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.

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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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Try Before You Buy

One of the great things about the PSN (PlayStation Network) that I feel a lot of people are overlooking is the sheer amount of demos you can get for free.

With every Thursday (or at least 99% of them) bringing new demos to the store I always find it a bit strange that people haven’t been on to download anything.

As well as giving you a chance to try out titles you’re looking forward to (say hi to Alien Vs Predator, Heavy Rain and Battlefield Bad Company 2 last Thursday 😎 ) it’s also an opportunity to try out games in a different style that you wouldn’t normally play/buy.

Sure you might not enjoy those demos but at least then you’ll know to avoid that game. You might even surprise yourself and like something you never though you would.

These demos are completely free and you can keep them on your PS3 hard drive indefinitely (in most cases).

Many of them are up to 15/20 minutes of gameplay and take less than that to download.

The demos stay up on the PSN indefinitely as far as I’m aware and there are plenty of old gems on there.

So anyone reading this that doesn’t currently use the PSN Store for demos get yourself on there and check out some games you’ve heard are great but haven’t played.

EDIT: Since I wrote this piece it’s turned out that we’ve also seen the downside of the demo issue with Alien Vs Predator still unplayable on the PS3. Another demo for Sonic Racing has also apparently thrown up frame rate issues for that title. These sorts of things should’ve been ironed out at Beta stage in my opinion but on the plus side the Battlefield demo is great 🙂

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MOST WANTED GAMES 2009/10 – PART TWO

So here’s Part Two of the Most Wanted Games 2009/10 and in this part we are going to look at some of titles that will be coming out the back end of the year, early next year and even a few that don’t have official release dates yet.

Enjoy!

 

Uncharted 2

Release Date: TBA 2009

The return of Nathan Drake is very welcome and it will be great to step back into the shoes of the plucky adventurer.

Graphically I suspect there will be only minor improvements – the first game was stunning visually and was the first time I felt a game did HD justice.

But it was the gameplay that hooked everyone and Uncharted 2 looks to maintain the same level of brilliance – the game will be set in different environments but most of the gameplay will be similar to the first game.

One big change is that multi-player will feature in the new game, both co-operative and competitive. See the trailer above for more on that.

Again this is one that will be a huge release and is a game I am really excited about. If you haven’t played the first game get it now in preparation for the next installment.

 

Bioshock 2

Release Date: TBC 2009

I’ve only just started playing the first Bioshock and am really enjoying it so far.

If it carries on at this level and turns out to be as great as everyone says then obviously the second game will be one to watch out for.

Looks like the theme this time is sand rather than water but I’m too scared to dig any deeper in case I uncover something that will spoil the first game for me 😳

 

Dirt2

Release Date: Sept 2009

Well that’s certainly a departure from the previous direction of the Colin McRae Dirt game. Last time out it was strictly a point to point rally racing game which was enjoyable but not a huge amount of fun online.

This time they’ve gone all ‘off road’ on us and I think it could really take the series to the next level.

Graphically it looks amazing so fingers crossed we be enjoying some quality racing come September!

 

Dante’s Inferno

Release Date: TBA 2010

I loved Dead Space so I was immediately interested to see what the guys that made it are working on next.

Dante’s Inferno is the story of the Divine Comedy, a piece of literature revered around the world.

Dante must fight his way through the nine levels of hell, encountering plenty of fiendish opponents on the way.

Could this be a possible rival to God Of War 3? I suspect it’ll be different enough not to go head-to-head, in fact it reminds me more of a much darker Devil May Cry – which may not be a bad thing.

No gameplay as yet but I will be hoping for some more details soon.

 

Assassin’s Creed 2

Release Date: Jan/Feb 2010

Not a great deal is known so far about Assassin’s Creed 2 but I am just glad the game is on it’s way as I thoroughly enjoyed the first game after a few niggly bits (having to unlock so much of the map :mad:).

There was nothing better than carrying out an assassination successfully and the game gave you plenty of different ways to do it.

Check out some kills from the first game on the video below:

There aren’t many games you could do that on (not that I could do all of them anyway :grin:) and my hopes are high for the sequel.

Hopefully they have created more varied means of locating your target rather than the three methods in the first game but either way this should be a brilliant title.

I’m looking forward to seeing some actual gameplay footage.

 

I Am Alive

Release Date: TBC 2009/10

I’m always slightly dubious with games that release a stunning trailer and then nothing.

