Have You Played… Alien: Isolation?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Creative Assembly, a studio known for the historical strategy of the Total War series, doesn’t seem like the obvious origin point for one of the great modern horror games. Alien: Isolation [official site] is not only a brilliant, terrifying creation, however, it’s one of the best uses of a license we’re ever likely to see.

No game has ever recreated the look and feel of a film as accurately as Alien: Isolation. It’s an FPS horror masterpiece that manages to be more than just a generous portion of stealth and scares by capturing the fundamental essence of the world that Ridley Scott and his team brought to the screen three and a half decades ago. Everything from the creature itself to the individual posters and pieces of machinery that fill the Sevastopol has been crafted to fit with the design principles that made the Nostromo such a fascinating and enduring location.

The superbly tense and terrifying game that inhabits those meticulously crafted spaces is a rare example of a big budget licensed game that not only experiments within its genre, but that refuses to compromise on its punishing and intense vision. I still find it hard to believe that it exists.

58 Comments

  1. DrollRemark says:

    I got it not long after the glowing reviews and… it just didn’t click. What should have apparently been tense, exciting encounters with the titular alien ended up feeling desperately unfair and like an unavoidable repetition of deaths. It was like I was playing an online multiplayer shooter against someone with wallhacks and god mode, rather than anything “smart.”

    I have been meaning to give it another shake though, see if it can click on the second go. Maybe this weekend.

    • wooster84 says:

      This defo a game that you either love or hate. Personally this was my favorite game from last year, however I can totally see why someone would not enjoy it all.

    • USER47 says:

      This. There just wasn’t that satisfaction of outmaneuvering the enemy with stealth movement, when he immediately knew where you just had moved. It was also very luck based, with lots of unavoidable dying, as your options to monitor Alien’s movement in those tight corridors were quite limited…

      • piedpiper says:

        I thought so too. At first. But no it’s not. It’s totally controllable and when you understand it’s mechanics – you will understand it’s a masterpiece, no less. Clever, demanding and tense.

      • mavrik says:

        Hmm, didn’t have that feeling. Did you perhaps notice that the movement detector can actually attract it due to the beeping sound it makes?

    • Disgruntled Goat says:

      I’ve often said that “Thief 2: The Dark Project” is my favorite game of all time, so I am certainly not adverse to sneaking and hiding.

      But I found A:I a dull slog. The story was just too blatant with “now that you’ve finished this completely arbitrary mission, we now need you to go to the other side of the station to do this other completely arbitrary mission”. The whole thing had the sheen of a humorless AAA shooter and was far more frustrating than terrifying.

      I thought I was just about finished with the game until I looked up where I was on a walk-through and realized I wasn’t even halfway! So I watched the ending on YouTube (which turned out to be pretty terrible) and was happy I didn’t try to push on for another 10-15 hours.

      • Disgruntled Goat says:

        Oops. I meant “Thief 2: The Metal Age”. You’d think I wouldn’t be dumb enough to screw up the name of my favorite game, but there you go …

    • Jane Doe says:

      That’s the thing when you’re used to the dumbed down “AI’s” of the last 15 years. Its like happily pwning the latest Command & Conquer, then trying Z on easy mode and declaring Z a cheating filth.

  2. silentdan says:

    I’ve tried twice to get into A:I, but so far, I’m just finding it alternately dull and frustrating. A lot of the time, I find the first hour or two of AAA titles really unpleasant. I absolutely adore Far Cry 4, but it took me three days to get through the first half hour, because that half hour stinks out loud.

    Is there anyone who loves A:I but hated the intro segments? If so, maybe I should slog on; if not, I should probably just accept that I don’t like this game and uninstall it.

    • wooster84 says:

      How far have you got?

      • silentdan says:

        I’m a little ways past seeing the alien for the first time (a really great scene, by the way; I liked that a lot) but haven’t re-encountered it. It’s been a while, but I recall a corridor with spaced-out androids that I couldn’t stealth around or fight flat-out. I ended up getting to the next save point by repeating a hit/kite/hide routine a dozen times that made me think “I did not buy this game for the MMO mechanics” and I don’t believe I’ve played it since.

