Alien Isolation – Review (PS4)

Alien Isolation Main

So here we are again, another console generation and another Alien game. Isolation promised an experience much closer to the original film and pre-release material looked great. However as someone who got burnt by Alien vs Predator and Colonial Marines, I was reluctant to let the hype carry me away. Could Creative Assembly be the first developer in decades to nail an Alien game?

Picking up in 2137, between the events of Alien and Aliens, Isolation sees you take on the role of Amanda Ripley – the daughter of general badass Ellen Ripley. With Ellen still missing, a flight recorder from her ship Nostromo is discovered and Amanda heads to Sevastopol, the space station that has the recorder, to get some answers. And that’s where we pick up the story, playing as Amanda from a first person perspective.

The first thing you’ll notice is the presentation. From the opening boot up sequence, featuring some wonderful retro logos, to the in game world, everything has been crafted with a level of dedication that shows a real love for the universe. As you make your way through the levels you’ll find yourself taken in by how good your surroundings look. Of course, you’d expect a high level of fidelity and detail when dealing with enclosed spaces and corridors like this but that doesn’t mean its any less impressive. The fire in the game looks especially good and while character models can sometimes look a little off facially, Isolation is a pretty good looking game.

Alien Isolation 1

Another thing to note is that while Isolation is a first person game that features guns, flamethrowers and other weapons, it is not a shooter. This is a horror game, pure and simple. You will spend a lot of time hiding and almost all of the game crouch-walking slowly around areas. While Amanda can handle herself against human and android enemies (although even those can kill you quickly) the Alien itself is not killable, or at least certainly not with the tools you have at your disposal. It will also kill you in one hit, often from behind. These mini cut scenes are great, for example the first you might know about it is suddenly losing control of Amanda and she looks down to see the tail of the Alien break through her chest! That means if you hear it nearby you’ll need to find somewhere to hide or set up a distraction.

The Alien is well designed and uses the games artificial intelligence to learn your patterns, which is really cool (but terrifying). If you keep hiding in lockers the Alien will check them first when looking for you. Same goes for hiding under desks or in cabinets. It’s a clever mechanic and doesn’t feel unfair, it’s something that adds a bit more tension to proceedings. The amount of times I was hiding somewhere only to see the Alien slowly stalk passed outside, I was literally holding my breath.

As someone who doesn’t really like horror games with jump scares (I survived about 20 minutes of Outlast before turning it off and let’s not mention P.T…) I found this to be a great experience. The issue I had was that it was so intense I could only play an hour or so at a time. Which is why it’s taken me months to finish it (apologies @lefty_flip!). And that brings me to my main complaint about the game, it’s length. It is quite rare these days for a game to be too long but unfortunately Alien Isolation out stays its welcome by a good few hours. Clocking in at around 20 hours, it was just too draining. Also a few of those missions before the game ramps up at the end really felt like filler and there was a lot of ‘go to this door, try the handle, power’s out, track back across the map to turn it back on, and return to the door’ type stuff. And all the while you’re being hunted by an AI clever Alien. It just felt too long.

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The other issue was that the game lost any suspense when failing areas. If you could get through them on your first or second attempt it was an exhilarating ride. However repeated deaths led to instances where you ended up just running here and there with pinpoint accuracy. I’m not really sure what the solution would be for that but it definitely shattered the carefully crafted illusion of the game on several occasions for me.

I quite liked the story but there were a few issues and the ending seemed to have a few gaping plot holes, which had me reaching for the internet. The characters felt quite well formed and Ripley herself was a decent protagonist. Even though I knew from the films what had happened to Ellen Ripley it still felt interesting and important when Amanda discovered new pieces of information.

In addition to the main campaign there is also Survivor mode, whereby you attempt to escape through levels as quickly as possible while doing optional side objectives to increase your score. You are given a time limit (30 minutes for example) in which to escape and the whole thing feels even more claustrophobic than the campaign. Having a timer running in the top corner adds even more pressure. I couldn’t even beat the first of these challenges so I suspect they are for more hardened/skilled players or people looking to play more of the game without replaying the story.

Alien Isolation 3

It has been years since the last decent Alien game – Alien Trilogy on the PlayStation (1996) and Alien 3 on Sega MegaDrive (1993) come to mind as stand out titles – but Alien Isolation is the best we’ve had for a long time. It captures the feel of that first film perfectly and while it has some issues with plot and overall length, this is recommended – especially if you’re a fan of the Alien universe.

Rating: 8/10

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GregHorrorShow’s Top 100 Games: 50-41

Resi2

So we’re into the Top 50 already!!

You guys know the drill by now:

I decided, as so many games mean so many different things to me, I should come up with a fair way to judge them. This is what I came up with:

Time Spent Playing

Storyline

Difficulty

Fun

Ground Breaking?

A few provisos before we hit the next ten games…

Firstly this is my list of my Top 100 games. I certainly don’t expect you guys to agree with it (though hopefully you’ll agree with some of the choices) and would welcome any comments.

