Wot I Think: Alien – Isolation

Alien: Isolation is Creative Assembly’s first-person survival horror take on Ridley Scott’s Alien. No predators, no marines, no swarms of xenomorphs. This time it’s not war. Instead, we have one space station, one creature and one Amanda Ripley, locked in an apparent cycle of terror. I was hoping for something that captured the intelligence of the original film’s design rather than simply being Amnesia in space, and Isolation is certainly that thing. Take a deep breath. Relax. We’re in safe hands, and there’s so much to talk about.

This is about as close to an ‘event’ game as ever happens to someone like me. I don’t have a particular brand or franchise attachment that receives regular servicing, but in an alternate universe somewhere, I’m queuing at a midnight launch event for Isolation, while cosplaying as an egg. What a relief it is to report that Isolation is beautifully crafted, smart as a whip and worthy to wear its name with pride.

Despite all of that, parts of this are going to sting a little. Hopefully just a little – I don’t expect anyone to be hurting like Hurt following his post-hug munchies – but it’s best to make sure everyone knows that Alien: Isolation isn’t coming into the world quite as smoothly and painlessly as might be hoped. It’s a superb game for much of its running time and an even better adaptation of the world of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, but it falters at times, for too long and too predictably.

I’m not going to spoil any of the particulars of the plot, which means I won’t answer every question as to what didn’t work for me. Some of those particulars will be controversial and I look forward to discussing them almost as much as I look forward to plunging back into the Survival mode. There are so many things that could have gone wrong and the vast majority of them haven’t, so whatever you’re guessing right now (no, it doesn’t turn into a gung-ho military shooter half-way through) is almost certainly not the case. If you want to know precisely what the flaws are and where they come from, read on and between the lines, but the only way to know for sure is to play.

Thankfully, I’d happily recommend the game to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, horror or Alien the first anyway. The existence of failings shouldn’t be considered a condemnation in any way. In fact, Isolation’s troubles are, on the whole, interesting problems to have. Let’s talk about what it gets right.

Primarily, it’s the world of the Sevastopol, which is a stunningly recreated analogue to the Nostromo, which is possibly the greatest monument to realist industrial science fiction ever constructed on such a grand scale. The Nostromo is one of the few strong examples of a convincingly working class construction set against the backdrop of infinite possibility and wonder. In Alien, space is another in a long historical list of places where people are sent to work for their daily bread, to argue over profit shares and unions, and to put their lives on the line in hazardous situations for a meagre paycheck, while the fat cats get fatter.

Isolation has a memory and understanding of that. Amanda Ripley – we’ll talk about the family connection later – is an engineer, and if she’s not intrinsically of the dirty hands and wrenches variety, she’s at least willing to get involved with some rudimentary mechanics. The story of the game, however, is as much the story of Seegson Synthetics as it is of the xenomorph or the Ripley family saga.

Forget the nature of the alien’s behaviour and the decision to include just one of the blighted things, and forget the decision to have human and android threats sprinkled throughout the station. Forget all of that just for a minute because Isolation’s greatest triumph and its greatest gamble comes in the form of Seegson itself.

The company that own the station on which the majority of the game takes place are a competitor to the better-known (in-fiction and out) Weyland-Yutani. Actually, ‘competitor’ is too strong a word – in the current climate, if Weyland-Yutani are Apple (I have my suspictions), Seegson are Amstrad, or perhaps Mr Kipling’s Bramley Apple Tarts. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in their androids, the Working Joes.

A Weyland-Yutani synthetic is almost indistinguishable from a human being, right up until the point when someone wallops it, and it starts spewing milk and screaming like a chiptune in a toaster. Seegson’s synths are, to put it politely, more workmanlike. From a distance, with just the right amount of cosmetic work, you might mistake one for Sir Patrick Stewart on a bad day, but up close they’re more like an army of crash test dummies.

It’s an inspired choice. The appearance and behaviour of Isolation’s machine men tells a story of competitive business and tech development, as well as serving to intimidate and terrify. At its brilliant best, Creative Assembly’s game is a masterclass in telling by showing, with every fine detail of the world building a picture of obsolescence and desperation that gels perfectly with the creaking bulk of the Nostromo and the bickering of its crew. The Sevastopol isn’t falling apart because somebody brought a parasite on board, it’s falling apart because the world has left it behind. The parasite is the final corruption in a system that is already diseased.

The design of the original Alien – that gloriously glitchy and archaic future-tech – is happy accident as well as inspired art direction. There’s an obvious intent to create something that isn’t outside the realms of possibility and that fits with the jobbing nature of the crew and vessel, but the ramshackle aesthetic is a product of its time. Isolation mostly succeeds in recreating that product and that time, as well as expanding on it. Every interface that Ripley encounters – hell, every piece of panelling and wiring – is credible and functional. It’s a world that begs to be touched and appreciated.

You’ll spend a lot of time touching it. The Sevastopol is in a state and Ripley quickly becomes the go-to person for repairs. When you’re not hiding in a closet or under a desk, chances are you’ll be wrapping a tool around something to unlock a door, or powering up systems. A few hours in, I realised I’d become a bit of an Isaac – that is Isaac Clarke of the Dead Space trilogy – working as a caretaker at the beck and call of other survivors. The impression is hammered home by the existence of a transport hub at the heart of the Sevastopol, linking the main areas with a loading screen transit system.

