In space no one can you hear scream and you will scream. Alien Isolation is a truly terrifying experience which will have your heart racing as you hide, avoid, and run from the seemingly omnipresent Xenomorph. Alien Isolation is a pure horror game. As you play the role of Amanda Ripley, you have limited resources to fight back and whatever you do have won't ease your worries. Ultimately, any attempt you make to defend yourself is futile. The Alien is your superior in every way.
Though Ripley isn't totally useless. Wit and moderate physique accompany Ripley's set of tools to fend off the xenomorph. Deter and confuse the alien with various items. Craft and throw noise makers, sling flash bangs, and even heat up the Sevastopol station with a flamethrower. But the xenomorph will always be back. You can't kill the monster, just suppress it long enough to do your best, and often only, option. Avoid at all costs. Run, hide, anything to distance yourself.
Your main tool is the motion tracker, a simpler version of the one from Aliens, yet your best friend throughout your time aboard the Sevastopol. With a catch. The motion tracker detects all movement. The sudden, heart-stopping blip you see off in the distance fires off the internal alarms for a flurry of fear. Was it the alien? Is it above or below you? Was it a malfunctioning door? Did a can just roll of a desk? Add in the fact the motion tractor will only help you locate the alien if it's moving. It could very well be stationary, waiting.
The depth of field mechanic in this game lets you focus on one item or rather distance at a time. So while you look at your trusty motion detector the world ahead is blurred. As a sudden blip flies across the screen of your motion detector so does a shadow in the distance. Holding down the focus buttons shifts your view from foreground to background allowing to see the world infront of you while the motion detector loses focus. Its an interesting mechanic which means you have to keep an eye on the world around you while flipping back and forth to pay attention to your motion detector.
Of course, a horror game based on one main antagonist would be nothing if that creature didn't live up to expectations. And in Alien: Isolation, the lone, snarling beast shines. The animation, look, and sound of the creature really lend life to H. R. Giger's monster. The thing that threw me off guard initially was that the alien is silent in most of its movement, almost cat-like with its speed and agility.That's just its physical attributes.
The AI of the alien always adapts. If you over use one strategy, it will learn and even ignore it eventually. You can't rely on flares or hiding in lockers forever. It will also follow different paths on each playthrough. As I tried to navigate one area, the slobbering extraterrestrial wandered around several key choke points as if it knew which way I was headed.
From what I can observe, the alien has at least 3 distinctive modes of behaviour. In ‘patrol' mode, it will wander around slowly with its head up high dragging its tails behind looking for you. As soon as it's aware of your presence, it will raise its tail slightly, arch its back, and picks up its pace towards your location. Once the alien spots you it will let out a heart-stopping scream as it turns in your direction and sprints straight for you at this point you'd better have your flame thrower ready or run for the nearest door.
The Creative Assembly have done an amazing job in recreating Ridley Scott's vision of a sci fi future. The environments you navigate aboard the Sevastopol space station look and feel just the like the Nostromo. The large, round CRT monitors, chunky computer controls, and simplistic signs demonstrate the “low-fi-scifi” aesthetic is ever present in all elements of the games design. The amount of detail gone into recreating this world is simply amazing.
There's a risk -versus-reward aspect to locating and observing the alien. Do you risk being seen, learn its current pattern, and plan your path to sneak past? Or do you remain hidden and safe while not knowing where the skulking predator lies in wait? Alien Isolation is full of atmosphere, tension and dread. Scripted jump scares don't factor here, but rather the ever-present fear you are being hunted by an intelligent, faster, stronger, relentless killer.
Alien Isolation is available on October 7th on Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and PC
Mark Walsh is a contributor for Front Towards Gamer, and a fan of all games horror, retro, and fighters. He's been throwing hadukens since '91.