Alien: Isolation Game Review - Caleb Jones

As most of you already know, I don’t play computer games very often. When I do, I set a timer, play for one hour, and when the timer goes off, shut off the game and get back to work on my goals.

Yet, when I play video games, I have a lot of fun, since I go out of my way to only play games I really enjoy. If I play a game for a little bit and don’t absolutely love it, I stop playing it regardless of how much I paid for it. I’m not going to waste my precious time doing something I don’t love. My life is too full and I have too much to do.

Some of my favorite movies of all time were Alien and Aliens. The later Alien movies weren’t that great, but Alien and Aliens were masterpieces of historic proportions. I like Aliens just a little better than Alien, since Aliens is an action movie and Alien is a sci-fi horror move, but Alien is still amazing. If you haven’t seen these movies, holy shit, you’re missing out.

For the last few years, I kept hearing from Alien fans about Alien: Isolation, a game that was apparently so scary and well-done that (I believe) 20th Century Fox actually considers Alien:Isolation a de facto canon “movie” that takes place between Alien and Aliens. Fox actually assisted the game designers in creating this game, handing over mountains of secret production designs and other information to make the game look as authentic as possible.

Scary computer games aren’t really my thing; I like complex war games (like Civilization V) and complex RPGs (like Pillars of Eternity), but damn, I kept on hearing so many good things about this game from Alien fans that I decided to take the plunge.

So I played it.

And, holy crap, they were right. This game is amazing.

This is one of the few games I’ve played in my life (and I’ve been playing computer games since before most of you reading these words were born) that actually elicits a real emotional response. This game is so scary that during the entire time you’re playing it, your heart rate is elevated and your breathing is heavier than normal. Guys on YouTube have even hooked up themselves to heart rate monitors while they play the game to show what the game does to the human body during gameplay. It’s that intense.

But the fear factor isn’t why the game is cool. The environment of the game was made to mirror the movie Alien (not Aliens, since this is a horror game, not an action game) and it does so flawlessly. The environment, the sound effects, the props you use, the music, and the atmosphere make it feel like you are right in the middle of a fucking Alien movie. It’s extremely rare that a game has felt so immersive. It’s just incredible.

You play Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley (whom she talks about in the director’s cut of Aliens). You are trapped aboard a huge, damaged, malfunctioning, partially abandoned space station where the worker androids have gone insane and have started killing people. What few humans are left aboard have grouped into hostile bands fighting everyone else to survive, including you. And, of course, there’s an Alien on the loose, using the vents and killing people left and right. You’ve got to survive all this. Good fucking luck.

The fact you play a woman with no military or combat training makes the scenario even more interesting. This isn’t a first person shooter where you can shoot your way out. Nope. What few weapons you get during the game are not only weak, but essentially useless. Moreover, using them is dangerous, since any loud noises attract the Alien. So if there’s a solider or android you need to get past, and you fire your pistol at him, you’d better be prepared to die, because even if you kill your enemy (which is very hard) the Alien will pop out of a nearby vent and eat your face.

On top of that, the androids are very hard to kill. They take numerous headshots to die, if at all, or you can temporarily disable them and whack them with a large wrench eight or nine times and they’ll finally die. Maybe. Better not make too much noise though, or the Alien will come. As usual, it’s better to just sneak past them rather than take them on. They also get more impervious to harm the further you go into the game.

To make it even worse, you can’t kill the Alien. You can’t even hurt it. If you’re very clever, you can trick it or distract it. Later in the game you can temporarily scare it, but you can’t hurt it or kill it. Once again, you have to learn to survive without using combat as an option.

It’s really fun. It’s also very hard. I played the game on hard mode both times I played all the way through, since the game makes it clear that hard mode is the “way the game was meant to be played.” Yeah. It’s hard. You die a lot. You have to learn to be ridiculously quiet and careful at all times.

There are times where you have to lock yourself into a locker and the Alien is right outside the door, sniffing for you, and you have to lean back and hold your breath or else the damn thing rips off the locker door and murders you. You often have to climb through tight vents with little or no light, hoping that the Alien isn’t in there with you.

Eventually you get a motion tracker, the one prop they used from Aliens instead of Alien. You’d think it would help, and it does, but it actually makes the game even more nerve-wracking. Watching that beeping dot suddenly get closer and closer to where you are, and you have no where to hide…

One of the most enjoyable things I did was make a noisemaker (there’s a crafting system in the game, but honestly, you don’t get very much), throw it into the middle of a group of hostile humans, run and hide, then watch as the Alien arrives and slaughters them all for me. Brings a smile to my face.

This game was so damn good that it made me go back and re-watch Alien, not once but twice. I’ve seen Aliens a million times, but I’ve only seen Alien a few times. Again, the way they duplicate the look and feel of Alien in this game is impressive. I have a new appreciation for Alien that I never had before.

If you liked any of the Alien movies, you need to play Alien: Isolation. Just do it. You’ll thank me. Play it in the dark at night time if you can. Also, don’t look at a lot of screenshots or video clips of the game before you play it… go in cold like I did. So much better.

I can’t recommend this game enough. Unlike most games, even most good games, it’s a true experience you’ll never forget.

