It’s been 15 years since the events on the Nostromo disaster. The story of what happened to Ellen Ripley and the rest of the crew has yet to be discovered. It would be another 42 years before she was awoken once more. While some people are content with waiting, one woman was not: Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley. She wants to know the truth of what happened on that ship and when she learns that the flight recorder for the Nostromo is located on the Sevastopol space station, nothing will stand in the way of her and the truth. But what seems like a simple enough mission turns out to be a lot more deadly than originally thought when the space station is found to be nearly deserted, thanks in part to the appearance of a single Xenomorph, the thing which caused the fall of the Nostromo in the first place.
Alien Isolation’s story is solid, but if you’ve ever watched any of the Alien films before, especially the first one, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Find the truth, hide from the alien, keep it from reaching Earth, stop any bad guys who stand in the way, it’s nothing new but it’s definitely well told over the course of it’s 25 hour campaign, even if it gets a bit silly towards the end. Amanda is a sympathetic character, despite never actually doing a whole lot in the way of developing, and you really grow to care about her and her need for the truth, even in what seems like a dire situation. The supporting cast are mostly there to either be cannon fodder for the alien or stand in Amanda’s way somehow so it’s hard to really grow attached to any of them. It also drags on in some parts, but that has more to do with the constant backtracking more so than the plot.
One thing that’s certain though, is the level of respect and care that The Creative Assembly had towards this franchise. The littlest of details are noticeable, whether it’s the faux futuristic technology of the late 70s, the way the alien walks and growls as he stalks his way around the station, the Working Joes looking like half doll-half cyborg, everything has been meticulously recreated down to the lighting and you can truly see the love that they had.
The gameplay is where the game really shines, though not without its own set of problems. For a good majority of the game, you’ll be going back and forth from place to place, fetching items, hacking terminals, pulling switches, doing any and everything you can to get just a little further into the station. On it’s own, that would grow tiresome quickly, especially given just how many times you’ll have to run to the same areas over and over again in what seems like unnecessary padding, but that’s where the real stars of the show come in and that’s the three main enemy types.
While the Xenomorph is certainly something to be feared, what with his one hit kills or his ability to pop out of seemingly nowhere, it’s the regular humans and Working Joes that put up a challenging fight as well. The humans are armed to the teeth and able to gun you down with very few problems throughout the game. You’ll either have to sneak around them, find a gun and shoot them, or somehow lure the alien over to them and hope that they hash it out while you get away. With the Working Joes, they need to be shorted out before they can be stopped, so unless you have a stun baton or an EMP, it’d be best to avoid them as well. With the alien, you can hide, sneak, run or distract, but the AI adapts to your methods and learns how you play the longer you spend going against it. That means what worked one time, may not work another time. This forces you to mix up your strategy a number of times and the level of variety, both with the alien and the other enemies is quite refreshing and keeps the gameplay interesting, even when the main mission goals are not.
Besides the backtracking and repetitive missions, the only other major issues with the gameplay were the save system and the scares themselves. If you want to save the game, you need to go to a manual save station and save the game. While I appreciate the decidedly old-school method of progression, if you get jumped by the alien and have to start a ways back, it can be a bit frustrating. The other issue is that while getting chased down by the alien can be terrifying the first couple of times, by the sixth or seventh time, despite the adaptive AI, it’s not quite as scary anymore. It’s definitely tense and will keep you on edge, especially if it’s been a while since your last save, but it’s not quite scary anymore. Those expecting something like Amnesia or Outlast should look elsewhere.
Alien Isolation is not perfect. The story is cliche, the missions are repetitive, the save system is frustrating and it’s not quite as terrifying as some may have hoped. All that being said however, the game is a lot of fun, with varied and unique combat and a genuine love for the franchise, so if you’re a fan, I say definitely check it out, you’re bound to enjoy what you see.