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Alien: Isolation Review

Alien: Isolation Review

There are three things that I was certain of in my life: I am over my fear of the dark, I’d have a decent chance of surviving an apocalyptic scenario, and I can rationalise “scary content” into its bare form of entertainment, rendering it powerless. Not only did Alien: Isolation decide to crush my certainties, it repeatedly rammed them into the closest object, leaving them a crippled mess of tattered hopes and dreams.

Developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega, Alien: Isolation is set on the space station Sevastopol 15 years after the events of the film Alien. You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, the protagonist of the aforementioned film. A search party is sent out to the Sevastopol with Amanda on board after word gets out that the flight recorder from the Nostromo (her mother’s ship) has been located aboard. On their approach to the space station, Amanda is separated from her crew and you must investigate the Sevastopol on your lonesome in an effort to both finish your mission and find your team.

It’s not long before you discover that the entire ship has, for lack of a better phrase, gone to shit. Very few humans seem to be left on the station and the ones who are have all turned on each other with the use of deadly force. Confused about the whole situation, Amanda soons finds clarity when the antagonist, the xenomorph, finds her. Thus begins the huge game of cat and mouse between yourself and the alien around the Sevastopol.  

Alien Isolation 13

But here’s the thing; I’ve played my fair share of horror games and never have I once had the deep-seated sense of dread and fear as I found within Alien: Isolation. The game’s design does a fantastic job of teaching you the basic survival methods you’ll require over the course of the first hour or so, but after that, it decides to rip the rug from underneath your feet and laugh at you whilst you tend to your bruised and battered psyche.

Whilst the objectives within Isolation are fairly straight forward - go here, find this, get to this person, assist this other person - it’s the getting to and from the objectives that’s the hard part. There’s no place you can really feel safe or at ease whilst you have the game running. On multiple occasions, I would be at an objective and take a quick run around the room to see if there was anything I could scavenge, only to be torn limb from limb by the xenomorph because I was making too much noise.

See, the alien isn’t something that just lurks around certain places within the Sevastopol, it covers the entire station, seemingly stalking you as you traverse the environment. It’s an ever present feeling of dread that stops you from sprinting through the entire ship because, unfortunately for you, the xenomorph is faster than you. I learned this the hard way after turning a corner only to find myself a hairs-width away from the creature. Adrenaline pumping and bowels momentarily uneasy, I hightailed it out of there only to be impaled by its tail moments later.


After this experience, I spent the remainder of my time with Isolation in the crouched position, peering round every corner before I took it. Luckily, I had a few bits of equipment to help me when times got hard. A few of these items were there to help pace out the story such as the plasma torch which was required to get past certain doors. Others were there to help you survive and make slightly more rational decisions than trying to take on the beast with a wrench, which I can assure you, I did not do.

Your most prized possession will be your Motion Detector. This piece of equipment allows you to, well, detect motion. If you think the alien is close by, whip it out and you’ll know. Not that it will do you much in the way of defense but it will allow you to be slightly more prepared for your inevitable demise. Along with this, you have a handful of other items such as the Noisemaker or Flare. These sorts of items can be used to divert the attention of humans and aliens alike and give you a method of circumventing them.

So now you’ve made it to your objective without being shot, strangled or mauled to death; congratulations! Now here’s your next big decision - saving. Much like in Dark Souls, Alien: Isolation only has manual save points in the shape of telephones. These are strategically placed around Sevastopol and it’s up to you how you use them. You have to, quickly mind you, decide whether it’s less risky and more sensible to press on towards your next objective in the hope of finding another save station nearby, or backtrack to the one you previously saved at. On multiple occasions, I was 20/30 minutes into an objective (which should have taken 5, but I was being super cautious because, you know, death), only to be caught out by an overly attached xenomorph because I’d made a bad call on which way to go.

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Every decision within Isolation will have some sort of consequence. The entire game is made up of bad choices; you’re just trying to minimise the repercussions. There were more times than I’d like to admit where, instead of trying to push through to an objective, I got scared and hid in a locker, only to be torn out of it by my pursuers. It was only after this happened for the umptenth time that I read a tooltip saying “Hiding is only a temporary solution”. After long enough, you will be found.

Not only do you have to make decisions on your feet, you get little-to-no assistance whilst making them. If approached by an enemy (that can be killed), you have to choose whether to retreat and try to avoid them or tackle them head-on. By commencing with the fight you risk death or, even worse, making too much noise, thus attracting the alien. Outside of fight scenarios, you just about know where your objective is if you look at your map, but it tends to cover a large area and your HUD is incredibly minimal showing only your health and battery life for your torch (which, by the way, run out faster than Mario after selling you a new plumbing fixture). This only increases your panic and, in turn, immersion within the game. The only way to further the feeling would be to make the pause menu not pause the game.

Now, whilst Alien: Isolation is indeed an incredibly fearful, immersive and intelligently designed game, it does have some pitfalls. The model design for the characters, especially in the cut scenes, seems hyper-realistic. It looks like they managed to hit a perfect place with Amanda and the alien, but then continued to try to perfect everybody else. The result is making 90% of the characters you meet look like animated, sweaty sex dolls (because, for some reason, everybody is very sweaty in Isolation, even before they reach Sevastopol). The lip syncing also looked slightly off within the cutscenes, like the characters faces were not moving naturally with their mouths. Unfortunately, within the gameplay itself, the lip syncing was so far off, it might as well had not bothered and just had them stare at you with their cold, dead, emotionless faces and mumble whilst you read the subtitles.

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Along with this, for some reason, The Creative Assembly seem to think that my (Amanda’s) eyes are made of cameras because if there’s too harsh of a light, it gets all J.J Abrams up in here with the lens flare. It was moments such as this that detracted from the immersion of the game and brought me back to reality, which was a shame because I was having so much fun fearing for my life.

At the risk of sounding like a level 12 dickbag, I find it difficult to call Alien: Isolation a game, but more of an experience. Sure, there are objectives and enemies and what have you, but I find it hard to pinpoint an exact genre. Whilst it is labeled as a survival horror and stealth title, I’ve not played a game in either of these genres before that has made me forget what I currently know about said genre and force me to play it like it was real. I’m not playing as a character, and I can’t overcome the enemy. I’m trying to survive this experience any way that I can, rather than get through to the next level.

It took me a while to get into Alien: Isolation and, I can’t imagine that everyone will enjoy it but, if you’re a fan of either the Alien series or scaring yourself into next Tuesday, I’d suggest giving it a try. The story itself isn’t particularly inspired, but it’s more about the parts in between the story that work for Isolation.

8.50/10 8½

Alien: Isolation (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

It took me a while to get into Alien: Isolation and, I can’t imagine that everyone will enjoy it but, if you’re a fan of either the Alien series or scaring yourself into next Tuesday, I’d suggest giving it a try. The story itself isn’t particularly inspired, but it’s more about the parts in between the story that work for Isolation.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Kris 'Kaostic' West

Kris 'Kaostic' West


Zombie slayer, quest completer, mouse clicker and, in his downtime, writer and editor.

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