My name is Amanda Ripley. I’m stuck on a creaky space station, currently wedged up in a cramped locker and I am terrified. Terrified. I’m being stalked by  this great big shiny monster that looks more than just a bit like a giant penis and I know…I just know that if I move from here it’s going to get me.  I know that even if I don’t move, eventually, it’s going to get me. I daren’t move. I don’t want to. But I have to.

After the frankly abysmal Aliens: Colonial Marines, I’m sure fans had given up hope of there ever being a decent game in the Alien franchise. Very British developer Creative Assembly then, has a lot to prove with its game, one which they promised would deliver all of the tension and terror of Ridley Scott’s less-action-filled original. In many ways, they’ve delivered. H.R. Giger’s purposefully phallic Xenomorph is back to being the sort of creature nightmares are made of – but it’s not without its problems.

Alien

There’s not very much to the narrative. You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s character from the original film. Creative Assembly have captured everything that made Ellen Ripley great, and transferred those qualities to her progeny. Like the Ripley you know, she’s both tough as nails and decidedly human. She’s an engineer for the franchise’s ubiquitous megacorporation Weyland-Yutani. Her quest to find out what’s happened to her mother and the ill-fated Nostromo have led her to the the space station Sevastopol, the current location of the Nostromo’s data recorder. Unfortunately, the salvage ship that’s brought it there has also brought along something else.

You’ll spend much of your time as Ripley, sneaking around the station, its crew either already dead or struggling to survive. You’ll encounter the iconic Xenomorph and a couple of other NPC’s but they hardly matter. It’s mostly just you, the alien and the third major character: the space station itself.

Alien3

Sevastopol is a huge, interconnected labyrinth of corridors, vents, and tunnels. Lights flicker, the automatic doors regularly malfunction, broken pipes clank and let loose steam. Metal fatigue leaves the soon-to-be-decommissioned station a creaky, clanking cacophony. Footsteps and great big thuds echo everywhere, almost all the time. It’s alive. You’re never quite sure whether that’s the alien you’ve just heard, a group of people who’ve forsaken their civility for the purposes of fearful survival or another of the rather creepy service Androids who talk to themselves as they blindly, dementedly go about their work.

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The whole thing’s built using the sort of late 1970’s analogue technology you saw in the first film, avoiding the future space-age stuff we’d imagine now; great big monochromatic CRT, clunky keyboards and flickering lights. It not only feels like Ridley Scott’s Alien, it looks like it too.

Alien4

For the first few hours, I was encapsulated in what’s probably the very best game bearing the Aliens name. Following Scott’s own mantra, the Alien is scariest when you can’t see it. Armed with a motion tracker that beeps and pulses in your hands, you’ll move about the Sevastopol (usually very, very slowly), never quite sure of where the creature is. The metallic groaning and clanking of it moving through the station’s myriad, warren-like vents, accompanied by the hollow, increasingly frequent beeps from your motion tracker. It could be above you, below you, or right next to you, separated only by a thin wall. You can’t hurt it, you can’t run from it – and if it sees you you’re almost certainly dead. You will die. And you will die a lot.

Instead, between the moments where you’re fetching some doohickey or doodad, turning some knob or circuit breaker on the space station, you shut yourself in a locker, go foetal under a desk and hope to god that it goes the other way. The alien is dynamic, you see. It travels about the Sevastopol at its own pace, doing whatever it is aliens like to do – and when the game’s not being scripted –  usually only drawn to you by the sounds you foolishly make.

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That’s the idea, anyway. By the end of the game you realise that there’s a bit of magic alien AI in place, allowing it to seem like it’s sometimes in two places at once. Coupled with the save system – which replaces regular checkpoints with a wholly manual save system that relies on sporadically placed  emergency phones – it can become quite frustrating. Stumbling on one of the phones brings with it an immense sense of relief.

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To even the odds a little, Ripley can cobble together equipment from bits and bobs lying about the space station. Flash grenades and smoke bombs can distract the creature, allowing you to get skulk off elsewhere. My favourite exit strategy though, involves using other humans as bait.

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Noisemakers – crude, noise emitting devices – are great for throwing into a crowd and crawling away as the alien kills everything around it. The only thing the creature’s afraid of is fire, leaving Molotov cocktails and later, a flamethrower as your only recourse should you be spotted. They’ll give you a minute’s reprieve as the alien flees, but only serve to anger it. It’ll be back. There are a few guns, and they’re useful for taking out the other humans who want to kill you, or the homicidal, creepy Androids intent on giving you a fatal attitude adjustment, but they’re all useless against the Xeno.

