Blinds down, lights off and headset plugged in is the only way to play this game. Creative Assembly’s Alien Isolation is the first horror survival game I played, and boy was it a starting point. I enjoyed playing this game so much, there are many things to adore about the game, such as the beautifully eerie scenery, the terrifying sounds and the one, the only, Alien. There are things I was not fond of, for example some of the gameplay features of the robots and the lack of free-play exploration. However, I do not think I could get tired of playing it.
You play as Amanda Ripley, Ellen Ripley’s daughter, who is stranded on the Sevastopol Space Station and on a mission to recover the Nostromo’s flight recorder and leave. However, you are not alone on the station, other humans, blood-thirsty robots, and an extremely dangerous alien lifeforce also wander Sevastopol.
The scenery in the game is beyond amazing. Every single part of the station is unique, and it is very clear that a lot of effort went into making the game look good. They have hit the nail on the head with an abandoned space station look with foreboding graffiti on the walls, neglected equipment and daunting dead bodies lying around. I like that even though the space station is not a big world to explore, nearly all the rooms look different. It made playing much more fun as I never felt bored and it was thrilling to have to find a new hiding spot in every room, where the vents are and what my plan of action would be if the alien came in.
The lighting contributed to the tense atmosphere with the flickering bronze glow from lanterns in the vents and the blaring red light from the alarm. Imagine this, you are alone in a corridor, there are decaying bodies on the floor, blood pooling around them and there is absolutely no sound whatsoever but your own footsteps. All of a sudden there is a muffled metal clang and a hair-raising hiss behind you. Now imagine that but with the lights flickering ominously, which one is scarier?
Moreover, the sound in this game gives me goose bumps. The hissing from the alien is hair-raising because it is so unearthly, I have never heard anything like it. What makes it more terrifying is that there is hardly any background noise, only the occasional instrumental music to keep you company, some machinery bleeping or a characters voice through Ripley’s radio. Just as you get used to playing in silence, an ear-piercing shrill bursts through your headphones. The silence is a big reminder that in that moment in time, you are abandoned in the dark void that is space, which makes this game so gripping.
Likewise, the gameplay is amazing. You have the option to sneak past your enemies or go in all guns blazing. However, what makes the game play so tense is that the alien is very sensitive to sound, sight, and touch (mind the tail!). So if you want to make some noise, make sure you know where to hide. My heart pounded so hard whenever I heard or saw the alien, I have never felt such adrenaline in my life. Do not worry though, the game creators have been very generous and there are many places to hide.
The controls were very easy to understand and use, although I play on an Xbox One so I do not know the controls for other consoles. If anyone struggles with remembering which buttons to use, the game does remind you repeatedly, for example when crafting equipment.
Whilst playing the storyline is as exhilarating as it is, it is not an open world narrative meaning you have to follow along. Recently, I have also been playing Destiny 2 (Bungie) and The Outer Worlds (Private Division) and what I have most enjoyed about them is that I can play side missions and in whatever order I want to, taking a break from the main quest. Some people may prefer to just play the story line, but I like to be able to explore the surroundings and see the different aspects of the game design.
One thing I found annoying about the game was that when I was running away from a robot and found a place to hide, the robot would find me straight away, even if they were not in the room yet. It has happened to me twice, the first time I hid in a locker and the second time I hid under a table. I found it really irritating because I was nearly dead from my previous encounter with the robot and all I wanted to do was find safety to use a medical injection. Especially if it had been a while since I had last saved at a checkpoint (there is no save button on the pause screen) and I have to re-do all the progress I have just lost.
Additionally, I did not enjoy how hard it was to kill the robots. I am a very anxious person, so I do panic a lot when it comes to being in stressful situations in games (and now you are probably wondering why I played this game?) but finding them hard to kill made me panic even more. Furthermore, I like the idea of the alien being the only enemy hard to defeat. I was more afraid of coming across and having to defeat a robot than stumbling into the alien, which I think takes away the fear factor from the alien.
Nevertheless, I absolutely love playing this game, so much so that I have already played it three times, I just cannot get enough of this game, despite the issues I have with it. I hope that if you ever decide to play this game that you appreciate it as much as I do.