Alien: Isolation is the game the Alien series needed and the game fans deserve.
I should start off with a bit of a disclaimer, I'm old (young) enough to remember as a kid watching Alien and Aliens on VHS, both movies in my youth were part of my Saturday night rotation of suspense / horror and kick ass action movies.
I say we need to see more of Bill Paxton in movies and games!
Prior to playing Alien: Isolation, I highly recommend watching the movies Alien and Aliens, doing so will give you a feel the universe this game takes place in, and watching the movie Alien will give you pointers on how best to survive. Unlike the movie Aliens where the Colonial Marines were kicking ass and taking Xenomorph lives, in Alien: Isolation you can't kill the Alien.....let me repeat that YOU CANNOT KILL THE ALIEN!!!! Despite being able to manufacture improvised devices, such as molotov cocktails, smoke screens, IEDs, or being armed with a revolver or flame thrower, none of these weapons will help you in a one on one confrontation with the universes perfect specimen. The improvised devices that you craft will either slow the Xenomorph down or force it back into a vent.
Your only chance to survive this game is to out think the Alien, to be stealthy and avoid at all costs any confrontations. If trying to stay alive against a creature that wants to use as an incubator for it's offspring isn't bad enough, you'll have to move around the station avoiding panicking humans, that are struggling to stay alive and will use force to neutralize any outsiders or potential threats, to the APOLLO controlled Working Joe's who's programming to protect and help the inhabitants of the station, are instead murdering people that wander into off limit section of the station, but more on that later.
A Compilation the videos #HOWWILLYOUSURVIVE clips put out to promote the game, of the various ways you can die playing Alien: Isolation
The timeline of events in the franchise from the movie Alien, in which we see the destruction of the Nostromo and the escape of Ellen Ripley, to the opening of the movie Aliens, when Ripley is discovered on board the life boat of ill fated Nostromo is 57 years. The game Alien: Isolation takes place in the gap between movies, you play as Amanda Ripley, Ellen Ripley's daughter. She has been searching for answers as to what happened to her mother years earlier, and through her quest to discover those answers, she will experience and struggle to survive the terror her mother endured.
The game begins with the stylistic 20th Century Fox movie intro, reminiscent of watching Alien, as the credits progress you hear a voice over from Ellen Ripley, as she records the final log entry of the Nostromo, documenting the loss of the ship, the death of the crew and the hopes that Ripley will be rescued after entering the outer sectors and be picked up by the network. While working in the outer sectors, Amanda Ripley is approached by Weyland-Yutani executive Christopher Samuels. He informs her that the flight recorder of the Nostromo was recently located by a ship named Anesidora and is being held aboard Sevastopol Station, a remote free port space station owned by the Seegson Corporation, in orbit around the gas giant KG348. Eager to find the answers of what happened to the Nostromo and her mother, Amanda Ripley agrees to join the team.
From the moment you first emerge from stasis pods and walking the decks Torrens to roaming the halls of the Sevastopol station, you really appreciate the work done by Creative Assembly's game designers, you can see where they drew inspiration from the movie Alien and Aliens. I was extremely happy to see that Creative Assembly didn't try to modernize the environment of the Alien universe, unlike the Star Trek series when the series goes further back in time, they update the sets, the technologies. While the game does take place almost 200 years into the future, the sets and technology used by Ripley feel's as it's out of the 1980's.
The game's artists studied Ron Cobb's original concept art, the in game objects were derived from items available to the Alien film production. The terminals have a monochrome displays and simple graphics. To create the period authentic distortion on in-game monitors, the Creative Assembly recorded their in game animations onto VHS and Betamax video recorders, then filmed those sequences playing on old TVs while adjusting the tracking settings.