Secondly, I’m not planning on putting the scores or totals up, just listing the games in the order they came out in.

Lastly, I never owned a Nintendo or Microsoft console so my experiences on these games were limited to friend’s houses etc – bite me 🙂

Let’s crack on with No. 50…

 

50. inFAMOUS (Playstation 3)

inFAMOUS

inFAMOUS is a great game that sees you take on the role of Cole MacGrath – a man who develops mysterious electrical superpowers after being caught in an explosion while delivering a package. From there on out it’s up to you how you go about finding the people who caused the explosion to get answers / revenge. Throughout the game you’re greeted with good or evil choices that shape your powers and the way the general public view you. The story in this game was one of the main highlights for me. Brilliant, brilliant gaming.

 

49. ALIEN TRILOGY (Playstation)

AlienTrilogy

This was a brilliant game. A first person shooter based on the first three Alien films. Although I don’t think you actually played any of the plotlines from the film, it was just the settings etc. Best bit was if a facehugger got you – it actually took up the whole screen, leaving you unable to see where you were going/what was going on. And it even had the scanner with it’s creepy bleeping, signalling imminent danger. Great stuff.

 

48. RESIDENT EVIL 2 (Playstation)

ResidentEvil2

Ok, ok so I never finished this (I hardly finished any games back in the day, content to just play until something new came out 😥 ) but it was all about the opening anyway. After the slow paced survival horror of the first game being dumped in amongst lots of zombies right at the start of this one and effectively told to ‘get on with it’ was something of a shock. Certainly a big ‘what the hell’ moment and the game grows in strength from there.

 

47. ALIEN 3 (Sega Mega Drive)

 Alien3

Another Alien game in the same ten game stretch? What madness is this? Well that’s just the way the list worked out and Alien 3 certainly beats Alien Trilogy on merit. Despite being based on only one film this side scroller for the Sega Mega Drive was really impressive at the time. The “photo-realistic” shots of the Aliens between levels was a highlight and I simply never got tired of using the flamethrower to fry the critters! It was a pain to keep rescuing the cocooned hostages though 😮

 

46. ROBOCOP VS TERMINATOR (Sega Mega Drive)

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I wrote a piece on how Robocop deserves a decent next gen game and after playing Terminator Salvation I wasn’t impressed with the latest Terminator effort. Looking back this was the last decent game for both franchises. And what a game. The story was pretty convoluted – basically Robocop’s cybernetics hold the key to building Terminators or something 🙂 Going round shooting Terminators as Robocop. COULD THIS BE ANY COOLER? Yes it could – you also faced off against ED-209 😎

 

45. SUPER MONKEY BALL (Nintendo GameCube)

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Many an hour spent perfecting Monkey Target (Hi Hollow Snake! 🙂 ) and Monkey Golf made this a favourite during my short time as a Gamecube owner. Super Monkey Ball featured monkeys in big balls and you were tasked with navigating them through several tricky puzzle like courses. Or various multi-player ‘sport’ events. All great fun but there was something tragic about not closing the ball on Monkey Target – which left your monkey friend terminally injured, twitching on the floor 😥

 

44. HORACE GOES SKIING (ZX Spectrum)

HoraceGoesSkiing

Another old classic. This was requested by myself and my brother every time my Dad busted out the ZX. “No money no ski’s” became a family catchphrase. In this gem of a game you had to guide Horace across a busy road to hire some ski’s, get back across the road and then actually navigate the slalom on the ski’s. Such a simple concept but we got literally hours of fun out of it.

 

43. FIFA 95 (Sega Mega Drive)

FIFA95

I think this has to be one of the games I’ve played the most in my gaming life. I used to rack up the seasons on this quality title. The follow up to the original FIFA game this was the beautiful game at it’s best. Even back then EA was all about the presentation – whenever you scored each button corresponded to a celebratory noise like fireworks or a klaxon. The best by far was a commentator saying ‘Gooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaalllllll!!!!!!!!!!’ For as long as you held the button down. A lot more arcadey than the football games these days but certainly as much fun.

 

42. GAUNTLET (Arcade)

Gauntlet

“Wizard needs food badly” – If there is a sampled piece of speech in a game that raises the blood pressure this is it. That booming voice. You felt like you were being told off the whole time. Heaven help anyone who shot the food by accident! This was 4 people multi-player action at it’s best and it literally ate 10p pieces for breakfast in the arcades. I always went Wizard as he looked pretty badass on the arcade artwork but in reality he was a bit crap. Oh well maybe I’ll just shoot some food. 😆

 

41. SPEEDBALL II (Sega Master System)

Speedball2

No top games list would be complete without this seminal classic. Brutal Deluxe – it brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it. I remember when a friend and I got them to the playoffs. God this game was bloody hard. It was violent and addictive – you could have your opponents stretchered off seriously wounded if you hit them hard enough. All you had to do was chuck the ball in a goal – sounds easy right? But there were all sort of multipliers dotted around and power ups available. We’d never played anything like it and I doubt we will again.

 

So there you have it, another ten games down and plenty more to come!

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