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Alien: Isolation (PS4)
Alien: Isolation Hands-on Preview - Alone in the Dark
Written Tuesday, January 07, 2014 By Lee Bradley
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Imagine a proper Alien game. One where you’re vulnerable, one that’s scary, one that manages to translate the fear and tension of Ridley Scott’s original movie into an interactive experience. Imagine that.

Nobody has really done it before. We’ve had far too many video game spins on James Cameron’s  more action-oriented sequel, Aliens. These games have bullets and flamethrowers and xenomorphs galore, with gung-ho marines capable of dropping iconic monsters at will, empowered and unthreatened. We’ve had that. But we’ve had precious few that make you feel alone and fragile, while quite violently crapping your pants.

Until now. Possibly. Late last year I was invited to play an unannounced title at The Creative Assembly’s offices in leafy West Sussex, England. After a short presentation I was lead into a darkened room, given headphones and a controller and left to my own devices to play what immediately became one of my most anticipated upcoming releases.

Alien: Isolation promises to be the Alien game I feel like we’ve all been waiting decades for. In the demo section I played, viewed in first-person, my character didn’t have any guns or grenades, flame-throwers or mechs. In fact she didn’t have any weapons at all. Isolated on an eerily empty spaceship, all she had for protection was a motion tracker. She needed it, because there was a single, terrifying menace lurking in the shadows.

Here’s the setup. When Ellen Ripley left Earth to work on the ill-fated space freighter Nostromo, she promised her daughter Amanda that she would return home in time for her 11th birthday. But as we know, Ripley didn’t come home, and Amanda never saw her again. Fifteen years later and now working for Weyland-Yutani, Amanda hears that the Nostromo’s flight recorder has been recovered and is being held at the remote trading station, Sevastopol. So she sets off to discover her mother’s fate. But there’s also something else there waiting for her.

I only pressed fully forward on the thumb stick once during the entirety of my time with Aliens: Isolation. I was too scared to do otherwise. Pushing further would have meant that Amanda strolled or walked briskly. Nope. Instead I crept, every step filling me with dread that it may alert the xenomorph. Wanna know what happened when I did push the stick fully forwards? I died within two seconds. I’d tell you what the death animation looked like but I had my hands over my eyes and was squealing like a girl. It’s a genuinely scary game.

My mission was to reach an airlock and get off the ship, hacking devices and collecting the necessary items along the way, all without alerting the attentions of the prowling alien. Armed only with a motion tracking device and its telltale bleeps, I had to crouch, hide and otherwise skulk my way around the gorgeously detailed environment, slipping past the ripped-in-half Synthetic and a familiar Drinking Bird toy on the way to safety.

We had one hour to play the demo. I died once, largely thanks to the fact that I was tip-toeing around like a scaredy wimp, making it out of the airlock in just over 30 mins. Others didn’t fare so well, stepping out of the demo room an hour later, visibly shaken. One colleague was sweating buckets, slightly traumatised. I’m assured that another had found a locker on the ship and had spent most of his time in the demo hiding, peeping through the slits at the xenomorph creeping around outside, too scared to move.

The ships feels like it belongs in Alien, like it was an unused set found somewhere on the 20th Century Fox lot in Hollywood, dusted off and relit. The team at The Creative Assembly has had access to the original archives, painstakingly building rooms, corridors, logos and clothing that can stand alongside the original designs. It’s a 1970’s vision of the future. As such, the technology is chunky and tactile, all knobs and fuzzy CRT screens. There’s not an LCD or a touch screen in sight and the environment gains from it. There’s also some exceptional lighting, with dull blue glows  and patches of darkness lending a truly ominous tone.

And then there’s the xenomorph itself. The demo successfully made H.R. Giger’s fearsome monster cast its shadow over your every move, even when it wasn’t there. It’s not always prowling around, it’s not always in view, or on your motion scanner, but you know it could pop out of the shadows at any moment. And then when you do see it, it’s fleeting, peered at from behind a desk or through the slits of a locker. I’m assured that it also doesn’t have a set, scripted path, instead reacting dynamically to movement and noise. Alert it and you’ll die, there’s no running or fighting it off. Just death.

So that’s all brilliant. Based on the demo I played, Alien: Isolation is one of the most exciting games I’ve ever previewed, a terrifying survival horror game with some iconic imagery. But there are caveats.

First up, we still don’t know what you’ll be doing when you’re not crawling around in fear of your life. The Creative Assembly says that the game will contain some kind of combat, primarily against enemies of the non-alien nature. The reasoning, and it’s sound reasoning, is that the experience would otherwise be too intense. The pace needs to change. Yet we have no idea how that is going to pan out, what it will look like or how it will play. Question marks remain.

Also, the eponymous alien. During the demo, it did its job, scaring the crap out of me constantly. But I never got the chance to poke at the machinery and investigate the A.I. It could be that if you’re not playing along with the fiction, if you tease the xenomorph out and test its responses, exploiting its programming, then the whole thing comes tumbling down. For example, although the alien responds to noise and movement, it can’t hear your motion tracker bleeping away, something the developers say was deliberately overlooked for the sake of the gameplay. It makes sense, but  we don’t know how many similar concessions have been made, nor what effect they will have.

And then there’s The Creative Assembly itself. It’s a fine developer, with a strong track record. But it’s a track record of quality, primarily PC-only strategy games. Its abilities to develop a AAA survival horror title across numerous platforms is untested. On the evidence of the demo, there’s absolutely nothing to be worried about. But attempting to pre-empt the quality of an entire campaign, with massive chunks of gameplay about which we don’t even know yet, based on half an hour of play, is an impossible task.

