Cripes. If you like bloody scares, Alien Isolation (2014) delivers – it’s one of the most frightening games we’ve ever played. If you like Alien, then it essentially puts you into the second half of the film. And, yes, that means a lot of atmospherics, tension, and hiding away from a xenomorph as it bloody well hunts you down.
As with most modern AAA games, the trailer doesn’t display any footage from the game. As irritating and manipulative a habit as that is, Alien Isolation still delivers a horror survival title that you can’t sneer at (even if IGN gave it 5.9/10, for some reason – oh, subjectivity).
From the start, we get that gorgeous music from the opening of Ridley Scott’s classic. That sets the scene rather nicely indeed, as you know what’s in store. But, really, you don’t. As the tension masterclass from British studio Creative Assembly hasn’t fully hit you.
The player stars as Amanda Ripley, Sigourney Weaver’s daughter, as she tries to find the famous Hollywood actress deep in space – it’s 15 years after the events of the first film. The mission leads her to become stranded on a spaceship facing a crisis, where a skeleton crew is trying to escape the advances of a xenomorph.
So, it’s a survival horror game. There are plenty of them. But as this is part of the Alien canon, and backed up by Warner Bros, it adds a very real sense of terror to proceedings. As, you know, Alien and Aliens are bloody scary.
If you take a reductionistic outlook to Alien Isolation, it’s about plodding around trying to avoid a dribbling lunatic monster. What makes it work – and it won a load of Game of the Year awards – is its use of atmospherics and AI.
The sound effects, minimalistic use of music, banging and clattering noises, lighting, and the knowledge you’re on that ship with one of those things gets your anxiety on edge. And then once you start dealing with the alien, it enters an entirely different level of (apologies for being blunt) shit your pants scary.
As you’ll have noticed, Alien Isolation is a first-person shooter (using the latter term loosely, as you’ll do little shooting), but there’s a major emphasis on stealth and survival. Creative Assembly’s emphasis on AI is what ensures this doesn’t get tiresome, despite spending much of the game trying to evade the alien.
Now, we include the clip below (replete with terrified reactions from the gaming streamer) to show you just how bloody well the game works. And it’s a really good idea to play the game in the dark, as it ramps up the terror factor.
As it’s so heavily inspired by Scott’s film, for DLC content the studio was able to bring Alien’s cast in to do voiceover work. That includes the legendary Sigourney Weaver. Plus, Veronica Cartright (Lambert), Yaphet Kotto (Parker), Tom Skerrit (everyone’s favourite beard-sporting, laid-back captain), and Harry-Dean Stanton (Brett).
So, it’s total Alien-off! If you love the Alien series, and like horror, then this one will keep you occupied in horror for some time. Got nerves of steel? Then get ready to lose them!