The Alien franchise has seen its fair share of video game adaptations over the years. Of all the games released under the Alien moniker, only a handful have been positively received by fans and critics alike. For an IP with such potential this fact is almost baffling. It looks like the latest offering from Creative Assembly might be the game that finally does the franchise justice in terms of both presentation and game play. Alien Isolation is a love letter to the 1979 film that started it all.

Set fifteen years after the original Alien, players assume the role of Ellen Ripley’s daughter: Amanda. She is offered to come along on an expedition to reclaim the Nostromo’s flight recorder that is being kept at a space station called Sevastopol and tags along in the hope of finding out what happened to her mother, and maybe get some closure. Upon arriving at Sevastopol you get separated from the rest of your crew, and it is immediately apparent that something terrible is happening at the space station. Before long you run into a hulking Xenomorph that is picking off survivors one by one, and Amanda must use all of her wits and cunning to escape alive.

Alien isolation gameplay

Tracking the Alien is vital to survival

The story and human characters quickly take a backseat to the true stars of Isolation; the space station and the alien itself. When not in immediate danger, it is a true joy to simply take in your surroundings. The art-direction and design is more or less lifted straight out of Alien, and beautifully captures that “working-class & lived-in” atmosphere of the film. Exploring the environment in constant fear of the alien is truly scary, and at times terrifying, and will keep you on the edge of your seat for most of the campaign.

The game play is survival horror done right. The majority of your encounters with the alien are unscripted, which means that it is constantly reacting and adapting to your actions. This open-endedness really ups the fear factor, as you never feel safe, and it forces you to play smart and cautiously. You can not damage the alien, so your only option when its breathing down your neck is to crawl around and hide in lockers, under desks, peeking around corners and over hand rails. It will kill you in one hit as well, so keeping your distance and using the environment to your advantage is key to survival. This approach to an Alien game is very refreshing after the countless gung-ho game play style of other games drawing inspiration from Cameron’s Aliens and subsequent films in the franchise.

The Xenomorph is not the only threat to you in Isolation either. Bands of survivors will shoot you on sight, as well as the “working joes”; Sevastopol’s android populace that aren’t too happy about you trespassing. While you can fight these foes with weapons and equipment that you scavenge, violence on your part is always a last resort option. Guns going off and other types of commotion will also attract the alien, so stealth and cunning is the name of the game if you want to survive. This flora of enemies makes for an interesting mix of situations where you can choose between a variety of approaches to fulfil your objective.

Isolation’s greatest strength is its presentation. The level design, art-direction, lighting, sound, and score all come together and beautifully compliment the intense game play. This of course goes double for die-hard Alien fans, as the love and care put into capturing and recreating the film’s aesthetic is evident. Some facial animations are a bit stiff, and the human NPC’s can look a bit rough up close. After the first couple of hours however, you are mostly on your own and won’t want to get too close to anyone you encounter, so it is rarely noticeable.

Whether you are a fan of the Alien franchise or not; Isolation is still a terrific survival horror game in its own right. The campaign is a few hours too long for its own good, with a fair share of trial and error and backtracking, but manages to stay intense all the way through. It is definitively one of the best games based on the Alien IP, and arguably one of the most frightening survival horror games in recent years. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go watch Alien before playing some more Isolation.

Alien Isolation Review
  • Chilling atmosphere
  • Intense stealth
  • Great audio/visual design
  • A bit too long for its own good
  • The androids can be a pain
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About The Author

Ingólfur Ólafsson

Metal head, front-man, natural gamer and editor at Eskimo Press.