But maybe I’m being too cautious. Alien: Isolation has the potential to be phenomenal. Like the xenomorph itself, it has come out of nowhere and sent a shiver up my spine. I’ve wanted to play a game like this for as long as I’ve been aware of the original film. And now it looks like I might get it. It’s so good in fact that I’ve written this whole preview without once mentioning the mess that was Aliens: Colonial Marines. Except just then. Bugger.

Alien: Isolation is out on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC later this year.


User Comments
Forum Posts: 277
Comment #1 by XWafty CrankerX
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:06:54 PM
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I never played marines due to the shockingly bad press it got, I was wondering does this game feel anything like that one, the cynic in me thinks they deliberately released the game unfinished before the gen switch over so they could work on this without taking the hit a gen port would cost them.

I know it's not been made by the same guys but it just feels off.

Forum Posts: 478
Comment #2 by Cyphron
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:24:11 PM
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awesome awesome awesome

"She needed it, because there was a single, terrifying menace lurking in the shadows." this underlines the statement on another gaming site, saying that there is only one alien and that it can't be killed.

I like it

Sounds like the original feeling you had in Dead Space 1, being just a mechanics guy without real weapons in a authentic space environment. I wonder though if there was any kind of combat in this game but wouldnt mind if not.

Forum Posts: 7
Comment #3 by LeeBradley
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 05:12:51 PM
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@1 Nah, Isolation doesn't feel ANYTHING like Colonial Marines. They're polar opposites.

Forum Posts: 10
Comment #4 by Dahmer286
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 05:13:56 PM
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Sounds like a great idea... But what are you going to be doing? Why are you on a ship on your own with only one alien? What are your objectives gonna be? Can't see how this formula can be fleshed out into a full game

I will definitely play anything that has aliens on the box and I love survival horror

@1 - different Devs, colonial marines was developed by gearbox and is an absolute turkey. Still I stand by my purchase of the collectors edition with the statue for £12

Forum Posts: 76
Comment #5 by soniq
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 05:53:39 PM
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"Nobody has really done it before." There was a pretty good Alien game on the C64, but I guess it's too old to count.

Forum Posts: 58
Comment #6 by Mastermind Phil
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 05:55:26 PM
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By the way this game sounds and plays like, It very similar to Outlast but set to the Aliens Universe.

Forum Posts: 2262
Comment #7 by xhair
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 06:32:23 PM
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outlast meets alien YEEEESSSSSS PLEEEAASSE! :)

Forum Posts: 386
Comment #8 by HuDaFuK
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 06:46:08 PM
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It DOES sound quite promising... but until there are some proper reviews of the finish thing I won't be going near it.

I hope I will be pleasantly surprised. I really do.

Forum Posts: 192
Comment #9 by RRDude_PBB
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 07:08:39 PM
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don't believe the hype. didn't they promise the same "authentic feel" of Aliens when making Colonial Marines? also i can't imagine a game with a story like that to be very long.

Forum Posts: 2107
Comment #10 by SoPoF
Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 01:08:30 AM
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@9: they =/= they; alien =/=aliens

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #11 by McMoania
Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 08:11:39 AM
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The trailer and making-of were great. It honestly looks promising. Can't say this will be the last time I check this game out, unless this goes down the way of Aliens Crucible.

Forum Posts: 22
Comment #12 by EighthGuardian
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 @ 12:43:18 PM
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Please be good, please be good.

Forum Posts: 626
Comment #13 by SolidSquirrel22
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 @ 04:51:26 PM
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After the disaster of A:CM, I really hope Isolation will be a true Alien(s) game that isn't terrible. I watched the Playstation Access interview with the devs and from what they showed and talked about, this could be an amazing game. The whole survival horror thing could be cool since there is only one big baddie roaming around, that seems to appear randomly like Michael Myers. But the demo they showed off of A:CM was also amazing looking and then we got...well, yeah. I'm not counting this game off immediately like some people, but I'm also not supporting it until we see gameplay that is closer to release.

Forum Posts: 17
Comment #14 by KarelCV
Wednesday, January 15, 2014 @ 02:52:04 AM
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Crap alert, crap alert, crap alert...

Forum Posts: 597
Comment #15 by woodman_76
Wednesday, January 15, 2014 @ 06:09:14 PM
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Maybe this time it will be good. MAYBE.

Forum Posts: 1172
Comment #16 by Nakatomi_Uk
Monday, January 20, 2014 @ 11:37:47 AM
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To me hes going for the hype lets get one thing clear creative assembly ain't the best gaming company who from past experience have never fixed there games they made. Least gearbox is nowhere near it

Forum Posts: 1159
Comment #17 by disinformation
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 @ 07:07:23 AM
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while I'm keen, it seem like there's continuity/canon errors...

1) The nostromo was set to self destruct, granted that it's a demo and that the story sees you chasing the nostromos flight recorder, but I think it's safe to assume that the "familiar drinking bird" and "ripped in half synthetic" is a bit silly given that these things would have been blown up along with the rest of the nostromo.

2) How come theres a xeno where you are?? The nostromo blowing up and the xeno being blown out of the airlock happened far enough apart to make it more than safe to assume that both the ships flight recorder and the xeno were blown to different ares of space/in different directions and that it's highly unlikely that both landed in the same area or were picked up by the same ship.

Maybe the original xeno layed an egg *on* the flight recorder which then subsequently landed/was picked up, egg hatches, facehugger impregnates crew, chestburster comes out, destroys crew, insert ripley Jnr...??

Forum Posts: 2488
Comment #18 by Naps
Thursday, January 23, 2014 @ 09:03:39 PM
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It does have a Dead Space feel to it... Should be interesting to see how SEGA can shake off the "damaged reputation" they left players with Colonial Marines...

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Game Info


US October 07, 2014
Europe October 07, 2014

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