        • wooster84 says:

          That bit is tough, you can stealth past them you just to be unbelievably careful. At the start of that level the androids shouldn’t hostile however.

          • silentdan says:

            It sure sounds like something I’d enjoy, and I was surprised that I didn’t. I think I will give it another go, just to make really sure I’m not missing something grand because of a dreary segment or a missed cue. And even if I don’t find the gameplay appealing in the end, the environments are just fantastic, and I wouldn’t mind taking a second look, even if it is only to say goodbye.

        • Zaraf says:

          Would say you should try to carry on until the first level with the Alien wandering around, which is when the game really starts.

          • silentdan says:

            Yeah, I think that’s what I’ll do. I hate bailing on a game before it opens up and shows me what it really is.

  3. slerbal says:

    Yes and I loved it! Though at times I disabled the Alien so I could wander around and soak in the amazing environmental details. Lots of love and attention to detail went into the game. I wish the DLCs had been more story elements rather than the rather weak Survivor mode (or whatever it was called) as I wanted to buy them if only to support Creative Assembly’s best work in a looooooong time.

    • slerbal says:

      In case anyone else wants to do the same the details are on the Steam discussion board here:
      link to steamcommunity.com

      You can also disable other enemies if you really need to. I only disabled the Alien twice, once when I got stuck in a section and was in danger of quitting the game and once because I just wanted to spend some time walking around :)

      • Ross Angus says:

        This sounds excellent. I’d be all up for a bit of tourism. Having a trouser-mistake isn’t my idea of fun.

      • aleander says:

        Yess! The level design in that game is so pretty, having a horror game in it almost feels wrong.

    • Zaraf says:

      I would also love more story-driven DLC, like the ones in the Nostromo.

  4. undu says:

    Next Tuesday (29th) is coming out on OS X and SteamOS :)

  5. wombat191 says:

    once i realised the alien was attracted by the motion trackers noise and only checked it briefly the game got better.

    loved walking through areas and noticing small details and how accurate they made things to the films. it had the right feel.

    that said its a game best played in 2-3 hour chunks at most as it starts to get too tense

    • piedpiper says:

      I never used motion senser. The sound is enough to understand everything. It makes me remember Thief.

  6. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    Frankly, I wish the game was about one third of its current length. There are truly wonderful bits in it, but they’re separated by an awful lot of unnecessary tedium.

    • piedpiper says:

      I know a lot of people said that. But I felt exact the opposite. I would gladly play another 18 hours.

  7. Javelin says:

    I still say Star Wars: TIE Fighter is the best game based on a movie franchise.

  8. StoneMason says:

    I’ve put about a hundred hours in, main game + DLC. The human AI is frustrating, the alien is artificially tethered to you and the reuse of assets means the world sometimes fails the story of Sevastopol. It really could have used another six months of development to reach it’s full potential.

    But I love it, it’s a ‘great’ game. Tense survival horror and biting satire, a grim journey through the lives of people trapped by decaying systems and outdated technology.

    Install the Unpredictable Alien mod to remove the tether, play the campaign on hard or nightmare, play all the DLC, play Endurance mode and tell your own story.

    link to moddb.com

    • SMGreer says:

      I loved the heck out of the game (I think the length is actually very close to perfect and in some ways too short) but that mod seems tempting for another playthrough.

  9. Windows98 says:

    I hated it so much. I stopped playing when I had to watch the same unskippable cutscene for the fifth or sixth time in a row after being killed repeatedly without being able to do anything about it.

    • Darth Grabass says:

      You may be surprised to learn that there is in fact something you can do about it. Don’t let the Alien see or hear you.

  10. Brosecutor says:

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I finished this game using the Novice difficulty they added later. I’m a total wuss, but I adore A:I nevertheless.

    • Ufofighter says:

      I did the same :(

      • slerbal says:

        Me too. I’m not too proud to admit it. I’m glad it was an option :)

    • ZXDunny says:

      Don’t put yourself down – I played on easiest difficulty too and generally do for any game. I don’t play for the challenge, I play for the experience, in order to see the story from start to finish – there’s no point in getting disillusioned halfway through and giving up, never to see the whole thing. Play on easy if you want. There’s no shame in that.