The Alien itself was designed to look similar to H.R. Giger's original design for the creature from the first film, including the semitransparent head with visible skull underneath, as opposed to the designs that were used for the film's sequels. The design of the Alien was altered to feature recurve legs as opposed to the more humanoid legs the monster had in the original film, this was done to provide the Alien with a walk cycle that would hold up to scrutiny during longer encounters with the player. 20th Century Fox provided The Creative Assembly with three terabytes of archived data related to the original Alien film, including notes on prop and set design, behind the scenes photos, videos, and the film's original sound effect recordings, to help Creative Assembly authentically recreate the atmosphere of the film. They Creative Assembly produced between 70 and 80 different sets of animation for the Alien.
Additional material provided by 20th Century Fox, was the film's original musical soundtrack, the developers then re-recorded several of the original cues with a full orchestra, even some the original musicians who worked on the first film’s soundtrack worked on the game. Alien: Isolation's sound track is dynamic and the games music, as well as sound effects change based on your actions, such as whether the Alien, hostile humans or Working Joe's are near by.
Alien: Isolation as a game is a mixture of a strategy, suspense and horror, in order to survive and progress through the game, you will need to silent, cunning, and at all costs try to avoid the Alien. The game will be difficult, near impossible to complete if you're running through the corridors, guns a blazing making as much noise as possible, it will attract the Alien, or other unwelcome parties to your location. To add to the terror while playing the game, Creative Assembly gave the Alien a near true artificial intelligence, the Xenomorph is completely unpredictable, it will chase you through the corridors, appear randomly by popping into and out of vents, or even halt your progress by lingering near a critical part of the stage.
To avoid the Alien, a player will need to be cunning, stealthy, to pay close attention the noises and what's happening around them. The Alien relies on the stations vents to move around, paying close attention to a ceiling vent can make the difference between life and death (if you see drool dripping from a vent...it's best to avoid it), as you walk through the station, you will hear the Alien crawling through and popping into and out of vents, by timing your progress you can advance while the Alien is out of sight, as it takes a bit of time for it to re-appear. You will eventually pick up a motion tracker, it will allow you to see what's moving directly in front of you, and how far out it is, as well as limited tracking to the left/right/behind of you, the advantage of the motion tracker will give you an idea of where the Alien or other potential threat is, when you hear banging in a vent, doors opening or walking in the distance. However, the motion tracker's strength is also it's weakness, it will make noise as you use it, and noise attracts.
You can't rely only on stealth alone to get you through the game, there will be times when you're cornered or need to make a distraction, by being cunning and taking advantage of resources found through the station, Ripley is able to craft improvised devices to assist her progress. The devices that you can craft are:
Noise maker - Generates a random noise that will attract the alien and Working Joe's to investigate.
Smoke Bomb - Generates a cloud of smoke to provide you cover.
Flash bang - The flash bangs will stun any humans that are near by.
EMP Mine - Generates an Electro magnetic pulse that will temporarily stun the Working Joe's, give you either enough time to kill them or flee from them. Later in the game you'll encountered EMP resistant Joe's and will require cunning tactics to defeat.
Molotov - As the Alien loathes fire, a quick way to scare it off is to throw a Molotov, it will kill humans and set Working Joe's on fire. Be careful, if you're too close, you'll get burned.
Pipe Bomb - A perfect way to dispatch multiple enemies in a confined area, but be mindful as it will dispatch you if you're too close.
Med kit - the med kit is needed to heal yourself as you progress through the game, and you will get wounded, whether via humans shooting at you, the Working Joe choking you, or swipes the Alien takes at you
In order to craft items you will need to first find it's corresponding blue print, they're spread out throughout the game, and as you advance you will also come come across blue prints to upgrade your devices, making them more effective. To build each device you will require 'spare parts' (Ethanol, Charge Pack, Blasting Cap, Sensor, SCJ Injector, Compound B, Bonding Agent) and scrap metal, both of which can be found in cabinets, on corpses or laying about the station. The spare parts for the most part are pretty plentiful (on medium difficulty), but you're limited to the number of parts and assembled devices you can carry. To make better use of the spare parts that I found, I would start to craft a device, even if I didn't have all the parts for it, this way I could free up a slot for any additional spare parts that I stumbled on. When crafting improvised devices, be mindful of your surroundings, it takes time to put the parts together and then craft the item, during which you're vulnerable.
