Sunday, 30 November 2014

Review: Alien Isolation (PC)

Alien: Isolation is a pretty interesting beast, to say the least. Recently, Alien franchise games have been huge stinkers, either not staying true to the source material or having generally poor gameplay. Developer Creative Assembly and publisher SEGA have gone a little left-field with their new Alien inspired survival horror offering; Creative Assembly being best know for their Total War strategy series.

In recent times the survival horror game has experienced a mini-renaissance, probably due to the fact indie developers love to dabble in the genre, and, generally speaking, horror games are cheaper to make than big budget FPSes. Creative Assembly had just released Rome 2: Total War that was vilified by both fans and critics. Unfazed by this setback, Creative Assembly launched right into Alien: Isolation development and SEGA didn't seem to mind...One can only guess that some pretty passionate development leads were behind this project.

It's a really great looking game

Everyone knows what an Alien is right? HR Geiger invention, death on two legs, bursts out of your chest and wreaks havoc on your ship. -Space Herpes-. The original Alien movie directed by Ridley Scott is a classic horror movie with the tag line: In space nobody can hear you scream. The movie features Sigourney Weaver as Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley as she struggles against the Alien's predation of her small crew. If you haven't seen the movie yet, you probably should, it's a classic. Alien:Isolation is a direct sequel leading off from the first movie and features Ellen's daughter, Amanda.

The game begins with an introduction to Amanda, a capable engineer for the Weyland-Yutani corporation, and her ongoing search for her mother. The player is also introduced to Samuels, who informs Amanda that a possible lead to the Nostromo has been located on Sevastapol station. Sevastapol is a near-derelict backwater of a station, but Amanda is driven to find news of her mother's disappearance.

The first things players should notice is the amazing design elements. I was almost left speechless at how authentic the room aesthetic and lighting were compared to the film; an almost literal translation of the 70s movie. The second being the background music being barely noticeable, taking a backseat to the sound effects such as knocking a wrench or moving through an electronic door. I must of spent the first 15 minutes of the game exploring the first ship, the Torrens, drinking in the atmosphere.

The majority of the game is set on Sevastapol station, a huge transfer station in the middle of nowhere. Amanda must stealthily find her way through the station surviving all possible threats, first learning about the events aboard Sevastapol and finally trying to survive the terrible place. Sections of the game are locked by large door clamps that require either special tools or an upgraded blowtorch.

Even space suit vision looks good.
Along the way Amanda finds a tracking device which is quite handy, giving you an edge on any lurking danger. Most encounters can be bypassed via air duct, floor grating or simply good timing. Amanda does get access to weapons, but ammunition is limited and doesn't really count for much until later in the game.

The synonymous Alien is often hot on your tail throughout the game. Ducking into airducts and stalking around the place until it either sees you or stumbles into where you're hiding; the alien has an uncanny knack for doing this. Most hostiles tend to see you and go straight for you, generally resulting in a scary scene and your death. Hostiles are also attracted to noises, lights, npcs and a running player. The player has access to a number of items used to distract or dissuade pursuit, by the end of the game you'll become a master of utilising makeshift devices to slip through areas safely.

Now for the bad news, for the first couple of hours this game is solid, any fan of the Alien franchise couldn't ask for more, but after the first 10 hours the game began to wear me down. All the gushing and ooh-ahhing of the first few hours gave way to: Is it over yet? The alien dodging becomes more of a nuisance and each natural ending is either waylaid or over extended and subsequently sidetracked. Sidetracked and dismayed is how I started to feel, instead of being engaged, challenged and enthralled.

I've never played a game that flitted so much hard won design work with an overextended and ultimately meaningless ending. I wish someone in the design meeting put their foot down and said: "This is the end, lets do either a crescendo finale or a neatly wrapped box". Instead the game meanders, and ultimately ends up being chore-after-chore while dodging the alien bloodhound.

This game is a great facsimile of the original movie's atmosphere and deserves kudos for its design, sound and animations. But if you eat too much chocolate you're bound to get sick and Alien:Isolation is too much chocolate.

Alien:Isolation also come with DLCs featuring survival mode challenges and mini-stories based on the original Alien movie.


-There's movement all over the place!

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