Category: Fun

21 Comments on “Alien: Isolation Game Review

  1.  

    Hey Caleb, good review. I’m playing it now and it’s just like you say. If you like the types of RPG games, I recommend the Mass Effect saga, an incredible trilogy. Mass Effect 1 may be a little outdated, but it is excellent. The three games are chained. You play with your character (which you can create at your whim), and once you pass the game, you can load it in the next one, continuing the story. In addition, the decisions you make in each game have an impact on the following: if you decided to eliminate an entire alien race, at some point of need they may not exist to help you. You let an ally die? In the future it will be harder for you to specify a goal. Did you not know your crew well, or did you not help them in their particular missions? They will have less loyalty to you, and they will play their necks less, or they will die for not following your orders at crucial moments. Excellent saga If you liked Baldur’s Gate, play Mass Effect definitely. I’m reading your blogs a lot. They are helping me change my current life. If you have more advice on entrepreneurship or productivity, welcome. Greetings.

  2. Hey Caleb,

    Have you ever tried Europa Universalis IV?

    I tried Civ V after one of your reviews, but found it piece of cake after playing EU4.

     

  3. This is exactly what I don’t get. How the hell could you play such an immersive, ultra-cool game for just 4 hours per week, 1 hour each time? It actually would make me UNHAPPY if I have to stop playing such a game after only 1 hour, to the point that I rather don’t touch it in the first place no matter how great I heard it is (and I often reluctantly choose that way for addictive games/novels, I easily get hooked by good storytelling).

    I can only guess that it’s down to unique personal trait and that can’t be trained, sadly. Farewell computer/console game.

  4. I recommend the Mass Effect saga, an incredible trilogy

    A lot of people have recommended that to me and I’ve seen a lot and read a lot about it; it just doesn’t speak to me for some reason.

    I far prefer the new Dues Ex games.

    Have you ever tried Europa Universalis IV?

    No but it’s definitely on my list to try. Looks amazing!

    How the hell could you play such an immersive, ultra-cool game for just 4 hours per week, 1 hour each time?

    Strong motivation to make my life better.

    I can only guess that it’s down to unique personal trait and that can’t be trained.

    Incorrect. You’ve never actually spent a week or two attempting it; you’re just imagining how you would feel if you did it.

    And you don’t need to do 1 hour like me. Try doing it for 2 hours 5 or 6 days a week and see how it goes. Don’t just throw your arms in the air and declare you have no self-control.

  5. There is a VR mod for Alien Isolation!

    I plan on going big into VR in just a few months, after trying a friend’s HTC Vive for a week (mind BLOWN by the tech, even with this first gen).

    Like you I LOVE the first two Alien movies, with a bias towards Aliens.

    Can’t wait to play Alien Isolation in VR, though I have a feeling it might be TOO intense!

    Have you tried high-end VR, Caleb (not Gear or Go but Vive or Rift)? If not, get a hold of a system and try playing Alien Isolation in VR. Even gen 1 VR creates the illusion of full immersion, like you’re really “there” so replaying a PC game in VR is an entirely new experience.

    https://uploadvr.com/alien-isolation-vr-horror/

  6. Imagine where VR will be in 30 or 50 years. It will be incredible. Video games will be an entirely different experience.

    And thats without mentioning VR sex.

    I can’t wait for the future 😉

  7. Looks a lot like half life. Did you ever play that back in the day?

    Very unique and fun game.

  8. Have you tried high-end VR, Caleb

    My policy on VR is to not fuck with it at all until its 100% realistic and viable. I’ve had that policy for over 20 years now, when they did VR back in the 90s with the game Descent.

    We’re not there yet… but we will be very soon, and then I’ll jump in.

    Looks a lot like half life. Did you ever play that back in the day?

    Yep. Half Life 2. I thought it was okay but over-rated.

  9. Since you liked this game I would like to suggest you play sci-fi horror game SOMA by Frictional Games. While the horror aspect is not as strong as in Alien Isolation, the atmosphere and story are the best in the genre. Don’t look too much online about the game because this is a game best experienced fresh without spoilers. It’s is about the same length as Alien and it explores the nature of human consciousness in ways that will make you think long after you have finished the game. Based on some of your previous posts here  I think you will really like the story.

  10. No love for Witcher 3?

    Someday I’ll try that. I played the first Witcher game and it was shit, so I got a little turned off to the series.

  11. Have you played any game that makes you feel more Alpha (in a calm, controlled, confident outcome independent 2.0 way, not the hyper aggressive kill-em-all hack-and-slack kind) ?

  12. I played the first Witcher game and it was shit, so I got a little turned off to the series.

    First is terrible. Second is better but still has its flaws (never bothered to play any of them because they seemed too clumsy).

    But the third one is a masterpiece! Game design, controls, immersion in the universe, music and story are flawless (not kidding).

  13. I played alien isolation and yeah it was pretty great.

    The only thing is the ‘hiding in a locker’ got pretty played out. If you hide under a desk the alien will walk past, maybe stop for a second. if you hide in a locker, 99% of the time the alien goes right to the locker your in and you have to do the whole elaborate hold your breath deal.

    the first couple times, that was pretty cool tho.

