Community Review: Alien: Isolation

Who's been playing Alien: Isolation, AKA the best cowering in cupboards simulator ever made? I know I have. I'm enjoying it. A lot.

Alright, I'm going to keep this short, because I'm planning to write something a little more extensive about Alien: Isolation, hopefully later today. I'll just say this: Alien: Isolation is not a perfect game and that is okay. It is loaded with flaws. It has problems. Significant ones. But Alien: Isolation is still one of my favourite 'AAA' releases of 2014, because it takes some major design risks and -- in my opinion -- almost all of those risks pay off in some way.

It is a game that manages to create a very real, sustained tension. It is a game that genuinely made me afraid to do things. It's a game that makes the player feel like every single move he makes has a consequence, but it's also a game that very artfully removes power from the player.

I am a big fan. What are your thoughts?


Comments

    Oh man I love it! I love it so much I haven't taken it out of its wrapping!

    (...I've been busy. Also was thinking about recording it with a friend)

    Last edited 13/10/14 11:14 am

      I bought it and played it... then the free PS Plus games came out and found myself addicted to Rainbow Moon.

    Does the release version support the DK2 Rift? If so, I'll pick it up today.

      There is a Mod you can already get for it. Its just that positional tracking is not in it YET, They just found out about it now so they will get it done soon I would think....The link is http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=908564

      And trust me. its as good as you can get at the moment. And it works perfectly so far. As far as the official thing, its not yet implemented, but was shown off at e3 with the DK2, so its there, its just not....there....but I am sure the dev will give it a update with the tech. Until then you can use the mod that I am using.

      Yes and no. It doesn't have OFFICIAL support, but the fold on /r/oculus have it running with a simple ini file tweak. And people are pretty much saying it it the scariest thing ever. Personally, I haven't been game to try it yet.

      Last edited 13/10/14 1:19 pm

    Oh hell no, why would you play it on the rift? Oh hell no

      I generally don't find stuff scary on a TV or computer screen, in the Rift however...

      I'll pick it up anyway, as I play on the projector, but will wait a bit for some patches if it doesn't have rift support.

        I love horror movies but for some reason I can't mentally disconnect myself from horror games so I don't feel fear. I've been avidly watching markiplier and Brad play, but as soon as I hear that creep bash around in the ventilation, I'm glad that I didn't buy the game so I didn't punish myself by saying: "hey this game is scary, you don't have to play. The last horror game I bough was dead space. I still haven't played more than half an hour of that game because I get the choice to not pit the DVD into my computer

          I remember playing the original Alien vs Predator in our presentation room at work (on the Atari Jaguar!)
          Everyone had gone home, so there was just two of us, in an empty office blog, sitting on stools in front of a 3m wide screen, with no sound other than the game and the hum of the air-con.
          When the first alian came at us we were both screaming and leaned so far backwards in our attempt to run backwards in-game, that we both fell off the stools.
          It was actually terrifying, I'm hoping to get that fear-feeling back again by the isolation that the Rfit brings.

            sounds like our multiplayer experience at lans with the original AVP. all marines vs a pred or alien. screamfests

          This is 100% me right down to the Dead Space and only having played about 30 minutes of it. That was the point where I was like "Yeah... maybe horror games AREN'T for me."

    I'm enjoying it. Definitely flawed, particularly, the Alien has some really odd animations (and some behaviours).

    (Only a mechanical thing, not really a spoiler, but better safe and all that)
    I was in a room, and I saw the Alien entering it, while I didn't have any cover, so I figured I'd do the sane thing. Run up and jab it with electricity. It ignores me as I run up, and starts jumping into a vent as I jab it. It hops inside, I hear it scream, and then it sprints out of a room down the hall and murders my face.

    I'm up to the 14th Chapter, such an incredibly tense experience and at no time have I felt that the A.I. of the Alien was 'cheap' or 'unfair', which seems to be a common complaint among some reviews.

    Those working joes on the other hand, becoming more and more of a nuisance, sometimes you pop them in the head with a shotgun and they go down, other times they take 2 or 3 shots and they're still muttering on about how 'this is a restricted area'. Also the humans that attack you are by far the most frustrating aspect of the game, you'd think people on the Sevastapol would be willing to team up with each other but obviously not!

    In short, Alien - fantastic, working joes - meh, humans - ARGH

      Also I agree Mark, the game does a great job of making you feel so weak. It's interesting that so many AAA games are always focused on empowering the player and yet this game does the complete opposite. I wonder if that was a reason as to why it got some pretty harsh reviews...