Fixing things is fine, for a while. It’s a constant pressure pushing Ripley deeper into the thick of it all. When the alien is hunting and the tension is high, the time it takes to boot up a stuttering computer terminal or drag a lever into position can be a deliciously anxious hesitation. I’ve screamed at the screen. Actually screamed. The overriding feeling is one of anxiety rather than terror, but it’s an anxiety so severe that I think I’ve learned how to tense the muscles in my eyeballs.

I’ve already described what it feels like to confront the alien in great detail. Now, having played the game, I can confirm that it never gets old and that’s because, with great restraint, Creative Assembly never allow it to. The superb standalone Survival missions are testament to the effectiveness of the creature’s design, both visually (which we already knew) and as a mostly convincing artificially intelligent agent. It works in fairly short bursts of tension, one eye on the motion tracker causing the world to fade out of focus. The thrill of horror as it begins to move, at an impossible pace, isn’t comparable to anything else in gaming.

Alien: Isolation isn’t a game about running away because if you get to the point where you have to run, you’re already dead. It’s a game about predicting behaviour, using the tools at your disposal to educate the guesswork, and it’s a game about hiding and holding your breath.

I imagine some people will consider the fact that it’s possible to survive at all and reach the end of the game an outrage that means the xenomorph has been unreasonably nerfed. Clearly, that’s poppycock, but I was concerned that prolonged exposure would diminish the power of the thing. It doesn’t but that’s partly because the exposure isn’t as prolonged as you might imagine.

The alien isn’t present for the entire duration of the game. Isolation isn’t just a sophisticated game of cat and mouse, and, despite suspecting that I wanted something like that, thank god it’s not the case. There’s a spectacularly impressive period of relative normality before its introduction and, later on, phases of quiet solitude that instil other types of dread entirely. There are even pauses to take stock and catch your breath, which is a good thing because given the intensity of the worst/best of the encounters, there’d be a risk of asphyxiation if they weren’t in place.

The pacing is effective, up to a point – it’s at that point, which will be a different point for every player, that I fell out of love with the game a little. When a new repair job required me to revisit an area I’d already seen, I didn’t particularly mind. But the game’s third act became a slog, for reasons that I won’t explain in full so as to protect the plot. The base of it was mechanical though – I came to feel like one of Seegson’s androids by the final stretch, following orders and waypoints on a map or the destination marker on the motion detector.

If it hadn’t been for the tremendous highs of the majority of the game, perhaps the apparent failure to stick the landing wouldn’t have disengaged me quite as forcefully. There was a stretch when I was going through the motions and struggling to care about the consequences. Too many sections had required me to go to a place and press a button so that I could go to another place and press another button. Isolation is so carefully crafted for the vast majority of its running time that the lull toward the end surprised me. It walks the walk with such assurance for so long and then joins the Ministry before having a bit of a lie down.

Amanda herself is a rather more pleasant surprise. I was childisly annoyed when the game was announced and I found out I’d be playing as Ripley’s daughter. It seemed like a link too far, an attempt to gain legitimacy and authority by latching onto the source in as obvious a fashion as possible. How lovely it is to be wrong.

The voice acting, by Welsh performer Kezia Burrows, is spot on – vulnerable but tough as nails – and the relationship to Ripley is never forced. Connecting the two stories with a human element, despite the time that passes between, is far more effective than I dared imagine, mostly due to the subtlety of those particular aspects of the narrative. Despite my initial expasperation, it quickly felt right to have a Ripley at the helm and, indeed, it wouldn’t feel proper to remove her from the scenario. There’s no coincidence required to bring Amanda to Sevastopol and her involvement is a natural part of the world’s bureaucratic core.

Even when my attention was dissipating, Ripley helped to keep me focused. Against all expectation, I cared about her story even when the game threatened to leave me cold and by bringing the story back to Ripley, the game recovers some of its lost momentum in its finale.

In retreading some of the ground and re-jigging the beats of Alien, Isolation sometimes steps into territory that is almost sacred to someone as obsessive about the film as I am, and it earns the right to do so. There’s a sequence so audacious that I’m in awe that it works as well it does.

Do not let anyone spoil that moment or any other for you before you play. They’re not twists, not the sort of thing that will be diminished by the anticipation and knowledge of them, but if you’re as attuned to the glory of Alien as I am, you’ll find them to be as good as anything in a game this year.

I haven’t spoken about how the interface works, or the crafting, or the precise mechanics of the combat and stealth (YES, THERE’S A BIT OF COMBAT, I HATED THE IDEA TOO BUT IT’S FINE AND YOU CAN MOSTLY AVOID IT) and that’s because everything works as well as it needs to. The thing that needed to be convincing was the alien and the environments, and that’s where the exceptional work has been done.

There are no innovations in the stealth mechanics but they’re solid, although mostly contained to tight spaces rather than folded out into complex architecture. The crafting is mostly a case of saving up bits and pieces for more impressive bits of kit that distracts and/or wounds, or pouring everything into basic noisemakers. Or maybe crafting medikit after medikit because androids keep throttling you.

Isolation is, remarkably, perhaps more effective as a sequel to and (sort of) adaptation of Alien into digital form than it is as a game. That said, despite drawing so much of its strength from the license, the excellence of the audio design, the uncanny androids and the sense of the magnificent dread of space put me in mind of another game – System Shock 2. I think Alien: Isolation is the best scary sci-fi experience since SHODAN’s last appearance.

