anders tonfeldt

Alien: Isolation

2018-03-25 23:00

This is the by far most authentic, respectful and almost zealously faithful rendering of the alien franchise in a video game ever. No comparison. For the first time I felt like I was actually being hunted by the ultimate predator. Hearing it scurry about in vents above me invoked a sense of unparalleled dread. Comparing it to just the constant blips as another alien popped out to be instantly gibbed in other games.. this the game we've all been waiting for.

The atmosphere and implementation of the alien technology was perfect. And I do mean perfect. Everything switch and knob turned the right way, every metallic groan was spot on, the tactile feel of holding the left trigger then pulling down on the left knob when Amanda's left hand was being used. It all meshed in a way I've never seen before. The motion tracker invoking a sense of constant dread, the flamethrower just pissing the alien off but forcing it to retreat, the sounds and music. Oh the audioscape. Perfection. Getting to explore the original navigator ship, albeit through a memory of another character. Actually doing the twist and turn mechanic when setting the self-destruct sequence. Never before but hopefully many more times (hear me creative assembly?).

Yet I find myself oddly conflicted. The stealth mechanic was vital in this game, and it was almost perfectly implemented. I hid under tables, I peeked around corners, I dove headfirst into ventilation ducts and crawlspaces. Anything to avoid coming face to face with H.R. Giger's worst (and best) design. I just spent too much time hiding in single spots. Way too much. In fact, halfway through I had to reduce the difficulty from hard to medium just to avoid losing my mind from tedium. That's not a great spot to be in. I want to stress that it wasn't due to me resenting the difficulty, nor did I think it was out of proportion. It was just boring.

When the crowning achievement of nature (?) hunts you and your emotions can be summed up as annoyance at having to replay decent sized chunks along with boredom.. something has gone terribly wrong. I understand the save system, it added tension and forced you to take risky moves. Do I double back a bit to get a save in or do I press on, the darn creature is right above me.. screw it! I'm pushing on! Just around that cor.. ah yes, dead again. Time to replay. Eventually you got to a point of absolute bravado after every save spot. You would dash forward not giving a shite if the alien was around, you just needed to figure out where to go so you wouldn't have to replay so bloody much when it inevitably killed you.

Yet, how could they have done it differently? The alien had to instantly kill you or it wouldn't have been true to the concept, it would just have been yet another bug hunt(tm). If they added autosaves at any higher frequency then the tension would likely have been lessened too. But true horror isn't about fearing that you'll have to replay a segment, it's a mental construct that can only be built with atmosphere and uncertainty.

Not sure where I'm going with this but after having finished the game I'm feeling a mix of absolute awe and a rather bitter resentment that this is the very best alien game ever made. And I have no smartass "they should have done x, y and z"-fix to throw out either. No matter. If you've ever watched an alien movie (or, well, all of them dozens of times like me) or have even a vague interest in sci-fi and/or survival horror then you owe it to yourself to play this game. Outstanding.

UPDATE: Sadness. Pitch black sadness. "On 24 April 2017, rumours of Creative Assembly producing a sequel were published by[79] However, Eurogamer later pointed out that the rumour is likely false, as much of the original design team behind Alien: Isolation were no longer with Creative Assembly.[80]"