Alien: Isolation Review
I have to admit that I failed to get hold of a review copy of Alien: Isolation when it first came out, which is one of the reasons why I jumped at the chance to grab the title from Game the other week as it was selling half price for the Ripley Edition. The latter version contains two extra DLC packs (‘Last Survivor’/’Crew Expendable’), both of which allows you to play as the legend herself Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). So I got a lot for my money! Sadly I've just checked and the price online has gone back up now (though you may still get the deal in-store while stocks last).
Anyway, while you have probably read countless reviews of Alien: Isolation already I just wanted to provide my own insight into the game and what I thought about it at this late stage.....
One things for sure, I thought one of the bonuses of getting a game after its original release date would ensure that most of the initial bugs (no pun-intended) were ironed out?
This is why I was not that surprised at getting an immediate patch after I installed the game from disc. However what did surprise me was, despite the patch, there was lag in the cut-scenes and intermittent frame drops during gameplay.
Another patch was released shortly afterwards (as you will know) in an attempt to fix the issues, but sadly it did not help matters and some of the cut-scene lag/frame drops were still there on occasions. Despite this I stubbornly continued playing and I'm glad that I did, as I was rewarded in the end with one of the most atmospheric and tense games that I have played since Doom 3!
Mind you at times I felt like I wanted to get through to the end as quickly as possible just because I could not take the tension anymore! Let’s just say you won’t relax with this game, but what you do get is the ultimate cat and mouse experience as you try to evade the jaws of the Alien with nothing more than a couple of DIY tools at your disposal!
I won’t spoil the story for you too much but at the start your goal as Amanda Ripley (yes the daughter of Ellen) is to retrieve the missing flight recorder from the Nostromo - which was salvaged and stored on a distant space station called Sevastopol - to discover what happened to her mother (who in this timeline has been missing for 15 years). Of course not everything is as it seems and you get separated from your crew and are left to find out why the station is seemingly abandoned!
Despite the earlier glitches with the game, the quality, story and overall presentation of the title is certainly one of the reasons why Sigourney Weaver lent her vocals to the game (I’m sure of it) and you can see why the more you play it.
From the opening sequence (featuring a voice over from the aforementioned Sigourney Weaver), to the graphical scenes displayed while the mission loads, certainly makes you feel like you are part of the Alien universe! Mind you on the subject of loading screens, the only downside is the loading times themselves, which are quite lengthy!
Kinect is used hurrah!
What I also liked with Alien: Isolation is that the Kinect is supported and it showed to me just how effective a tool it can be when applied properly. For example in this title when you are prone or hiding in a locker you can hold down the left bumper and your head and body movements are tracked brilliantly (i.e. you can pear around corners or lean back).
Also the microphone can be used to detect background noise, so if you let out a scream or even slurp a cup of tea while playing the inhabitants of the station are going to know about it!
But what makes Alien: Isolation so deceptively good is the atmosphere that is generated thanks to the clever use of audio and a fantastic dynamic musical score which builds up the tension to boiling point! I can tell you for the first hour I was uttering swear words at the mere clutter of a nearby air vent going off!
This is before you even get to see the Alien! Which you all know is coming! But before the Alien gets in the picture you will have to face challenges, such as avoiding/taking on the Human inhabitants of the station and later the creepy Androids! In some Ironic way I would rather face these than the Alien any day! At least they are company!
What no weapons!
At the start you have no weapons or any equipment whatsoever, so the feeling of helplessness is overwhelming to begin with. However you will soon learn the key to survival is to scavenge the station for parts, as eventually you will get hold of blue prints which allows you to construct various items (medics, flash/EMP grenades, fire bombs, noise maker’s) that could potentially help to save your life! Most certainly when the Alien comes to town!
Of course scavenging for parts and constructing them also puts you in danger from being set upon by the latter foes, not to mention the Alien itself, so it is very much a game of risk!
That’s not to say you don’t get weapons, but this is not an FPS and the only major weapon you get is a revolver with very limited ammo. Sadly it’s only effective against humans, as Androids are mere bullet magnets and take a lot of hits before they go down. So you need to weigh up the pros and cons of using the precious ammo.
While this sounds dull, it’s not! Especially as underneath there is a fantastic story running throughout and this drives the missions so what you try to achieve actually feels like it has a purpose, rather than simply being bolted on.
However once the Alien does come into the mix you do get hold of a motion tracker and this again sends the tension levels rising.
Just imagine that you’re creeping about and then suddenly you turn on the motion tracker and hear the dooming tones ring out - indicating that the Alien is right around the corner and you have nowhere to hide!
Hiding is the key
Well that’s not exactly true as you can hide in small cupboards or lockers. However even then you are not safe as if you turn on your Motion tracker or in the Kinects point of view even sneeze out of place, this will be enough to alert the Alien to your presence!