Oddly, the alien itself may be one of the reasons that Isolation is unable to surpass Looking Glass’ work. Creative Assembly open the game with a Ripley who hasn’t even heard a whisper about the xenomorph. It isn’t just alien to her, it’s completely unexpected. This is a story of a first encounter with something unknowable and dreadful, but it is, of course, something that we already know about. The xenomorph is a pop culture icon and, in that sense, it cannot possibly serve the purpose it did in the original film anymore.

Despite the repetition and what I consider to be a significant mistep in the third act of an otherwise efficiently scripted plot, Isolation deserves grand praise for making the alien…alien again. It hasn’t been this frightening, animalistic and mysterious since its first appearance, and nor has it been part of a world that cocoons and nurtures its dread so effectively.

Isolation is the best Alien game I’ve ever played, I’m in no doubt about that. Even in its awkward moments it is doing something interesting with the license, exploring the edges of what is possible in its world, quietly and discreetly. I expect the debate about certain design choices to be loud and long. At the centre of the debate will be one of the finest entries in the Alien canon in any medium, and one of the finest horror experiences in ours.

Alien: Isolation is out on the 7th.

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175 Comments

  1. Jac says:

    Is it possible to have a run through of this where you don’t actually encounter the alien or is it drawn to your location by the tasks that you do (noisey repairs etc). Trying to reconcile whether the game is subtely scripted or more sandbox/emergent?

    • HarryPalmer says:

      There are scripted encounters. The Alien isn’t ever present, it seems to be drawn to you by the noise you (and others) make. I accidentally fired my pistol, and the Alien turned up fairly quickly. B

  2. Rao Dao Zao says:

    More lore-friendly than Prometheus, then?

    • P.Funk says:

      I’ll settle for simply lacking Prometheus’ absurd antics.

      • Geebs says:

        There’s an optional Prometheus Control Scheme DLC which disables the A and D keys.

        • TheApologist says:

          Can you please write the Prometheus sequel, Geebs? At least it would be intentionally funny.

        • TaylanK says:

          Just logged in to say “thank you for the laugh”. :D

        • BLyon says:

          Took me a second there, but amazing reference.

        • Psychomorph says:

          Lolled… I mean logged in to lol about this statement.

        • Mhorhe says:

          .and that’s another login for the lol. Well played, sir :)

        • Otto says:

          AHAHAHAHA!

        • OpT1mUs says:

          God forbid somebody actually explains the joke

          • Jalan says:

            The end of Prometheus explains it rather well, I think. Without those A and D movements it’d be a completely different ending.

          • SomeDuder says:

            See, the joke is that MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONI and Tits McGee could have simply evaded the fantastically sturdy round ship that kept rolling in a perfect straight line by moving to the side.

            They did not do this, and now one of them has to suffer another sequel of terrible plot and milking.

          • Premium User Badge

            zapatapon says:

            My source for understanding the joke (I haven’t seen the movie) is this PA strip.

          • OpT1mUs says:

            Thanks. While I’ve seen Prometheus, it was so unmemorable, that I remember almost nothing of it.

        • Aesop says:

          This started my day with a laugh. Thanks.

        • kael13 says:

          That’s the funniest line I’ve read in quite a while..

          Your references are off the chain.

        • icarussc says:

          ::thunderous applause::

    • Hairball says:

      Every time someone talks about Prometheus I feel compelled to mention the brilliant “David 8.0” teaser which I just found out Ridley Scott had no input to.. Makes sense I guess.

      • trollomat says:

        Well you can say what you want about the movie, Fassbender’s performance alone made it worth the watch.

        Thanks for that link!

      • P.Funk says:

        Thats exactly the kind of wit and style that makes me angry at Prometheus. There was so much potential, and if the film had been executed with any sense of what was in that trailer then it would have been a modern classic. Instead its another forgettable entry in modern schlock.

        Seriously, that little short is very 2001, with David in the part of HAL, but with him you could have gone so many places and in Prometheus the best there is is mostly from David.

      • Mr Bismarck says:

        That short and the TED Talk may have been the best things about the movie.

        • Rizlar says:

          And the 3D title sequence. Genuinely the best bit in the whole film.

      • Rizlar says:

        Double comment: that is amazing.

      • Mr_Flibster says:

        Yeah, the short was fantastic, as was the TED talk (and build up via the website).

        Am I right in thinking it was Ridley Scott’s son who directed the shorts? If that’s the case, it would have been interested to see what direction the film would have had if his son had taken full reigns.

  3. Terragot says:

    My initial worries with the game were based on the thought that Ripley’s daughter would be searching for her mother, despite potentially nursing abandonment issues, and Creative Assembly were desperately trying to, as you put it, “gain legitimacy” through legacy connections. Glad to hear that’s not the case.

    After playing it at Rezzed earlier in the year, and witnessing first hand AI issues, input lag into 5ms+ levels, orientation and direction issues, puzzles I was unable to decipher, and the general conduit of player choice being zero, my narrative woes immediately took a sideline.

    The game’s environmental work looks spot on, what the world contains, however, will keep me at bay for a while yet.

  4. Prolar Bear says:

    I haven’t watched Alien yet. The article is brilliant, makes me want to play this but I’m just too much of a wimp.

