunning weapon to dispose of them.

The crafting system is a great addition to the game, but I wish I found use for all the items you can make. You make clever use of the noise maker to distract enemies, or my favorite, alert the Xenomorph to human enemies and watch it tear them apart. Other than that and the medical kit, I didn’t find much use for the molotov, especially after I found the flamethrower.

The Xenomorph itself is a clever creature and has one of the smartest AI I have ever faced. Nothing in its behavior is pre-scripted. It’s highly unpredictable and there is no telling where it’s going to show up next.

You will have to rely on the sound of the clanking in the vents above and below you and your motion tracker. Nothing is more frightening than seeing the little green dot moving towards you on the tracker and not knowing if it’s coming from above or below you.  

You may be able to scare the Xenomorph with fire, but you cannot kill it. When it comes around, it’s a game of hide and seek. If it kills you—and it will when it sees you—you need to start from your last save. The game does not have an auto-save feature, so it can become frustrating when you are forced to repeat the same area for hours at a time.

The Xenomorph may be the smartest foe I have ever faced in any video game, but the humans could have used a few more brain cells. Human enemies are other desperate survivors on the Sevastopol.

 It’s hard to distinguish which ones are friendly and which ones are going to shoot you on sight. Even after you heed their warning to shoot, if they get any closer, they’ll shoot you anyway. If the human AI design was a little cleverer, this game would have been perfect.

“Alien: Isolation” is one of the purest survival horror experiences I have gotten from a mainstream publisher in a long time. Not since the PS2 era have I felt the fear and tension “Isolation” has to offer. A tip of the hat to Sega for finally delivering a faithful video game adaptation of the “Alien” saga that fans will enjoy.

New gamers and action junkies will be frustrated with the pacing, difficultly and length. But for survival horror fans, this is the game they’ve been looking for.