I Am Alive appears to be a survival game in the same vein as ‘S.O.S Final Escape’ on the PS2. You’ll be tasked with making your way through the aftermath of a natural disaster (earthquake in this case) and doing you best to survive.

Hopefully this is the case and it’s not a government conspiracy/alien invasion (delete as appropriate) because S.O.S was an awesome game and it would be great to have a similar experience in HD.

Fingers crossed that it lives up to the promise of the trailer and hopefully we’ll have some gameplay footage or more details soon.

 

Red Dead Redemption

Release Date: TBC 2009/10

I thought Red Dead Revolver on PS2 was an excellent game and it highlighted an under used environment in gaming recently – the Western.

In the same way InFamous and Prototype are clashing so are Red Dead Redemption and Call Of Juarez (see Part One).

But the games appear to be fundamentally different.

We’ve seen footage of Juarez but not Red Dead however my interest really peaked last week as a journalist set the internet on fire when he twittered about having the Rockstar guys in the office and said he couldn’t say what they’d been shown but that ‘it could be GTA5’.

Most people presumed it was GTA5 but it turns out it was likely Red Dead Redemption.

So GTA set in a Western environment – hell yeah!

The story would presumably be a lot less linear than the first game and I think if that is the way the game is going it could really reboot the franchise in a positive way.

 

Alien Vs Predator

Release Date: TBA 2010

a-vs-p 

So that’s where Aliens: Colonial Marines went 😉

Very little is known, the screenshot above is one of the few bits of info we have.

This could be a fantastic game with (hopefully) a brilliant multi-player aspect.

Not sure whether the game will take it’s cue from the old PC game or feature a brand new story but either way excitement levels, especially among fans of either film series, will be reaching fever pitch through the rest of this year as we get more info.

 

Wet

Release Date: TBA 2009/10

Again, not a huge deal is known about this game but I think it looks pretty cool based on the trailer above.

Wet sees you take on the role of a female assassin.

It doesn’t seem to be too fussed with an Agent 47 methodical style of killing the victim and getting away with it, more a sort of Angel Of Death bloody rampage type of thing.

Shooting someone while sliding on your knees is the rock n roll of the assassin world 🙂 so let’s hope the game can provide plenty of stand out moments alongside the shoot to kill gameplay.

 

The Agency

Release Date: TBC 2010

Sony’s multiplayer extravaganza is shaping up to be great fun.

Each player takes on the role of a spy and has to complete various objectives within a 24 hour real-time online world.

Effectively there will be no single player mode, only challenges against or with the help of other players.

There will be non-playable characters who players will have to do missions linked to – and they can enlist the help of fellow players online if they want.

There will also be player v player missions, although we’re not sure yet if that means team v team or individual v individual.

I would guess maybe one person would have ‘guard this paper with your life for 15 minutes’ while a numerous amount of others would be trying to track them down and get the paper.

Sounds cool as long as enough people are playing it and I look forward to trying it out.

 

Formula 1 2010

Release Date: 2010

I’m not a huge fan of F1 but the games of the past have been fairly straightforward affairs – always enjoyable but never really impressing.

Now that Codemasters have the licence I honestly think they can do great things with the game. Their pedigree recently, Dirt/Grid/TOCA, has been rwally good and I’m looking forward to seeing what this game turns out like.

 

Deus Ex 3

Release Date: TBC 2010

Deus Ex on the PS2 was one of the best games I’ve ever played.

The amount of choice you had and the amazing story was so awe inspiring I was gutted I never got the chance to play the follow up.

Now it appears they are bringing the third installment to PS3 – with the increased AI the PS3 is capable of, not to mention the leap the graphics, this is one game I can’t wait for.

 

Gran Turismo 5

Release Date: TBC 2009/10

The Real Driving SimulatorTM returns for it’s fifth installment sometime in the future – although nobody seems to know quite when it will be ready.

Expect the usual race based realism with lovingly recreated vehicles. I’ve never really been a huge fan of Gran Turismo – the last one I played seriously was GT2, the others I dipped into.

The difference here could be online, which could really make things interesting. Real life races and championships are a must and I think GT5 will offer a completely different driving experience to both Dirt2 and Formula 1 2010.

I’m sure it’ll look amazing but I will want a lot more info on the different game modes before committing to this one.

 

So there we go, that should be enough to keep you all busy for a while.

I know that not all releases are covered here, this isn’t a definitive list by any means – just stuff I’m looking forward to that I thought it would be cool to share on the off chance you haven’t heard of it.

Thanks for reading!