    • Mittens89 says:

      You haven’t seen Alien?! Prolar Bear, i am saddened to hear this.

      This game won me over at Rezzed. I cant wait to play this alone, and then im even more excited to watch my partner play it!

      Great review by the way. Telling the world that this is the best in the genre since SS2 makes me feel all kinds of excited.

    • JonWood says:

      How can you not have seen Alien? Whatever you’re doing now, stop, and go and watch it.

      What’s that you say? You’re at work and your boss won’t accept “I need to watch a cult classic sci-fi film” as a good excuse to leave early. Quit. Your job is clearly not worth it.

      • Flopper says:

        Everyone’s not early-mid 30’s or older.

        If you were born in the cell phone generation it’s difficult to appreciate those low tech classics.

        • hamilcarp says:

          That is absurd. That would be like saying I was born in the 8-track generation so there’s no way I could appreciate those vinyl record classics.

        • ravencheek says:

          Logged in to say that I’m not early 30’s I’m early 20’s and probably what you call “cell phone generation” however I LOVE Alien.

          Truly a great piece of cult horror classic, much like John Carpenter’s The Thing (also before my time but brilliant).

          If we don’t explore media created outwith our generation then companies can just re-release the same thing every 10-20 years and watch as a new generation are wowed by re-hashes….

          • Raoul Duke says:

            Hardly ‘cult’ – it was a massive commercial success!

        • scatterbrainless says:

          It’s much easier to appreciate the early sci-fi with it’s physical effects than it is to enjoy the early attempts at CGI.

        • Bull0 says:

          You’re very very wrong! I’m 27, it’s my favourite film. My sister’s 20, it’s her favourite film.

        • DizzyCriminal says:

          I’m 22, Alien is my in my top 3 films (and my favorite sci-fi). It’s also my favorite of the Alien films more so than Aliens. Many of my similarly aged friends would agree too.

        • PerspectiveDesigns says:

          I’m 17 and I love the movie Alien. But I watch lot’s of older things that my peers don’t necessarily see.

    • Prolar Bear says:

      Okay, okay, got it. Gonna watch it sometime soon.

      • wyrm4701 says:

        You’ve at least seen Aliens, though. Of course you have.

    • drewski says:

      I haven’t seen it either. (Or Aliens.) Have no plans to.

      • spleendamage says:

        Oh, I haven’t seen Alien either, or Star Wars, or Raiders of the Lost Ark, or E.T., or Lord of the Rings… Why bother when I can just watch Gigli over and over?

        • drewski says:

          Of the two movies you’ve named I’ve seen, I didn’t much like either. Indy’s alright for a pulp movie I guess.

          No, I haven’t seen Gigli.

          Not everyone has to have the same taste in movies! It’s perfectly OK to have not seen Alien, Aliens, Star Wars, Snore of the Rings, or E.T; and it’s perfectly ok to have seen them and not liked them.

          • Regergek says:

            Snore of the Rings?SACRILIGE, BLOODY SACRILICE,YOU, SIR, ARE A SOULLESS MONSTER!BEGONE, CREATURE!FUCK YOU FAGGOT, LOTR SERIES IS THE BEST THING IN THE UNIVERSE

        • scatterbrainless says:

          It’s fine not to have seen it. By why have you decided in advance to not at least check it out and find out if you like it?

      • Raoul Duke says:

        This is truly your loss. And also our loss insofar as you feel the need to post about it.

  5. P.Funk says:

    The Working Joes are enough to make me excited. What a great design choice.

  6. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Omg i’m losing my shit, i hoped it’d be good & now i get to play a proper alien game!

  7. Anthile says:

    Behold, the age of good licensed games is upon us! As it was foretold in the prophecy.

    • Hunchback says:

      Can this be true?

      • Sweedums says:

        I believe there was a line in Prometheus that went something like “Sometimes to create, first you must destroy…”. Perhaps Gearbox were here simply to destroy the license, so that someone else can come in and do something brilliant with it.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      Also the age of licensed titles which are not shoehorned to fit with a movie’s narrative and release date. Coincidence?

    • noom says:

      And not just video games. Board games too!

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I think Goldeneye was the first tie-in game that was actually a really good game, and I’m struggling to think of any other since. I guess the recent Batman games have been pretty good, and there’s been several good Star Wars games. Um, anything else?

      • DizzyCriminal says:

        Riddick.
        There was that alright Judge Dredd game.
        Should the Lego games count?

        That has to be it.

        • ThePlake0815 says:

          goldeneye was maybe the first movie game, but my personal favorite is the warriors. no other game catched the look and feel of a movie so well.
          @ review: i wanted to wait for a budget version, but after reading this i have to buy it now! thanks

      • bleeters says:

        I personally found the Riddick game to be pretty solid.

    • DrunkDog says:

      “The Thing” done correctly next please. Please.

  8. MerseyMal says:

    Wrong!

    Best Alien game oh and best Aliens!

    • Stayche says:

      OHGOD! That version of Aliens on the speccy terrified me at the time.

    • meepmeep says:

      No, it’s Alien Breed: Special Edition ’92 on the Amiga, obviously.

    • Hex says:

      Best Aliens game here.

      If somebody spruced this up into a full-fledged thing, I would buy it in a heartbeat. (I think the rules are stolen from a boardgame, though, so that might be not legal.)

      • BooleanBob says:

        Wow, that really is good. Thanks for the link.

