Note: I didn’t actually play through this game on the channel as I only started the channel when I was halfway through it. I did upload one gameplay video though).
Audio/visual design is on point from start to finish. The environments are all perfectly realised and completely true to the original, with retro-futuristic equipment and level design that really does make you feel like you’re in the film. The soundtrack and sound effects are also perfectly realised; Everything from the loading sounds of a terminal to the beeping of the motion tracker are exactly as you’d want them to be, and the atmosphere created by the score is tense, immersive and truly unforgettable.
To top all that off, the audio cues that alert you to nearby threats – whether it’s the alien in a nearby vent or a hostile android reciting a Seegson tagline – are as vital to your survival as the weapons you find. Thankfully they are just as brilliantly designed as the rest of the effects, and wearing headphones when playing will make you appreciate them even more. That said, always remember that while you can hear the hostiles around you, they can also hear you. The motion tracker will give your position away if not used wisely, and running is almost never an option; the Alien will hear your footsteps and hunt you down in no time.
The Alien AI makes the game an unpredictable and nerve-wracking test of wits from the first encounter to the last, and not knowing when or even if it will appear means you have to really consider your options in every situation. To make things even more interesting, it seems to learn from your actions and adapt to them throughout the game, forcing you to frequently change your tactics in order to survive. One of the best examples of this is how the Alien becomes less and less bothered by the flamethrower the more you use it; you may be tempted to rely on it from the second you pick it up, but doing thing will make your life harder later on.
The pacing and tone feel somewhat off around the start of the game’s second half, specifically from the end of the ‘Bait’ chapter up until the main antagonist reappears. While these sections are definitely not “bad” (despite the name of this segment of the review) they are undoubtedly slower and noticeably less gripping than the rest of the game. The areas in these chapters are just as stunning as anywhere else in the game though (even more so in some cases), and things pick up pretty spectacularly after a little while, so it’s easy to forgive the minor shortcomings.
The ending isn’t quite as spectacular as the chapters before it though. Again, it’s worth saying that it’s not exactly “bad”, but it felt like a misfire at the end of a huge fireworks display. Trouble is, there are so many twists and almost-endings throughout Ripley’s series of unfortunate events that by the time I got to the actual ending, it felt pretty underwhelming by comparison. That said, the ending does feel like an Alien ending and, given that fans of the films will have already known a bit about Amanda Ripley before playing the game, it couldn’t really have ended very differently. Kind if underwhelming then, but also understandable.
The love and respect for the source material is clear to see right from the off, and despite some slower sections in the middle, the 15-ish hours I spent in the game’s stunning environments were always tense and immersive. Those environments – and the atmosphere felt throughout them, are so meticulously crafted and perfectly realised that you always feel like you’re in an Alien film, even if the Alien itself is noticeably absent for a while.
Alien: Isolation is easily one of the best and most immersive horror games I’ve ever played. Not only is it a must-play for fans of the genre, fans of the films will fall in love with the franchise all over again after experiencing – what I believe to be – the best Alien game to date.
(Featured image credit: store.xbox.com)