        I dunno about that. The flamethrower and noise maker are insanely over powered. Bolt gun comes later but it's essentially the anti-Joe. It gives you tools that, based on their real world labels, are super weak but then it injects them with a level of functional power that leaves a machine gun in the dust. Throwing a noise maker properly clears a room better than any gun. Hitting the xenomorph with the flamethrower effectively kills it.

          For me the tools you're given were more about managing the threats but it was never enough to say they were overpowered, i.e. the flamethrower warded off the alien for a bit but you never had enough fuel to do it time and time again, also the alien would always come back. I can see your point with the noisemaker but there aren't enough materials lying around to have a supply of them big enough to make you feel safe. Same with the bolt gun, it's fine in a situation where there's only one joe, but when there's many swarming the level it's not enough to deal with the problem effectively.

            I think it helps that it goes well with my playstyle. I check everywhere for things I can pickup before moving on, I refuse to use more ammo than I absolutely have to and I notice patterns pretty quickly. As a result I never ran low on flamethrower fuel (well, there was one time where for some reason I thought a room full of Joes would be more manageable if they were on fire...). A tip if you're running low, things are either on fire or not so it never requires anything more than a quick burst. If you're holding the trigger down your fuel won't last.
            With the Joes and the bolt gun just remain calm, walk backwards while charging, always keep one in the chamber and stay aware of your surroundings enough to avoid getting backed into a corner. They're slow and they don't try to dodge attacks, so they'll walk right into a headshot for a one hit kill.

    I didn't like it. Got as far as mission 3.

    Had about 12 goes of trying to sneak around and avoid the humans, but I kept getting found and killed. Gave up in frustration, I had the difficulty set to easy too.

    Not keen on going back to it at all, which is a shame, because I really wanted to like it.

      I agree with all of your points. But I want to keep playing it? I don't know why - I think I need my boyfriend to sit down with me and "help" me play (i.e., provide moral support/grounding).

      Its so worth getting past that bit. Push through. You can do it.

      Those early missions are the most obnoxious by far. It does get better later down the track once you have more tools and a better understanding of how stealth works, although early encounters with the xenomorph suffer from similar problems. My advice is to ignore the hack panels. They seem like they'd be super useful but they're hard to use without being seen and half the time they do nothing more than bring the enemy right down on top of you without giving you any sort of advantage (the guy guarding the stairs now has you cornered instead).

      Especially if you're talking about that lobby area where the girl sees you, runs off, then brings back friends. That spot gave me flashbacks to Watch Dogs where there's a million different envrionmental objects you can use but most of them are just for show and the game assumes you're happy to just kill everyone.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO9LJCcyqtQ

      Hahaha, I have this open in another tab. Love these guys. Are you watching their Shitstorm of Scariness 3 on their own channel atm?

    I wouldn't say it's a bad game, but it's just not for me as much as I wish it were? I really haven't played enough to speak to the mechanics, but I do find any game annoying where I have to watch a full action play out every time (getting rid of one of those door locks). Also, the map was so deceptive that it really annoyed me.

    But! Positives; the Sevastapol is really, really cool looking and I wish I could play on PC with a mod that let me just explore/attack killable creatures.

    Also, Ripley has hella awesome style, and I want her jumpsuit, watch and sneakers.

    Still has the whole "Get's frustrating after a while" but the sound design and the way the xenomorph moves does create a lot of tense hiding and running.

    I'm still on the fence with this one, but currently enjoying a few games from my pile of shame, so will pick it up down the track.

    I'm a fan of the franchise so I'm wondering where does the Alien come from? is this revealed at all? Feel free to spoil it for me using the spoiler tags.

      It's all explained and tied into the movie pretty well. There are a few things that are left uncomfirmed but the big one of how an alien came to be on the station traces back about as far as you can go. It ties into the movie and does similar things (intentionally) but it doesn't break the movie. It's not like the alien is revealed to have survived the first movie and made it's way to the station.