When it came to crafting devices, I didn't find all of them that helpful, the devices I used most frequently were the Med Kit, EMP Mine, Noise Maker. The rest of the devices, I used purely out of curiosity sakes, or if I found myself in a pinch I would use them. It would have been better, if Ripley could have crafted only 3 or 4 devices, and be able to carry more of them, this would have made better use of the spare parts and scrap metal that was laying about the station.
While the improvised devices can be used as an offensive weapon, they're mainly defensive in nature (distract and evade), an Alien's game wouldn't be complete without an assortment of offensive weapons, in the first movie the crew was able to improvise a flame thrower and in Aliens, well those badass marines had an enjoyable assortment of toys, it did them no good.....but I'm still waiting on my M41A pulse rifle to be manufactured.
The offensive weapons that can be used are:
Revolver - a classic six shooter that will drop a human in one or two shots, the working Joes will require 4 head shots, and the Alien eats the laed for breakfast
Stun baton - A futuristic cattle prod that will subdue a human, and will temporarily stop a Working Joe, giving you a chance to either kill it or escape from it, the stun baton has no affect on the Alien.
Flame thrower - The flame thrower is your best weapon, especially when confronted by the Alien, a short controlled burst will cause it to run from you, hopefully back into the vents buying you precious time to complete the stage, or to escape and evade.
Shotgun - You pick up the shotgun much later in the game, it's your best against normal Working Joe, one shot to the head will put it down. Near the end of the game there's up armoured Joes's it takes 4 shots to put them down.
Boltgun - Its the last weaponn you'll pick up and I never used it, I relied on the shotgun and flame flower
At key progression points through the game, you'll be given different weapons, the ammunition for them can be found in cabinets, on corpses or out in the open, however, bullets and flame thrower fuel is usually pretty sparse, so use it sparingly! If possible try avoiding the use of firearms, as always, noise attracts, so if you're going to use them, be sure the Alien isn't around.
As Alien: Isolation isn't a hack'em slash'em shoot'em up, 'Technician' Ripley will rely on different tools and equipment to get her through various parts of the game, again all of the equipment is found during the game, in fact you can't proceed through a mission without them. The various tools that you will find throughout the game:
Maintenance Jack - In a pinch can be used as weapon, but is also required to remove obstacles and activate systems, and in a pinch can be used as a melee weapon, or bang it off of a wall to make some noise.
Access Tuner - The access tuner is used to hack into Seegson computers or to bypass locking mechanism on computers. You will be required to upgrade the access turner, at hack / access more complex systems.
Cutting / Plasma / Ion Torches - The torches will help you to access sealed vents as well as cut access for the emergency releases to doors.
Gas Mask - This allows you to pass through areas full of poisonous gas.
Head Light - You can use the head light to illuminate dark sections of the station such as vents, or you can use it as a way of gaining peoples attention. The flash light runs on batteries, you'll be able to find them as you wander through the station.
Flares - They can be used to illuminate an area for a short period of time, they will burn out, in a pinch you can use them as a distraction. Ignite a flare, and toss it for a quick distraction.
Motion Sensor - The motion detector can alert you to movement around you, it's only accurate to movement directly in front of you and will alert you to motion to the right / left and behind to you. Using the motion detector is double edged, while it will alert you to motion around you, it also creates noise which can draw in unwelcome visitors.
In order to advance through the objectives, you will be required to find the necessary tool, such as the maintenance jack or access tuner, so it's not possible to skip them. in fact, it's impossible to proceed through the game's objective without completing the side objectives, such as 'find this tool' in order to advance forward. At the beginning of the game, while searching through the station, you'll come across multiple doors or panels that say you need a cutting / plasma / ion torch to access it, you don't get the first torch until about the 1/3 way mark of the game. You get this feeling that you're missing out on a part of game play by not accessing these sections, you will have a chance to go back to those areas and access those panels.
