Continuing to look at scary video games with a sci fi twist, today I want to talk about Alien Isolation. A very popular and well-conceived game, it is guaranteed to build suspense and dread in any player.
You are Amanda Ripley, and it is approximately 15 years after the events of the movie Alien. Ellen Ripley’s (your mum in case you were wondering) ship has been found and you are offered a place on the retrieval team. You arrive at a space station where Ellen’s ship is being held, only to find the station badly damaged (almost like something horrendous happened). You end up separated from your team (because of course you do) and must get around the station on your own.
Fortunately, you regroup and meet some peeps who were already on the station who tell you that (SURPRISE) there’s a xenomorph running lose. You get convinced to hunt the xenomorph (who does that? Seriously who sees a xenomorph and thinks I’ll take that on. Except Predator, obviously). You plan to contain the xenomorph in a module which can then be ejected from the station.
The plan works (huzzah!) kind of, as you end up ejected along with the xenomorph. Getting back to the station is fun and you go to confront the asshole who ejected you along with the xenomorph. However, you learn that the stations android have suddenly started killing everyone (this is a really bad day) as the stations AI has been charged with protecting the xenomorph (WHAT?)
You tell the AI that the xenomorph is long gone but turns out there’s actually a bunch of little facehugger eggs in the station’s reactor (oh, good). You destroy it though (oh, good). There’s a dramatic betrayal (another one) and you end up on another ship and find a recording from Ellen. The ship is destroyed, your last remaining friend gets facehugged, you manage to get back to your ship but low and behold there’s another bloody xenomorph on board. You eject the xenomorph and yourself into space.
The style of the game is a single player action/adventure. A first-person shooter perspective, you have to manage your survival and stealth skills along side your fear.
The game is a wonderful mix of stealth, action, and puzzle solving, as if avoiding xenomorphs wasn’t interesting enough.
There are a variety of enemies, not just the xenomorph, but also androids and other humans. You are armed with guns and melee weapons, although these are not effective against the xenomorph (because this wasn’t stressful enough). To be fair the focus of the game is on avoidance rather than bludgeoning or shooting everything. It does a marvellous job of making the player feel small and vulnerable, all while safely at home.
The xenomorph is one of the most effective enemies in games to date, it’s AI is bloody terrifying, giving it the ability to wander freely as opposed to pre-planned paths. It actively hunts you, and has access to all the sense you’d expect of such a creature, aka it will hear you if you make a sound, it will see you if you don’t hide. It’s a very intuitive AI, and far to realistic (aka scary as hell). You do have some tools to track the xenomorph, but wouldn’t you know it these tools make noise and the damn xenomorph will hear you (asshole that it is). Fortunately, the xenomorph is a wuss when it comes to fire, so make like a caveman and use all of the fire. All of it.
Overall this is an amazing game, tense as hell and terrifying. A strong recommendation to anyone who loves horror, sci-fi, games, and/or the Alien franchise.