    I found the first 25% of the game to be a little rough to get through mechanically but it picks up once you get a full range of tools to deal with humans, androids and the alien. Once you reach the point where a mistake no longer means slowly dying over the course of a minute the game becomes a lot less frustrating.
    The stealth gameplay lacks refinement. There were times when the alien went berserk at me from a mile away and other times where the alien was looking me in the eye point blank without seeing me. The early content feels like there's just one way through and regardless of whether your plan is better only the developers plan will succeed but again once you get your hands on the full range of tools that opens up.
    I can get behind the character not being quick but there are a lot of 'crap, I started using this terminal and heard a noise, now I have to wait 10 seconds for the animations to complete before I can check what it was' moments where how slow Ripley is breaks atmosphere. The game sort of asks me to panic but Ripley stays freakishly calm when completing certain tasks.
    The other thing, and it's sort of minor, is that I couldn't communicate with NPCs. It's nice that they're not all crazy and violent but the method for testing whether they're cool or not is to walk up to them and see if they kill you. I was avoiding this guy who was ranting and raving, then I accidentally got caught and Ripley tells him 'it's coming, you better get away' as though it was obvious he wasn't hostile. I would have loved to be able to approach them peacefully, exchange info, or threaten them, take hostages, etc.
    Near the end of the game I was walking through a looted area looking at the writing on the walls and thought to myself 'I should be able to write [spoiler] on the wall' and it made me realise this isn't like BioShock or Dead Space where it feels like I'm a week late to everything. There was still a lot of that, most of what you read is written by someone who was dead before you got there, but there were several moments where it felt like I wasn't just sifting through the wreckage. It occassionally felt like people were still alive and active on the station. I'd love to see it go futher but I think what they did was a significant step forwards for the genre.

    As for the horror content and story, well it's Alien, it's always sort of boring. There's Xenomorphs, 80's industrial tech and milk-droids. Games like Colonial Marines and Alien vs Predator always suffer because the Alien/Predator universe is just sort of shallow and dull by design. Alien: Isolation however manages to circumvent most of that by focusing on the chaos caused by the alien and the space station falling apart.
    The idea that you can't take down the alien frustrates me but it helps a lot too. In something like Alien vs Predator you get used to killing aliens because it's actually pretty easy, which doesn't leave much room to grow after the second or third stage. In Alien: Isolation the environmental situation esculates rather than relying on the xenomorph threat escualting. The xenomorph threat increases and decreases at key points but the xenomorph itself stays at a constant danger level.
    It's very similar to a less action based Dead Space or System Shock. Personally I don't find it too scary but I would struggle to think of a game I did find scary. As you would expect there's a reasonable amount of BAM! shock scaring but they don't over do it and it's far from the only way the game tries to scare you. It does a really good job of creating a tense atmosphere and putting the player on edge. Although like I mentioned earlier there are quite a few moments that will break the atmosphere.

    All that said I would highly recommend the game. It tries and mostly succeeds at being the game advertised on the box. Some things might not play out 100% like what you would imagine based on the way it presents itself but it's definitely trying it's best to deliver the game that's been pitched to us.
    Even if you don't immediately love it stick with it until the end as at the very least there are some must see sequences. It's a real shame the one off nature of the game makes a sequel unlikely since the small problems with it could easily be ironed out in a sequel.

    Last edited 13/10/14 12:42 pm

      Dude, really well-written! You make me want to stick with it a little longer. Nice work :)

        Thanks. Hopefully sticking with it pays off for you as much as it did for me. I know when I first started playing I was really down because I wasn't enjoying it as much as I loved the concept so I was really happy that it picked up as it progressed.

          I feel the same. The first few missions need to be pushed through, as they can be frustrating, but then the game smooths out and becomes a lot more fun.

    I'm loving it. The early parts had some frustrating moments, but once I settled into the mechanics I can now kite the Alien like a pro*.

    You never feel safe in this game, and that's the way an Alien game should be.

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    * Total lie.

    I'm at a frustrating point where I beat the heads in of some scavengers with the hydrospanner if I am lucky but am unable to pick up their gun.