From the moment you transition from the Torrens to the station, you get a feeling for the type of game Alien: Isolation will be, without spoiling too much of the story, as you space walk to get aboard the station and a massive explosion separates Ripley form Samuels, and Weyland-Yutani executive Nina Taylor, you immediately get a sense of the terror that awaits. The game is broken down into multiple missions (objectives) that will need to be completed and as you progress through the damaged and isolated station, ad you discover more of the station and access the stations terminals you will begin to piece together the terror that it's inhabitants endured prior to the arrival of the Torrens, as well as gather information as to what happened to Ellen Ripley and the ill-fated Nostromo.
The parts of the game I really loved, first was paying attention to the sounds around you, the Alien makes a distinct sound as it's crawling through, entering / exiting the vents, keeping an ear open for when it's moving around can keep you from getting killed. In addition to listening for the movement in the vents, pay attention to doors opening when you're not near them, as well as the Working Joe's talking, this will let you know when something isn't right. This added a new level of terror to the game, you could hear the Alien or other threats as you're traversing the station, the sudden noise of the Alien jumping out of the vents, or as it's thumping its way around a room you're in, can send shivers down your spine and make you sweat.
The next thing that I really like about Alien Isolation, but also made it extremely frustrating, is while progressing through the levels is try to and avoid making excessive noise, such as swinging the maintenance jack against walls, shooting any guns or attracting the attention of unwanted station personal and the Working Joe's. Excessive noise will attract unwanted attention, by progressing through the missions, crouching, walking slow you'll be able to observe (listen) to what's happening around you. If you happen to hear the Alien, people or Working Joe's near by, proceed to the nearest hiding place, such as under desks / tables, lockers, cabinets or vents. By factoring stealth movement into the game, it forces the player to slow down, to check a room before proceeding, to look for potential cover and rely on the motion tracker to carefully proceed through a stage. Before proceeding to the the next objective, accessing a terminal, using the access turner or maintenance jack, to stop, listen, use the motion detector to see what's around you, then to proceed.
Now you might be asking, is this game purely about stealth? No, there are parts in the game, where it's adventitious to make a bit of noise, like trying to get the attention of hostiles or moments where you can run like mad, like trying to clear the end of a mission, a desperate mad dash where you try to outrun the Alien, Working Joe or Person that's hunting you down. For the most part, stay low, stay quiet and stay alive.
I really enjoyed the ability to craft improvised devices (as well as find the blue prints for upgraded versions along the way), this is a throwback to movie Alien, where the crew is forced to improvise when they hoped it would kill the Alien. In the game, Amanda Ripley has the ability to craft multiple improvised devices, these devices can be used in a offensively to neutralize a threat that hasn't or won't wander off far enough for you to bypass it, or defensively to distract a threat so you can sneak around them. As mentioned before, the devices I used most frequently were the EMP mine, Noise Maker and Med Kit. If I found myself stuck, and needed to get around a group of people, I would throw a noise maker, this would attract the Alien and it would take care of the threat for me, if one or more Working Joe's were in my way, a well placed EMP mine would temporarily and quietly disable them for a few seconds so I could bypass them or take them out with the maintenance jack. Of the improvised devices, such as Molotov cocktails, smoke bomb, flash bang and pipe bomb, I didn't really use them that often, I did have them in my inventory and if in a pinch I would use them. I wish the game allowed you to carry more of them instead of the three that you're allowed per device in your inventory or you're given X amount of space in your improvised device slots allowing you to create as many of one device as possible and less / none of another.
