In 1979 Ridley Scott introduced us to Ellen Ripley and the Alien saga. Now 35 years later in 2014 Alien: Isolation has come to next generation gaming consoles. Developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega, Alien Isolation was released on October 7th for Xbox One and Xbox 360.
Alien: Isolation is part of the Aliens series and fits in perfectly to the story fans already know and love. The game is set in 2137, fifteen years after the events of Alien. The game follows Amada Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, who whilst working for Weyland-Yutani is investigating the disappearance of her mother. Character Christopher Samuels immediately approaches Amanda in the opening sequence to inform her that the flight recorder of the Nostromo was recently located by a ship named the Anesidora and is being held aboard Sevastopol Station, a remote free port space station owned by the Seegson Corporation. Christopher Samuels is quick to offer Amanda a place on the Weyland-Yutani team sent to retrieve it hoping that Amanda will finally find some closure. Ripley (Amanda) joins Christopher Samuels, and corporative executive Nina Taylor and heads off to Sevastopol on board a courier ship, the Torrens, owned by Captain Verlaine. Arriving at Sevastopol the group find the station damaged and its communications unreliable. Ripley, Samuels, and Taylor attempt to spacewalk over to the station to investigate, but during the walk their EVA line is severed by debris crashing through the station and (unsurprisingly – this is a survival horror title after all) Ripley is separated from them and forced to enter the station on her own. The players fight for survival begins now.
Alien: Isolation isn’t the first attempt to bring to life the Alien saga in video games. Since the initial films release there have been a number of titles based upon the series. The majority of them, if we are being honest with one another, are downright shocking. What is extremely apparent from Alien: Isolation is we’ve been waiting for technology to catch up to enable our front rooms to bring to life the fear and horror of the Alien movies.
The development team behind Alien: Isolation are probably best known for their work in the award winning and critically acclaimed Total War series. The story goes that a six-person team created a small multiplayer demo in which one player assumed the role of a Xenomorph to play an Alien inspired version of “hide and seek”. Having pitched the idea to Sega executives the project was approved and The Creative Assembly team got to work.
The developers, wanting to capture the horror and feel of the first film, ensured that although Alien: Isolation is set in the future, the technology within the game is modelled after the first Alien film. Jon McKellan, Lead Art Designer for Alien: Isolation was quoted saying
We had this rule. If a prop couldn’t have been made in 1979 with the things that they had around, then we wouldn’t make it either.
20th Century Fox provided The Creative Assembly with three terabytes of archived data related to the original Alien film, including notes on prop and set design, behind the scenes photos, videos, and the film’s original sound effect recordings, to help Creative Assembly authentically recreate the atmosphere of the film. The Alien because of this is incredibly well detailed and animated but that isn’t the only part of the game that stands up to scrutiny. The entire game pays homage to the films that inspired it. The level design, weapons and film grain effect seems right out of the movies and overall, this makes Alien: Isolation one of the more cinematic feeling games I’ve seen and played in years.
There are two Kinect specific features in Alien: Isolation which are both intended to add to the player’s feeling of immersion. Head-tracking does what it says on the tin and allows you to move left or right, forward and back while hiding, and at no point did this feel out of place. The second feature is one that caught me out on a couple of occasions; noise detection. With this enabled, your own environment and noise within it become a part of the game. A text message alert, cough or even the opening of a Pepsi Max bottle can be end of you. Be warned.
During Alien: Isolation it isn’t just the Xenomorph, as menacing as it is, that is your only concern. You’ll need to be prepared to face not just menacing humans but also Androids who have turned deadly, a corporation who cares little for the stations remaining inhabitants and dangerous environments which will test you and threaten your survival. The further you progress through the station and unravel what is happening the Xenomorph will become more of a threat. Watch. Every. Step. The Creative Assembly designed the Alien so that it cannot be killed and instead of following a predetermined path, the artificial intelligence of the Alien has been programmed to actively hunt for you by sight, sound and smell.
Aside from the Campaign in Alien: Isolation there is a secondary game type called Survivor Mode. This mode tasks players with completing a number of objectives within a certain area of the station and within a specified time limit. Not as easy as you’d think.
As a fan of the Alien series, having watched all the movies countless times, even read books (including fan fiction), I feel in love with Alien: Isolation even if my nerves didn’t. The games graphics and intelligent (and unpredictable) AI keeps the game moving along at a pace which doesn’t let up.
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