  14. The only thing is the ‘hiding in a locker’ got pretty played out. If you hide under a desk the alien will walk past, maybe stop for a second. if you hide in a locker, 99% of the time the alien goes right to the locker your in and you have to do the whole elaborate hold your breath deal.

    True. If you watch YouTube vids of the gaming experts, they use the lockers as part of a greater strategy, like running more often. They run to save time, attract the Alien, then hop into a locker, and as soon as the alien leaves, walk a bit and then run again.

  15. Yes very good game I loved it too. Excellent sci fi atmosphere and that 80s retro scifi only adds to the ambience. That creepy music at the start menu with the view of the station against the huge planet is also awesome.

    The puzzles could have been more challenging/creative and some parts of the game felt unnecessarily stretched out. Other than that it was flawless.

    I loved the interaction between the alien and the other characters that was good fun. Like when I got sighted by some bandits and they shot at me and then the alien came and I just watched the bloodbath from distance.

    Anyone who liked this and or likes sci fi horror I would strongly recommend Soma. Very clever game and I would say way more creepy but also very interesting philosophical story. Man, I was creeped out by that game so much I played Alien Isolation to calm down.

  16. But the third one is a masterpiece! Game design, controls, immersion in the universe, music and story are flawless (not kidding).

    Yes I also didnt play 1 and 2 but number 3 is among the best games I ever played. And is probably the most next gen game Ive seen yet in many respects. Its indeed a near perfect game. I now playing once in a while on and off my second playthrough with NG+ on Death March.

  17. Have you played any game that makes you feel more Alpha (in a calm, controlled, confident outcome independent 2.0 way, not the hyper aggressive kill-em-all hack-and-slack kind) ?

    That is kind of Witcher 3 or Mass Effect for me depending on your choices, though the more fun choices tend to be the more Alpha 1.0 stuff. Other games that gave a lot of very Alpha feel were the new Doom reboot and Dishonored series. Also maybe Unreal Tournament 2004.

    Yep. Half Life 2. I thought it was okay but over-rated.

    Yes HL2 was a bit overrated, but HL1 was something revolutionary for its time and probably isnt very playable nowadays but I remember having lots of fun replaying it even years after release. There is a fan made reboot (done very professionally though) in HL2 engine. It has more or less the same feel as the original but with updated engine and more details.

    My policy on VR is to not fuck with it at all until its 100% realistic and viable. I’ve had that policy for over 20 years now, when they did VR back in the 90s with the game Descent.

    Yes at the moment its only interesting for some specific applications. In general at the moment: 1) its still not real VR just some headset with 2 screens, 2) the resolution of those screens is still too low, 3) most games are unsuitable for VR at the moment or have a tricky problem to overcome with the look/walk discrepancy. This makes VR at the moment great for simulator games where you would be sitting in a cockpit of a plane / in a car, free to look around but control the machine by some fixed controller. There it feels totally natural and VR as is today is perfect for this.

    Speaking of making Alien more realistic – there is an option to link it on some platforms with camera and a microphone. Then you can lean in your seat to make your charachter lean in the game and if you make noise in your room (because for example you get startled by the Alien) then the Alien can hear it. Didn’t try that but it sounds like some serious shit.

    I can only guess that it’s down to unique personal trait and that can’t be trained.

    Incorrect. You’ve never actually spent a week or two attempting it; you’re just imagining how you would feel if you did it.

    And you don’t need to do 1 hour like me. Try doing it for 2 hours 5 or 6 days a week and see how it goes. Don’t just throw your arms in the air and declare you have no self-control.

    Actually I would argue that Alien is an example of a game thats easy to play in shorter intervals. I played it often that way and it worked fine. In fact it became a little tedious if I spent too many hours in a row on it. Some RPGs though are not really possible to play (for me) one hour at a time because of the time spent tweaking character / checking stats / selling shit that it would make it unplayable. Maybe someone else can play these games spending less time on these things but for me I take the time in purpose as its part of the experience for this games. Of course then the option is to avoid such games. Baldurs gate which was suggested above is a prime example of this. Some people spend hours just creating / choosing the character. Which is fair enough since the difficulty and fun in the game is completely unbalanced in this and similar games depending on what character choices you made.

  18. I now playing once in a while on and off my second playthrough with NG+ on Death March.

    If I’m not mistaken CD Projekt Red is revamping the whole combat system with the latest patch. Don’t know why, because I think it’s really good, but apparently some people were complaining about it.

    Also it’s worth to mention you better play it on a good PC with a decent GPU. The console versions don’t even come close in terms of graphic quality.

  19. If I’m not mistaken CD Projekt Red is revamping the whole combat system with the latest patch. Don’t know why, because I think it’s really good, but apparently some people were complaining about it.

    Didnt hear about that, but its probably gonna be a settings menu option like they did before where you can chose a movement style.

    Also it’s worth to mention you better play it on a good PC with a decent GPU. The console versions don’t even come close in terms of graphic quality.

    I play most games on PS4 because of the turn key system factor and living room home cinema optimization on a budget. Its fine for me the graphics as is.

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