- Original release year: 2014
- Consoles: Windows, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One (Later: Linux, iOS)
Alien Isolation is a game that received wildly mixed reviews upon release. I’m serious, scores were all over the place with this one. It got everything from 9s and 10s out of 10, to 4 and 5s out of 10. The main criticisms from the low-scoring reviews, were its harsh difficulty and the hugely erratic and unpredictable AI of the Alien. Funnily enough, the main points praised by the higher-scoring reviews were, you guessed it, the harsh difficulty and the erratic and unpredictable AI of the Alien.
Maybe I’m a masochist, but personally, I love Alien Isolation. I played on the hardest difficulty, when I usually play on ‘normal’ or even ‘easy in most games, because although the difficulty is intense, it’s never unfair and it actually feels like this game was made to be played on ‘hard’.
Alien Isolation is a slow game too. I don’t think the Alien shows up until about an hour(?) into the game. Although this does build up tension, because you keep expecting it to show up. Seriously, every time there was a loud noise or a bang, I jumped. Action fans probably go into this game all guns blazing expecting an action game, but the trick to this game, is to spend more time creeping around, trying to avoid confrontation and avoiding the Alien at all costs… It’s more of a ‘true’ survival horror game.
The atmosphere and claustrophobic feeling is perfectly executed. Playing on the PS4 (I assume the Xbox One has similar features with the Kinect), I also find the ‘head tracking’ gimmick really immersive (the camera tracks the movement of your head when you’re hiding in lockers and around corners), even if it is a it gimmicky. Initially, I also had the ‘noise detection’ feature on, but after I sneezed a few times, I turned it off and didn’t dare use the ‘noise detection’ feature again.
The single greatest thing about this game, is the Alien itself. The AI is quite simply a stroke of genius, with the creature being completely free-roaming. Some of the encounters with the Alien are scripted, but as Eurogamer said in their review, for the most part you’ll have no warning when the beast drops down from a vent and starts to prowl. The AI is completely random too. It won’t just walk down a fixed path, there is no pattern at all. It will roam, it will go through vents and it will search for you. It doesn’t let up either, because it can and will kill you as you creep towards a save point, it will kill you right before you reach a vital part in the game to move the story forward. There is virtually no escaping the Alien.
To summarise, Alien Isolation is not a shooting game, it is not an action game. This is an adventure game, a true test of survival, where you will spend much of the game cowering in fear, becoming anxious and frustrated, petrified even, as make your way through the adventure desperately trying to avoid imminent death at the hands of an unkillable creature. The developers absolutely nailed the atmosphere in this game and it was one of the few must-play games to come out for this generation.