It’s tense, it’s cruel and it’s brutally unforgiving. And eventually, all of that works against it as dread turns to frustration when the game seems to drag on and on, as you backtrack over the space station turning what feels like the same knobs and pulling the same levers in your attempts to escape the Sevastopol. That feeling’s mitigated somewhat if you play it for just an hour or so at a time – which is about as long as your nerves should handle. The game’s certainly not for everyone; it’s far too gruelling to please the masses, but for those who adore Ridley Scott’s Alien, this is the game they’ve been waiting 35 years to play.

Last Updated: October 14, 2014

Alien: Isolation
Summary
Unflinchingly tense and gruelling, Creative Assembly's Alien: Isolation is a better sequel to Ridley Scott's original movie than the film that followed it. Dripping with as much atmosphere and attention to detail as it is with acidic Xenomorph spittle, it's hardly let down by its weak narrative and unnecessary padding.
8.0
Alien: Isolation was reviewed on PlayStation 4

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    That first paragraph sounds an awful lot like Martha’s Gamescom diary entry for some reason.

    • hahahaha minus hair…

    • Hammersteyn

      Except that it was eggs that was stalking him.

    • Admiral Chief 0

      “Hour 49.
      I dare not sleep. I dare not close my eyes even for but a second, lest the hairy nuttsack of my dreaded overlord molest my face.”

      “Hour 57.
      Am I awake? Am I asleep? Have I succumbed to the nuttsack or to my own mind?”

      “Hour 84.
      LALALLALALALALALALALAAAAAAAAAALLALALALALALALLALALALAAAAAAAAALALLALALALALA”

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        haha – You’ve given this even more thought that I did.

        • Admiral Chief 0

          You provided the base comedy, I had to top that somehow

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Just needs a “mmmmph mmmph NO STmmpph mph” and

            Hour xx: Cried in the shower. Zoe came in to comfort me. Took a selfie instead.

          • Admiral Chief 0

            Impossible, I saw the size of the bathroom, no WAY it can fit 2x people

          • HvR

            3 months after Gameson: Still getting night sweats and when I close my eyes I can witness the horror….
            http://i.picasion.com/pic78/b39e2f38a193d24a433b0073d10954dd.gif

        • Than*

          • Admiral Chief 0

            (shhh, he is thinking about Geoff’s nutts, he is in the zone!)

      • Hammersteyn

        Who said his nuts was hairy???

      • Sageville

        Someone has nutsack issues….

    • HvR
      • oVg

        lol

      • Spaffy

        Where’s the Batman one 😀

      • Sageville

        Reminds me of my relationship with my insurance provider….

  • Hammersteyn

    Sounds a bit like Slender only a hundred times bigger.

  • Getting 🙂

    • Hammersteyn

      I’m winning mine, The correct answer was the Enterprise right?

  • L337J1MB0B

    Busy playing this… it is literally the Alien sequel I always wanted, and a flippin good game as well.

  • Hammersteyn

    Creative Assembly couldn’t have made a worse game than ACM even if they were paid to.

  • oVg

    One of those games that would have been better at 7hours.

  • Graeme Selvan

    Nice review my boy! Currently playing it an hour at a time. By far the best alien game out there. 🙂

  • Sageville

    Being a confirmed pussy wrt this genre, I wont be getting it, but I would like to know if the Alien is fast and does wall climbing or is it the traditional original alien?

    Reason being, I remember that one Alien movie where doomed Ripley is stuck on a prison planet and the alien humps a dog and makes a dog/alien hybrid…. that creature….that one gives me nightmares… super fast, runs equally fast on the roof or floor.. Now use that in monster as the baddie for this game’s sequel (You know there will be a sequel).

    Anyways, nice to see they have righted the ship after Alien: CM.

  • oVg
    • Sir Rants A Lot Llew

      Looooooooooool

  • Skyblue

    ” is a better sequel to Ridley Scott’s original movie than the film that followed it”
    – Don’t diss Aliens Geoff, it is still the pinnacle of sci-fi right alongside Blade Runner imo.

    • Isn’t a diss; I love Cameron’s aliens. This is just a better sequel, whereas aliens was a different direction.

      • Skyblue

        Fair enough.

  • Sir Rants A Lot Llew

    I WANT THIS GAME!!!! *heavy breathing*

  • I am not a fan of horror/suspense games or even FPS games, but the look and feel as well as the nostalgia that is brought in this game – I just had to try it.
    I have not been disappointed and like Geoff said, don’t play it for hours but just enough. There was no bigger feeling of dread of having to open a door and not checking my motion tracker only to see the Alien coming down a passage towards me. And my reaction was simple – Esc, Quit, play later.
    It is really an awesome game and really worth playing. Highly recommended.

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