      • NomadSoul says:

        100% this! I always play on easy the first time through. I used to play every game on normal but found it frustrating when I hit some stupid difficulty spike that ruined the game for me. Now I play on easy my first run through and if I really liked the game and want to have another go, I will go up to the next difficulty level on my 2nd playthrough.

  11. rustybroomhandle says:

    Good timing, Adam. Just in time for the Linux/OSX release of this on Tuesday. :)

  12. Enkinan says:

    I had a blast with this one. It nails the movie aesthetics so well, and is capable of giving some real thrills during gameplay. I think my favorite was getting on to the first train by just a hair before getting my head hollowed out.

  13. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Isolation is a pretty divisive game; people either seem to love it or hate it. I love it, and think it’s better than most of the Alien sequels. It drags on too long and there are some sections that are needlessly difficult (I always have trouble with the stealth section where you get the decrypter immediately before the first true appearance of the Alien), but it nails the aesthetic, expands upon the Alien universe in logical ways, and generally showcases a game that had a clear and consistent vision.

  14. Strangely Brown says:

    Personally, I’m a coward and don’t have the nerves for horror and tend to avoid it for that reason, but Isolation drew me in somehow, and I don’t regret it.
    Alien (the film) was one of those classics that I respected (though not particularly loved), but A:I made me get it. Had a blast playing it, even though it took a bit of… erm, liquid courage to advance at times.
    Would buy again.

  15. piedpiper says:

    It’s like Looking Glass game made in 2014. I came.

  16. mavrik says:

    I absolutely adored Alien: Isolation. I usually can’t stand horror games and I actually had to play the beginning in rather short 30-45min intervals due to tension, but the quality of the world building, nice exploration and attention to detail was awesome. Was certanly my favorite game of the year – I really didn’t expect that the stale FPS AAA genre would get anything that tries something new.

    Having said that, it’s not a perfect game – it’s a bit too long and the Alien AI sometimes does show quirks that break immersion.

  17. Synesthesia says:

    I abandoned it somewhere towards the end of the second act, i think. I had to completely bump down the alien Ai, it was no longer creating tension, just obnoxious interruptions to the exploration.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    Played it a few months ago and I loved it. The original movie is one of my favorite ones and this game really manages to capture the same feel as that movie. On top of that, they managed to get the alien just right. He always felt like a real danger.

    The only downside would be that can be difficult at times but that can probably be fixed by not playing the game on hard mode.

  19. Cerzi says:

    Incidentally the best VR experience ever made (so far). That is, if you’re someone that doesn’t get motion sickness from playing FPS games in VR.

    • Syra says:

      I played this in occulus @comicon and was incredibly underwhelmed.

      Mostly complaints about the headset and not the game. Resolution was poor and on top of that it looked blurry. I didn’t get motion sickness but I did feel like there was a massive disconnect between head movements and how much the camera moves, which is then made worse by controller camera movements which can totally contradict your head movement. Perhaps this is overcome with experience playing it?

  20. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    What a triumph this game was, such an excellent recreation of the world.

    I don’t usually play “horror” games but really like the Alien setting so really enjoyed it!

    It does have flaws however, I felt they were very close but it could have had a few more moments of down time / no being chased to relieve the pressure. It wasn’t constant pressure from start to finish but could have benefitted from some more quiet moments.

    Also I wish there was a bit more in the conspiracy bit, which is my favourite part of the Alien stories usually :)

  21. Crane says:

    I swear the greatest flaw in this game is that idiotic recommendation that shows when you first start it up which suggests playing on the very hardest difficulty.
    It makes the alien far, far too tenacious, and forces you to spend a truly inordinate amount of time hiding in one spot.

    Hiding in a locker is tense for a minute or so, but when you seem to spend fifteen minutes out of every twenty in one it wears pretty damned thin.

  22. sebagul says:

    I absolutely adored the game. One of the best ever made, yet, it has some unacceptable flaws.

    1- 1 to 2 hours of nothing to do at the start of the game, until the alien appears. I tried to make my brother play it, but he got bored and abandoned.

    2- To add insult to injury, in the last part of the game, it turns again on a super long, super scripted chapter, where the player has no choice but do only what the script commands, and is forced to just press forward for the game to not stop. So I understand criticism saying that it is “too long”.

