Reviews// Alien Isolation

Posted 9 Oct 2014 09:58 by
Lesser spotted save point
Lesser spotted save point
Save points are few and far between and have to be activated manually. After investing time and effort to progress, the threat of losing it only heightens the tension when figuring your next move. However the placement of save points really is truly painful. Having a sizeable trek and time spent hacking just to reach an encounter, repeated deaths quickly tip the scales from tension to irritation, followed by a cold acceptance as you go through the motions again and again.

To spoon salt into the wound, there are instanced of no-fault death. So while the alien sticks its proboscis up against the grille of the locker that youíre hiding in (you, holding your breath and pushed back in a corner), be resigned to the fact that your travails to get from A to B via repeated visits to lockers and hidey holes will culminate in being dragged from said nooks without fault or any possibility of escape. This isnít tedium, not tension. This is Alien Isolationís downfall.

Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds
To give the proceedings some context, the background to all thatís unravelling aboard the station comes foremost from the non-threatening inhabitants through cinematic cut scenes and in-game dialogue. This can be fleshed out by logging in to terminals and pouring over memos and voice records.

The cinematics, however, tear you from the immersion of the game. Moving from first- to third-person, theyíre populated by stiffly animated waxworks that donít know the term ďlip syncĒ. Itís such a disappointment, as the intro and loading scenes ooze polish, with their low-res, degraded video tape presentation. In fact, apart from the nitpicky lack of dirtiness and frankly rubbish character visuals and animation, visually itís about as polished as it gets. The audio hasnít a single downside. The tension is amplified thanks to some wonderfully-orchestrated incidental work. Layer that with an expert blend of ambient engine hum, sporadic mechanical and electronic clattering, not to mention the utterance of the alien, and youíve got a soundtrack that hits the brown note.

Hello. Again.
Hello. Again.
What Alien Isolation delivers is something of a rollercoaster in terms of both tension and gameplay. As the intensity builds and retreats with just the right cadence, the frustration oscillates violently. On the whole, itís one of the most terrifying games youíll play, but this is too often ruined by the frustration of trial and error and resentment born from the roll of a dice. It utterly blunts the experience.

If you can picture a game that blends the tension of Doom III, the horror of Dead Space and the stealth and crafting of The Last of Us, then stamp it with most iconic sci-fi horror brands ever made, then you've got a good idea what youíre in for. Throw Dark Soulsí brand of 'difficulty' in there and you've nailed it. To fans of the latter, Alien Isolationís random, instant death is probably a warm comforting blanket for you. To the rest of us, itís frustration incarnate. Alien Isolation is the greatest Alien game released - better than even the C64, US version of Aliens! But its flaws punch a hole right through its heart.

Pre-order DLC
Pre-order DLC
+ Video game terror redefined
+ Spectacular realisation of the Alien universe
+ Good craft/stealth action
+ Excellent audio

- Disappointing character cinematics
- Gameplay tipped toward ďluckĒ than ďjudgementĒ
- Crucified by poor save points and no-fault instadeath

SPOnG score: 7/10
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