        I’ve played the Speccy Alien and can vouch for that too.

    • Daniel Johnston says:

      Huh. I actually played the Alien game. Completely forgotten it until now. Thanks for the reminder.

    • DrunkDog says:

      Project Firestart (c64) also deserves an honourable mention.

  9. Geebs says:

    Decision to not make it all about Weyland-Yutani being pointlessly stupid yet again = great; I already thought that was teetering on the edge of stupid in Aliens, but that was averted by the fact that it was all Burke’s fault.

    Decision to make it Ripley’s daughter = still not convinced. That still reeks of manifest destiny + idiotic comic book-style continuity *ptooie*. This in addition to the fact that she only really appears in the vastly inferior Director’s Cut.

    (That said – this review has made me a lot more interested in this, especially if the environment does justice to the set design of the Nostromo)

    • HadToLogin says:

      I actually prefer Aliens Director’s Cut. It changed “Ripley stupidity decides to show she has biggest balls around” movie into “mother rescue daughter” movie – at least now she had a proper reason.

      • Geebs says:

        (Replied here because I wanted to reply to the whole thread but there’s not really a sensible place to do s :-) )

        My problem with the directors cut boils down to one thing, really – the pacing is messed up, and it completely ruins the 20 minutes between beginning the combat drop and the first time the face hugger moves. That sequence was the only part of the movie which managed to equal the looking-for-Jones part of the first movie, which is the scariest thing I have ever seen (full disclosure – the first time I watched Aliens, when the face hugger jerked forward I jumped backwards and smacked my head on a radiator).

        The problem with that sequence in the context of the director’s cut is that it’s basically the Marie Celeste ghost-ship story, and the Marie Celeste is a scary concept only if you don’t know what happened to everybody. I think it’s actually a problem with that extremely lame colony-beforehand scene, because even watching the movie the first time it was obvious what was going to happen – after all, the movie is called “Aliens” – but the tension’s gone because you’ve already had the Newt Scream.

        The sentry guns don’t really work – I get that they’re supposed to be a precursor to the aliens getting in, but nothing really happens and it just slows the middle of the movie down while, again, dispelling tension that should have been maintained. A scene where aliens sniff around outside and then go away again, or where the marines go and scout outside, find evidence of activity but get back without meeting anything, would have worked so much better.

        I agree that the sequence on the station works better in the director’s cut, though. On balance I still prefer theatrical. (I haven’t seen any directors cut of the first movie and it sounds like I should try to avoid it)

    • P.Funk says:

      Actually in my opinion the Director’s Cut is infinitely superior with respect to Aliens at least. The studio had him cut a lot of the non-action parts of the middle of the movie because they felt it needed MOAR ACTION to be entertaining. As a result we lost things like the motion tracking turret sequence that gives us a little bit of a pause during their barricaded period before everyone starts dying. Without that it just feels like they barricaded themselves in and it failed on the first go.

      I always watch the Director’s Cut these days. Same with Bladerunner. Alien however is best in Theatrical form.

      • Premium User Badge

        Sinomatic says:

        I couldn’t agree more. Alien is best in theatrical form (as the extra sequence during the escape does absolutely horrible things to the pacing and doesn’t work whatsoever), and for Aliens, the Director’s cut is so much better for the inclusion of that scene concerning the daughter alone – it’s a much stronger framing to the story and contributes to Ripley’s motives for her batshit crazy jaunt at the end.

        • markside says:

          Super agreed! Although seeing the alien-wall-mulch is kind of cool, it really does smash that whole sequence to bits.

    • bill says:

      Finally, someone else who agrees that the Aliens: Director’s cut is inferior.

      I wouldn’t mind a few of the additions, like the ripley’s daughter scene actually, but the majority of the scenes they added simply served to ruin the pacing and make the whole movie look tacky and cheap.

      The new opening with the colonists is horrendous. The acting is bad, the budget looks low, and it messes up the introduction of so many elements (newt, the colony, the intentions of the company, etc…)
      It’s basically red dwarf.

      After hearing for years about the mythical “ripley’s daughter” and “smart guns” sequences, and almost once spending 50 quid on a used copy of the VHS director’s cut in a comic book store in london, when they finally became easily accessible on the Quadrilogy I was really rather disappointed. The daughter scene is pretty minor and nothing, and the smartgun scene is fine, but rather un-necessary and I’m not at all sure it helps the pacing.

      Aliens, imho, has pretty much prefect pacing. The added scenes simply mess that up while adding little, and taking away a lot.

      I think it gets a lot of praise because it was hyped up for so long when inaccessible, and because it often gets paired with Bladerunner’s director’s cut – which is essential.

      Side note: The Terminator 2 director’s cut is similar, but more of a mixed bag. T2 also has pretty great action movie pacing, so some of the added scenes mess that up. But there are a couple of nice scenes that add depth the the connor/terminator relationship and the T1000’s workings. Unfortunately there’s also one very long added scene in the middle about Miles Dyson that totally kills the pacing. If I could get the director’s cut minus that scene then i’d be happy.

      I get the feeling that the Aliens and T2 director’s cuts just chucked EVERYTHING back in, even when it had been cut for good reason. So some things were worth getting, but others shouldn’t have been resurrected.