There are few things that I disliked about the game, I guess the first I will talk about is part of the game that I absolutely loathed, but still end up loving and that's the Alien. Alien: Isolation, Creative Assembly gave the Alien a near true artificial intelligence, the Xenomorph is completely unpredictable, it will chase you through the corridors, appear randomly by popping into and out of vents, or even halt your progress by lingering near a critical part of the stage. When you die (not if) when trying to re-attempted the stage, the Alien may or may not act the same way it did before, this makes trying to clear a mission on the higher difficulty levels near impossible (I'm not ashamed to admit that I ran most of the game at medium difficulty, but dropped it down to easy, when I was getting frustrated of getting impaled by the Alien), by giving the Alien this randomness it made the game frustratingly fun and unpredictable.
Another frustrating part of the game was the availability of weapons, while the developers gave us several weapons to use, such as revolver, shotgun and flamethrower. With the exception of the flamethrower you're almost forced not to use the guns, as using them will more then likely bring in unwanted attention, they're meant to be use them as a method of last restore. I think Creative Assembly, teased the players when it came to the weapons, giving them a false sense of security. Here's a gun, oh, by the way it's useless against the Alien and it takes multiple headshots to put down a Working Joe. The only real weapon (not include the improvised devices) that's of any use is the flamethrower and it's just effective enough to scare the Alien of back into a vent. Now, I'm not saying you can't use the guns, there will be a time about 2/3's of the way through the game where you'll need to dispatch a large number of Working Joe's, and will not have to worry about being attacked by the Alien, so using the revolver or shotgun will make quick work of them. Also, with the weapons, the time to reload is painfully slow, so if you're a spot where you may use your firearms, be sure to keep them topped up and ready to go at all times.
One thing I would change about the game, would be the use of the tools, tools are important to proceed through an obstruction such as activating a power breaker, cutting access to a doors emergency release, or removing the maintenance jacks. With tools, it would have been better if when approached the obstacle, press a button an the game auto completes the task for you. The worst is using the cutting torch to cut panels, it takes a painfully long time to complete and while you're doing so you're exposed to attack. I'm not saying being more interactive with the game is a bad thing, it's just frustrating when you're trying to open a door and the Alien, Working Joe or the stations population is creeping behind you and you're tired of being killed 3 times to complete the mission. The one tool I didn't mind using was the Access tuner to open doors, hack access terminals, it added an mini-game element to the overall game and it was a bit of a throw back to Aliens, when Hudson had to run a bypass to open the doors, little details like that made me happy.
One frustrating part of the game was a lack of an auto save or check points, the game will get frustrating quickly when you're progressing through a stage and the Alien rips you in two, a Working Joe beats you to death or you stumble across a group of panicking humans and you have repeat that part of the stage over (perhaps multiple times) again. Now that's not to say there are no places where you can't save, there are plenty of save points throughout the game, usually they're found at the start of a mission or sporadically throughout a stage. If you see a save point, use them! They'll warn you while saving if there's a hostile nearby, and if fact during the game a save point did save my bacon, I was outrunning the Alien and just managed to save my progress before it killed me, when I resumed my save point it was gone. The save points are a neat throw back to Aliens, where you need to insert a ID card into the phone, then you're able to save. So be sure to SAVE your game and save often!
Alien: Isolation is a fun, but frustrating game to play, you can definitely see where the developers spent the time to make a game that fits perfectly into the Alien universe. From the little details of the stage designs, the Alien, the improvised devices, to even the easter eggs throughout the game and the story that is eerily similar to the Alien and Aliens, Greedy corporations and executives that don't care about screwing people over for a few percentage points. The only thing I can say is be prepared to die a lot ( by the time I was done, I was killed about 70 times), don't be afraid to lower the difficulty level if you find yourself in a pinch and just can't get through the stage. To run through the main story, it took me about 24 hours of game play, I've read / heard of people being able to beat it in around 24 hours, and the addition of Survival mode and the release of DLC such as Corporate Lockdown will continue to add to the game play.
Pros - The Alien AI, Graphics and set design, Game story, Dynamic soundtrack, Crafting improvised devices, Enemies other then the Alien (Working Joes / Station Personal)
Cons - The Alien AI, Needing of an Auto-save / check points, Restricted use of firearms
SCORE - 90%