I clearly remember the words of Kane, one of the Nostromo crew members played by John Hurt, “We’ve gone this far—we must go on” just as they trudged towards an unknown formation, in the classic sci-fi horror movie: Alien.
Well, I felt Kane’s determination to go on even after he was exhausted on all levels. How? You would ask. The answer lies in this new game Alien: Isolation, which is a one of kind, larger than life entree’ in its genre’. I call it larger than life because even though it starts off giving you a tremendous amount of satisfaction, but grows up to be a bit “too much”.
In the beginning, the game can be admired for its neat premise as you start off playing as Amanda Ripley, who is the daughter of the original movie’s heroine. Amanda is charmingly young and an engineer employed at a company called ‘Weyland-Yutani Corp’. You find yourself discovering this flight recorder from Nostromo, 15 years after mommy and the ship go missing. In a nick of a time, you get entangled in this web of situations where you are stuck in a huge space station whose inhabitants are mysteriously disappearing.
To cut things short, they are being picked by this dual-mouthed, 7-foot-tall insectoid predator having razor-sharp tail, and a huge amount of eerie feel to it. Yup! You know him.
We have to praise the design and structure of the game and it strives to give you the best of the visuals and close to reality look. Over all, it would be safe to say, after 12 hours of continuous game play, that this game is desperate to take you back in the time, and remind you of the things which left the audience awestruck and horrified at the same time, after watching the 1979 blockbuster.
But throughout the game however, you would have to fight with more or less one alien. I know, I know it might remind you of the James Cameron sequels to Alien, having multiple enemies at your tail, but on an honest note, less is more effective seems to work here. Being followed by a single but scary enemy itself is a terrifying thought.
The production design and quality of the film beautifully re-incarnate the film’s look and feel, having a detailed view of the anamorphic lens, and working its way to nitty gritty’s such as the crispy, weird sounds made by the air-duct doorways. You can see the game evolving in to this new time, keeping in mind its place of birth and stabilizing the 70’s feel.
As a continuation of the movie, you can see the chunky space suits, and huge blocks of computers, sort of a different future where human beings have reached the stars without the invention of the current day “real” technology.
All said and done, we still have not discussed the game play. The game offers intimate moments where you see yourself behind closed doors waiting for the Alien to leave the space, as he continues stalking you.
Bone chilling, nerve wrecking, goose bumps to the toe moments? Yes they are all there. At this point, what you must know is that it’s not your regular all-you-can-shoot game. Many a times you will find yourself in a situation where you are significantly under equipped.
But this game manages to affect you on levels many real-time strategy based games fail. To be honest, wearing my headphones, with lights turned off and this game on, I actually forgot to notice the meal lying in front of me.
Having said that, you might come across a few glitches in the game. The transparency between the levels is too evident after a while, as it leads you from one place to the other by the nose. Doors might be randomly locked until it is specifies that you have to open them by a certain strategy. I didn’t realise that the game lacks a jump button when Amanda’s path was hindered by a pile of suitcases and to be honest I couldn’t figure out what to do, and how to move on. This comes as a surprise since Amanda can very efficiently maneuver her way through the tricky passages.
Furthermore, the times you come face to face with the alien become frustrating at one point, rather than giving you a kick. Rest assured, no matter how safe you think you are, trying to find time to catch your breath, the Alien can pop out of nowhere. It seems as if the alien has become more of a stealth-game security guard than a monstrous creature you are trying to get away from. Especially since you’ve seen the sharp tail pierce through your belly three times, it can get a tad bit annoying. The game starts to look like a dismal fight till the next save point, with moments of teeth grinding more out of frustration than terror.
Moving on, you will see that the game is over flowing with these extra details; emails and audio logs to simply add on to the story, a mini-crafting system which helps you in collecting the elements for your medkits and weapons and the likes.
Although these extra bits provide their own experience and frankly are a breath of fresh air at times in most of the games, over here it seems as if they continue to drag you away from what is supposed to be a focused, honest gameplay. These bits might have looked good while designing for the game, but not so effective operation wise.
Alien: Isolation is about five hours longer than it should’ve been. After what seemed like a climax to me, I was still stuck wandering the corridors, dodging the androids, playing silly hacking mini games, and ardently wishing the game would come to an end. At this point, the game had already lost what little of charm it had created for me, since it overstayed its welcome. Plot could’ve been better, but the production design and quality tends to make up for it at times.
Overall, seeing to the hype that the pre-release phase carried, I think this game should have offered a lot more than bland outdated graphics and nothing-out-of-ordinary gameplay. I grew up watching movies with all kinds of aliens, and frankly I don’t regret spending a few hours on this game. But a few hours is all that it’ll get.