      • Muzman says:

        Absolutely true. All Cameron’s Director’s cuts are quite a mixed bag of one or two interesting additions and lot of dross that seems obviously cut for good reason.
        I remain stunned that the opening colony sequence even made it past script stage. It is so absolutely plainly the wrong thing to do. And the whole sequence is terrible. And it’s Newt’s family as well! Just astoundingly dumb.

        That and scenes like it in his directors cuts are an interesting insight into the man. For people who thought Titanic and Avatar were surprisingly broad and cheesy for such a guy, you can see all these tendencies in his early stuff. But because of the nature of the films the action and plot can space it out enough that you don’t notice.

  10. amateurviking says:

    Well I was hoping (sort of, I’m very happy it’s good) I would be able to ignore this in the Winter rush, but now I have to give it a whirl. In fact based on Adam’s WIT here and that man Andy Kelly off PCG, it’s looking essential.

  11. kryobot says:

    That sounds fantastic – so looking forward to play this!

  12. Wowbagger says:

    Whoa big claim there fella! If this is the best creepy sci-fi since system shock 2 I’m definitely in.

    • Miresnare says:

      RE: System Shock 2. Read the review thinking “This might be realy good, then name dropped that? Sold.

    • 2helix4u says:

      Well yeah, but isn’t it also the last sci-fi horror game -since- system shock 2? What else is it competing with here?

      e: Dead Space I guess.

  13. derbefrier says:

    Well I am sold. I am pretty happy to hear this turned out good.

  14. tikey says:

    “I think Alien: Isolation is the best scary sci-fi experience since SHODAN’s last appearance.”

    Adam, you sly devil. You win this round, I’m sold now.

  15. Jigowatt says:

    Can’t wait to play this next Tuesday!

    Adam – any word on the PC version’s options? Most importantly, can the FOV be adjusted?

    • Cleave says:

      Yes but it’s weird. Goes from 48 – 75 which seems to equate to about 75 – 120 and the slider is backwards.. Still works though. The PC port seems pretty good in general.

  16. trollomat says:

    Oooh, so delighted. Can they please sell this bundled with a neuralizer?

  17. Stellar Duck says:

    Hmm. I guess I’ll add it to my wishlist then.

  18. DarkLiberator says:

    Really strange but great that a dev that usually makes historical RTS games managed to pull off a first person horror game.

    • Josh W says:

      Yeah, I suppose it’s reasonable given the variety of types of games other developers make, but it must have been tricky for them to get the chance in the first place.

  19. Shadow says:

    As good as Alien Isolation might be, how long is it? I tend to abstain from limited replayability AAA games due to the disproportionate pricetag. Not to mention I have recent purchases to attend to, like Endless Legend and Wasteland 2.

    • Volcanu says:

      According to other reviews somewhere in the region of 15-25 hours (the claims seem to vary a little). All of them claim there is a lot of “Game” there, but a few actually criticise it for being too long.

      • Adam Smith says:

        15 sounds like a reasonable minimum. And I can sympathise with those who found it overlong. Survival mode adds replay value and there’s loads to find in the main game through exploration – though more backtracking with new equipment than alternate routes or diversions.

        • Shadow says:

          Hmm, I see. Well, you did say the game seems to run out of gas as you close in on the end. Good to know there’s some exploration and an alternate mode to provide replayability.

          I’ll keep an eye out for discounts and things.

  20. Guvornator says:

    So to summarise, this is excellent!

    Mostly….

  21. psuedonymous says:

    Well that seems to split reviews about 50/50 on “The Alien AI works” and “The Alien AI is borderline nonfunctional”. Not exactly encouraging. Universal praise for the visual and sound design though.

    • blastaz says:

      I sort of read this review as:

      “I love alien and this game is a really faithful adaptation of alien. The world looks like alien, it’s about being scared rather than shooting things like alien and there is even an alien wot like in alien!

      But in the other hand the game mechanics are so so and even if you absolutely love the world design you do get bored of it eventually.”

      Would explain why not everyone is “getting” the game, as not an alien fan or a horror fan it’s not really my cup of tea, I’ll wait till atilla for my next ca game…

  22. slerbal says:

    Wow! It is always lovely to read a positive review about a game you were hoping would be great but dread that it will be crap. Gives me a warm feeling inside.

    • jezcentral says:

      Wolfenstein, that Mordor game, and now Alien: Isolation. Some games are coming up trumps, despite a lack of ultra-hype. Good!

  23. Jake says:

    Great review.

    It’s that perfect combination of three things that genuinely frighten me – claustrophobia, the nightmare imagination of Giger and the 1980s. I can already tell I’m going to hate playing this game, and that it will be a terrible ordeal that I will often have to force myself through, I can’t wait. I was going to hold out for a sale or maybe for a Rift, but I want to avoid spoilers, and anyway I’ll be playing it in my preferred horror game environment: house alone at night, lights off, headphones on, with a cat that I forget about and which occasionally leaps out at me.

  24. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    Really interesting review, especially as the only other one I’ve read so far on Ars Technica ABSOLUTELY hated it.

    • gorgonaut says:

      Yeah, I read this one, then stumbled upon the review over at Ars. Then, my head exploded. That’ll teach me for reading reviews on other places than RPS.

      However, the Ars review contains quite a few inaccuracies, such as the owner of Sevastopol, and such like, you know, like whatever.
      Maybe I’m naïve, but I trust RPS more.

  25. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Does it have Dungeon Keeper 2 support?