    3- The alien is only present in a small percentage of the game. Many players may spend a lot of time there, because they die many times, and spend a lot of it hiding, dying and reloading, and wasting time in general.

    4-But once the player understands the ropes, it is noticed that the alien is rarely found on the entirety of the game, and that’s disappointing. I wish I could mod the game to have the alien present on the full game length. I don’t care if it “breaks” the story.

    5-It is obvious that the many DLC are cut from the main storyline, detracting from it, because the developers cuted the fun parts with the alien to sell them separately.

    Despite that, I love the game for the parts that are enjoyable, and they deliver with stars.

    6- Is possible to finish the game routinely, without saving at any point, and without dying even once. Most players ranting about it being unfair just simply do not use their brains. They never use a distraction, never assemble tools, never use the wall consoles.

    7- Nobody uses the revolver to burn the alien taking advantage of the environment. I used it to totally abuse and troll the alien before getting the flamethrower. You also get both bombs early, so if you are defenceless before the flamethrower it is only due to your own ineptitude.

    8- The present speedrun world record belongs from “Spidi Gonzales”, AKA Psicohypnotic, which completed the game at Nightmare difficulty in 2:44:56 without dying or saving.

    • Horg says:

      ”1 to 2 hours of nothing to do at the start of the game, until the alien appears.”

      Personally I thought the intro was fine. It reminded me very much of the intro to Bioshock, where you aren’t in any real danger but are treated to an atmospheric and unsettling sight seeing tour of your environment. I was very cautious playing through the start because I had no idea if you were in danger or not.

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      Thanks for this, good to revisit this game at a quicker pace – took me 25 hours to reach the end though I really enjoyed the journey :)

  23. melnificent says:

    I played some of it with my oculus rift. Walking round the ships and everything was awesome, got stranded, met some survivors… then there was a loud bang, the lights went out and I ran back to the save point and quit.

    • CptPlanet says:

      I feel you. Unfortunately, I didn’t play it with Oculus but it was still one of the scariest games I’ve played.

  24. tehfish says:

    This is a game i’m very glad happened in the Youtube ‘let’s play’ era…

    It’s undeniably an awesome game and very well done. I love watching it, but i’d utterly hate actually playing it, i just couldn’t do it.

    I did however greatly enjoy watching a play-through of this (Yogscast Hannah)

  25. dethtoll says:

    It’s a console game, so not really in the focus of RPS, but The Warriors is probably the biggest competition for “best movie adaptation game ever.”

    It’s almost everything I ever wanted out of a Warriors game.

  26. Cropduster says:

    It’s great as a horror game, but pretty bad as a stealth game.

    I was expecting Thief meets System Shock, with the alien. But what I got was more akin to Amnesia. It was terrifying as hell the first few times, the sense of dread when hearing the footsteps running up behind me made me alt+f4 in terror.

    But an hour later I was alt+f4ing in frustration because I died to the aliens RNG ai and I was going to have to repeat the same 10 minute chunk of corridors and hacking again.

    As a horror and visual experience it’s amazing, but I’d be much more favorable if it was a shorter (and possibly cheaper) game. Hiding in locker for 10 minutes may be tense but maybe not the most productive using of leisure time.

  27. Unsheep says:

    I mainly play this game for the atmosphere, it captures the unique visual design and mood of the first Alien movie really well. This sense of authenticity adds a great deal of value to the game because it raises the immersion.

    I’ve enjoyed all Alien-based games so far because I really like that particular universe, but Isolation stands out because it is the only one that uses the very first Alien movie as template. All other Alien-based games have used Cameron’s action-movie sequel as their inspiration.

    The significance of this is that we already have fair deal of action-based Alien sequels, but only one true horror-based sequel, namely Alien Isolation. If you like variety in your gaming repertoire, then this is obviously something to appreciate.

  28. Niko says:

    I’ve started replaying it on Easy recently (the first time I finished it on Hard), and I just can’t not keep staring at everything. It’s such an exquisitely designed game.

  29. MadMinstrel says:

    I have played this. Sort of. The first 30 minutes or so anyway. Mostly to marvel at the cool spaceship interior design. I can’t stomach horror games.