Not for the first time I’m going to have to review a game before completing it. There are two reasons for this. The first is that I bought it a week after release and this just ain’t the time of year to get time to play video games. The second is that it’s scaring the living jesus out of me.
The Alien franchise has had a lot of bad treatment in the video game universe through the years. Most recently Aliens : Colonial Marines looked like it had sent home the final nail in the coffin, no words can express how terrible that game was. So with cautious optimism I approached Alien Isolation. Optimism primarily because none of the same developers for the aforementioned digital turd were present. Optimism more so because the developers are in fact The Creative Assembly, not necessarily renowned for their survival horror titles but with the Total War franchise have more than proved their mettle in the gaming world. So how did they do?
The first two things that slap you in the face playing this game are that the attention to detail is stunning – the retro “seventies vision of the future” locations are all present and basic text based computer screens await at every turn. The second detail is that these intricacies look absolutely beautiful. For me, Alien Isolation is the first “next-gen” game I bought that was in production after the reveal of the new machines, and it shows. This game is a visual treat and if you’re a fan of the series then some of the nods will send you into overdrive (androids running on the spot, corpses with magazines in their mouths etc.). This is the Arkham series equivalent to Alien.
Gameplay – it’s an interesting conundrum. Along with The Evil Within, this title is striving to bring back old school survival horror. And it succeeds, except that to some who have been away from the classic survival horror titles for some time may find it too authentic. There are no checkpoints, and save points can be vastly spaced out at times. Just as it was for the most part in the original film, if the alien sees you, you’re dead. You do get the slight relief of a flamethrower later in the game, and that serves to keep the alien at bay once it isn’t running on empty but I could swear he actually comes back more pissed off after each repulsion. And this has upset some people, high difficulty and repetitiveness being the two major points of the game’s two or three less than positive reviews thus far. And I wouldn’t fault anyone writing the game off for these reasons. I am at a point in the game now which has me as exposed and vulnerable as I have ever been so far, and returning to load up that save has proven difficult this week. But persevering with the gameplay as it is can be extremely rewarding, which is something we have lost from gaming in the 21st century to some degree – actual accomplishments.
Twice now I have had to replay from the same save point 5+ times and yes on those two occasions I was fit to throw the disc out the window. But I didn’t. And what’s more, for the first incident I eventually gave in to an online walkthrough such was my frustration but for the second I persevered, and in the end I felt all the better for it. In The Call Of Duties and Halos of this world, there just aren’t any moments in a game can even offer up this level of satisfaction and given how generic Colonial Marines was, it is refreshing to be playing a game in this universe that is unlike any of its predecessors.
Like I said, I haven’t completed this one just yet, but short of an “it was all a dream revelation” I can’t see anything causing me much upset between now and the ending. In conclusion, be warned that even on Medium this can be a difficult and testing game at times. Be warned that it is damn terrifying at times. But if you have played any pre-2005 survival horror games before, you will quickly fall into place and in love with Alien Isolation. But remember, in front of the TV, no one can hear you scream.
Image courtesy of wikipedia.org