  26. almostDead says:

    Testing

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Let me guess, your post got swallowed.
      Did you use the word P00P by any chance?

      • almostDead says:

        No, my account said ‘supporter’ when I first came to this page, and I wanted to check by posting. I am not an RPS paid supporter, so if my account said otherwise, I would have reported it.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          I get that in the top right corner too, even though I am not a supporter. Its odd.

  27. PampleMoose says:

    What the hell 2014. Why is THIS the year when licensed/franchise games started to come out that were not only good, but in several ways actually take risks and use the source material in new and creative ways, thematically and mechanically?

  28. Vandelay says:

    Congratulations Creative Assembly. Not only do you seemingly succeed in correct use of the Alien franchise when so many others have failed, you also allow reviews out before release. Might consider rewarding this with day one buy, if the price is right. Sounds like it might be worth it.

  29. Faxanadu says:

    Oh man, this sounds good, I can’t wait to watch pewds play it and never play it myself.

  30. RagingLion says:

    I love reading reviews of really great games where you can say the “Sit back and relax” thing. i.e. it’s not about if it’s good, it’s about how it’s good and then you get into more interesting discussions where it’s about careful dissection of what it does. Such tentpole games are special and there aren’t that many of them.

    I honestly, though, won’t be able to play something which has a horror component as a central to it as this game does. And so I might end up searching for a full let’s play of this – that’s the world we live in and I’m glad of it in this instance. Hopefully I can find someone who isn’t too overdramatic and appreciates the atmosphere Adam suggests this has.

  31. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    I did not see that coming. Cannae wait to play this now. A successor to Alien and System Shock 2!? I never dared to hope. Woohoo! Happy weekend everyone

  32. Enkinan says:

    “I think Alien: Isolation is the best scary sci-fi experience since SHODAN’s last appearance.”

    That translates to : “BUYBUYBUYBUYBUY”

    Already wish listed, but maybe I will spring earlier to get some Halloween scarings in.

  33. Shazbut says:

    Holy cow, this was unexpected. If you actually have to clarify that the game is not as good as System Shock 2, that is enormously high praise.

    Sold, provided I can summon the courage to deal with the face huggers. I assume they feature, do they Adam?

    • Hex says:

      Of course not. There’s one single xenomorph in the entire game.

  34. Humble_Beest says:

    At least good games are no longer…
    Alien
    to this franchise.

    …I’m sorry

    • Horg says:

      Despite the jest, Rebellions 1999 Aliens vs Predator was genuinely good, just in a way that paid slightly more homage to the films ”Predator” and ”Aliens” than ”Alien”. The Marine levels, in particular, really nailed the horror element and general aesthetic of the Alien universe.

      • Humble_Beest says:

        I remember hearing that the old AvP was good.
        Back in the day we had a terrible crap computer, so didn’t play many older games (and for some reason we weren’t allowed consoles ).

    • dethtoll says:

      There’s been good games. Alien Trilogy for the PS1 is a forgotten classic. Alien vs Predator 1 and 2 are great. Alien 3 for the consoles and Gameboy are nice.

      It’s really just ACM that’s been the biggest stinker in the franchise in years. Some people hate AvP3 but I think it’s fine. It’s playable and not buggy, at least.

      • puddle says:

        This game is one of the bug riddled games I’ve ever played. In the Aliens nest the game crashes every 5 minutes! I am unable to complete the game because of these bugs. This has totally ruined a good game.
        I play games that are still in Beta that have fewer bugs.
        Creative Assembly have a really bad reputation for releasing games without proper QA testing. Remember Total War Rome 2? Yeah that game’s still full of bugs today.

  35. Michael Isenberg says:

    How does it compare to 1994’s Aliens total conversion mod for Doom? That mod scared the bejesus out of me back in the day.

  36. DestructibleEnvironments says:

    Thank you for this great review! This is my most wanted game and has been for a long time.

    I just have some questions: Is the story of how the alien is birthed revealed, is Amanda a great character, and is the ending satisfying?

    Without spoilers, if possible. :P

  37. mpk says:

    All I can say about this review is: thank fuck.

    Been really wanting this game forever since I’m as fanboy as Adam*, so it’s an actual relief to know that it’s worth my money.

    *I may be reading this review while dressed in a home made xenomorph costume**

    **I’m lying, it’s not home made, I spent £10,000 on it.

  38. Bagpuss says:

    Question:

    Isn’t the reporting of flaws and inadequacies of games why, in part, we come here?

    Doesn’t the balanced reporting of games take priority over you ‘not wishing to spoil’?.. put tags!!

    Doesn’t ‘not’ reporting flaws smack of ‘hiding’ info from us?

    To gush of it’s pros and omit it’s cons seems unbalanced, would it not have been better to do a full disclosure and let us make up our minds as to what is a relevant flaw for us? I Don’t see what the point of your job is otherwise.

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      Personally, I find a review that needs spoiler tags to be a bad review. That’s what critique is for.

    • Bradamantium says:

      I don’t think our spoiler-averse culture at large makes a lot of sense, but I don’t think including the spoilers in a review is particularly wise either. I think there’s indication enough here that the story eventually becomes the game’s biggest weakness, and I think that’s plenty informative without having to get in the business of SPOILER pasted everywhere and the inevitable chumps that’ll get mad when they skim past them.

  39. dethtoll says:

    I was on the fence about buying this. This clinched it for me.