    It's a game created for people who don't understand game scripting and mechanics

    For example:
    Understanding how the Alien actually comes to play in a map/stage. There are a few things that triggers the Alien's arrival and it must meet a few conditions

    First is, the Alien MUST be scripted in the stage. Not all stages where you hear the Alien crawl around the vents has it scripted to appear

    Second is, there's no group of human AI - I tested this. The Alien doesn't appear UNLESS you make a noise on purpose to attract the Alien - might be worth keeping those group of AI alive till you finish sweeping the area for items

    Third is activating scripted events. Reaching a certain part of a map/ activating a computer/ picking up a story based component

    There's also a fixed amount of time regarding how often the Alien visits and roams around the maps where he's scripted to appear

    If you see the motion tracker beep and you don't hear anything, it means the game is spawning him and is about to come out of a ceiling vent

    The Alien usually roams around for around 10-30 seconds then crawls back up the vent. When he does, it's usually safe to walk around undisturbed without him crawling in the vents again for around 20-40 seconds

    Flamethrower is a forced "crawl back up the vent" event after you use it on him which gives you the same amount of Alien-free respite (20-40 seconds)

    Edit: Grammatical errors

    Last edited 13/10/14 12:41 pm

      Yep. This is probably my biggest problem when connecting with horror games. Even when it's less transparent than Alien: Isolation once I spend enough time with it the Alien (or zombie or guard or whatever) becomes something I can control, even if I can't always beat it. At that point it's almost impossible to scare me with anything more than a jump scare.

      The flamethrower is crazy over powered once you understand how it relates to vents and how a little pulse of fire is all it takes to get the job done. It really needs some sort of enrage meter so that if I keep using things like the flamethrower and then sprinting around it eventually goes berserk or does that thing where it stands at a distance and refuses to leave until I get out of it's sight long enough for it to calm down.

        ...and control it you can. My ever faithful attack beast is always on standby to clear out those pesky humans across map for me. :D

          Heh, I do love that. I tried not to kill anyone after the first few encounters where it felt like I had to, but as soon as I realised humans would remain hostile even after I scared the alien off them that was it. If you refuse to team up with me you get a face full of xenomorph while I do a jaunty little dance on over to the objective. =P

    http://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/2iirut/help_break_alien_isolation_open_and_enable/

    I loved it. The most fun I have ever had in a horror game. I feel so satisfied completing that game.

    I really like it so far. Not too sure where I'm up to but that first major setting in the med labs where the Alien is hunting you; I got killed so many times! But after a while you get used to how the Alien behaves, not necessarily its patterns but as someone above said it usually hangs around for a little while before jumping into the vents. The numbers on the motion tracker also alert you to how close it actually is. Once it goes above 90 you are pretty safe to walk around for a little while.

    I stopped playing last night when I found a shock rod... and then immediately the Alien pops down from a vent and kills me. I can see its not for everyone but I am seeing it for what it was intended to be, and I really love it so far.

    Loving the atmosphere, the constant tension (although I can only play for a couple of hours before that's overridden by frustration), and the attention to detail. I'd not call it scary, per se, but it's definitely a tense experience, mostly because 20+ minutes' work can be easily erased by an unlucky death, which I'm not a fan of. Finding two save stations along a route I'd been trying for the past hour or so sped things up immensely, however, so I think I just need to get back into the habit of finding a save station ASAP after every objective, before moving on.

    Still not sure about the length, though - 15-20 hours seems a bit much for this type of game, considering it took me all of an hour after they introduced the alien to go from jumping at every sound, to asking it to "kindly sod off" when the it gets in between me and my objective for the umpteenth time.

    I've only played about an hour so far. I'm up to the first time you see the alien kill someone.
    It's not very far in and I'll play a bit more this weekend I hope, however, thus far... it's not really doing it for me.
    I found this first section incredibly dull. I'm mindful that I don't usually play these kind of games and that I probably need more time to fully appreciate. But as it stands, it's just boring. The action sequences so far have been very short and very scarce. I know it's not really about that but I'm not really enjoying the atmosphere as much as I probably should.
    Maybe it's not about "enjoyment", maybe it's something else... but I don't know what that is yet. Maybe I'm just not into the slow pace.

    Some films are an acquired taste, why aren't games the same? Why do we have to constantly have our definition of quality reinforced?

    ...but i don't like it. Ah, it's ok I just can't help but feel like we got the equivalent of AC1 compared to AC2, i'd love another one to iron out the kinks.

    It's amazing. I love it. It's actually a proper Alien game that isn't trying to turn it into an FPS. It's such a clever game. It has a real Dark Souls level of brutality to it

    Loving it! Up to mission 7 I think. Pacing so far is fine (I know I haven't got through even half of the game yet but it's close) and when the alien turns up it's even better. Tense, fun, moody. I wouldn't say scary as say Outlast (at this stage anyway) but.. what it does nail is the tension, atmosphere and audio.

    Anyone else found they are getting a Bioshock vibe off this game? I know I am.

    Can I again say audio... it's ridiculously well planned and realised.

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