  40. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    AAAAAAHHHH! So excited! I am admittedly a huge lover of Alien (I’ve made four friends watch it in the past year, working on a fifth), and Adam, you seem to have the same starry-eyed appreciation for it that I do. That you are so pleased with this game has brought my enthusiasm to a fever pitch.

  41. Premium User Badge

    JiminyJickers says:

    This game is going to soil all my pants, haha. I haven’t played scary games since System Shock 2, I’m too much of a scaredy cat. However, I am now downloading this, haha. A few more days before it unlocks.

    • markside says:

      The only games in my Steam list that could possibly be considered scary are the Left 4 Deads, so I can only imagine I’ll been in a similar position come Tuesday.

  42. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    Oh Adam <3

  43. drewski says:

    SYSTEM SHOCK 2 YOU SAY???

    *add to wishlist*

  44. Premium User Badge

    Sinomatic says:

    I’m desperately torn about this. I’m a huge Alien fangirl (I’ve watched the franchise hundreds of times, I put on the dvds to go to sleep to (I’m a bit weird)), but I am hopeless when it comes to scary games. I struggled through the first Penumbra, for instance.

    This game has always looked amazing to me; the recreation of the look and the tech. Actually having the possibility of getting up close and personal with that? To run around those beautifull detailed Ridley Scott-inspired corridors? How can I not play this? But then, how can I bring myself to play it at all when there is a distinct chance of having a distressing bladder evacuation emergency on my first encounter with the Alien? It’s a dilemma…

    • markside says:

      Likewise, I never play horror games, but I’ll get this one for the love of Alien. It will be an interesting experiment to see just what kind of effect it has on me. And whether I have to resort to incontinence pads.

      • Premium User Badge

        Sinomatic says:

        I’m going all out and considering a catheter installation.

        • markside says:

          Or maybe sit on a commode for the twenty-five-ish hours. Less long term lifestyle ramifications. Just remember to change out the bowl every so often. (This has possibly got too disgusting. I am sorry.)

    • Premium User Badge

      JiminyJickers says:

      Haha, I am definitely in the same boat.

      • markside says:

        Ultimately, I can always get my brother over for emotional support.

        • Premium User Badge

          JiminyJickers says:

          Haha, yeah not a bad idea. I may need to play it with other people around and only during daylight hours.

  45. goettel says:

    Using Oculus support as bait and then not including it = no sale.

    • Premium User Badge

      JiminyJickers says:

      I’m confused by this, no offence intended. But the Occulus hasn’t been released, it may change significantly between current developer versions so not buying a game because it is not supporting hardware that is not even close to release confuses me.

      Its your money, of course, and you can do with it what you want but I’m just saying.

    • Addict7 says:

      There you go:
      link to reddit.com

  46. bill says:

    How demanding is it?

    It’s been very nice over the last few years that RPS WITs haven’t really needed to mention tech specs, but it seems like the recent next gen consoles have finally pushed PC games to start increasing their requirements again. Once more I need to know about weirdly numbered graphics cards and try and work out if my machine will run it. (I think not..)
    I assume there’s no demo…

    • Melody says:

      There are always plenty of online resources and benchmarks that will tell you if you (most likely) can run the game.

      link to systemrequirementslab.com

      • bill says:

        I know, but a few words along the lines of “it’s really demanding” or “it needs a high end system” or just “it seemed to run fine on even my crappy system” would be very useful.

        [edit] although that site is a lot more useful than I remember it being. Thanks.

      • Deadly Sinner says:

        Those sites take the System Requirements as gospel, when real world performance is often different. For example, Shadow of Mordor famously requires 6gb of VRAM, yet people with the GTX 970 have been able to play it without problems on Ultra.

    • Premium User Badge

      JiminyJickers says:

      To be honest, since it runs on consoles most people should be able to run it fairly smoothly. Assuming, of course, that it is a good port.

      Mind you, take this from someone who doesn’t look at FPS in games, if it feels smooth to me, I’m happy. People can get a bit obsessive about FPS. If I had heaps of money, I guess I would too.

  47. samsharp99 says:

    It makes me sad to hear that this game is good because I love the Alien universe and the sound of the environment and lo-fi tech of this game really makes me want to play it.

    There’s just one problem – I’m a big ol’ scaredy cat when it comes to games. When the flood arrive in Halo 1 I didn’t play the game for 2 weeks and had similar experiences with F.E.A.R, Metro etc.

  48. neofit says:

    How is the save system working?

  49. Gap Gen says:

    I really want to play an Alien game set on a Welsh mining ship now, complete with bilingual signs and appropriately accented crew.

  50. BooleanBob says:

    Are certain articles being, like, pinned to the front page now? I could swear I’ve read this before…

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Yes. They did it with the Support RPS articles too.
      It’s mildly annoying when quickly checking in for new articles on my phone browser or low resolution laptop.

      • ubik says:

        Have to say I don’t like it. There’s nothing to indicate that it’s pinned and it’s not been necessary before because of the rotating banner that’s already at the top of the page.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Hell, the second headline is below the fold on my desktop. Even at a 1080 vertical I can’t imagine you’d see it, and the everything-is-a-HD-TV fetish presumably puts most people in that bucket.

        • zarniwoop says:

          Yes, it’s quite annoying. I can only see the first headline, and it makes it look like the site hasn’t been updated in days.