|Developer:||Creative Assembly|||||Release Date:||2014|||||Systems:||PS3, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows|
Today on Super Adventures, I'm taking a look at scary, stealthy, 'Alien' sequel Alien: Isolation.
Isolation was in development at The Creative Assembly around the same time as Gearbox and friends were working on Aliens: Colonial Marines, but while that project was very public (with expensive consequences for Sega when the finished product failed to live up to the trailers), Isolation remained hidden in the shadows until the year of release. Another big difference between the games is that everyone loved this one! It was a huge success with both critics and players!
I watched both 'Alien' and 'Aliens' in preparation for looking at Colonial Marines the other day, so I'm in a bit of an Alien mood right now. The thing is though, I'm coming from the perspective of someone who's never gotten on with survival horror games, doesn't like pure stealth, hates replaying levels, and doesn't appreciate too much of a challenge, so the game might not be the perfect fit for me. On the other hand it was a Christmas present from someone who reads the site and I kind of know a couple of people employed at Creative Assembly so I can't actually say anything bad about the game. I'm sure you understand.
But It's a first person sci-fi game with amazing visuals and critical acclaim practically across the board, so chances are that I'm going to end up liking it. I'll give it a couple of hours either way, sharing my thoughts as I go.
BEWARE OF SPOILERS FOR THE GAME AND MAYBE THE MOVIES TOO I DUNNO.
(Click screenshots to view them at a very reasonable 1920x1080 resolution with all the graphics on high.)
Straight away it's clear what they're going for with the game, and that's to make it look it takes place inside a 1979 sci-fi movie. And they even remembered to reveal the A L I E N logo slowly instead of just impatiently slapping the title across the screen!
official site to print out and put up on your wall. Even this game's patch notes are an event!
The game recommends starting on Hard mode, while my brain's trying to talk me into going with Novice. When I'm writing up a game I always go with the normal average default difficulty though, so I'll be playing on Medium.
Oh by the way there's also an equally single-player Survivor Mode here separate to the story, which features challenges and time limits and probably should be saved until you've played a fair bit of the game. So I'll leave that for now.
Samuels keeps talking and eventually comes across the codeword to get Ripley's attention, after he explains that he's here because he knows where she can find the flight recorder of her mother's ship, the Nostromo. He's arranged transport on a courier ship to Sevastopol station with another exec to collect the recorder, and offers her a chance to come along so that she might find some closure. Also there's probably some nefarious other reason, but there's no hint of what it could be yet.
You wouldn't mistake this as a deleted scene from 'Alien', but this is an A-grade video game cutscene in my opinion. I mean I'd watch this movie. It's a far cry from the clichéd briefing at the start of Colonial Marines. Oh, also it's 100% skippable.
Speaking of things that don't look like the movie, this room doesn't look like the hypersleep chamber in the movie. It's really close, but the Nostromo's sleep chamber was pure white, without the dark floor or the computers on the walls. Which makes a lot of sense really, because this isn't the Nostromo.
It really annoys me when movies and games show little interest in replicating the style of the source material (especially if the source is any good), so I can definitely appreciate the effort that has gone into making this look so authentic.
Oh, I've just realised another aspect in which Isolation is superior to Colonial Marines: Ripley actually has some legs down there if you look down. No trousers yet, but we're working on that. My current objectives are "Explore the Torrens" and "Get dressed", which is a little weird to me because who would buy an Alien game and then not explore the ship? If you have to tell a player to explore, then something's gone wrong.
Anyway, I only stopped by to check out how the place looked, and because it was one of the objectives programmed into my brain when I woke up. I have to talk to his colleague as well, but I've forgotten their name. Hang on, there has to be a way to pull up my goals.
OH SHIT, I have a map! A proper map, that's awesome. The corridors look very different to the ones on the Nostromo, but the layout of A Deck seems pretty much the same. Uh, not that I've been checking blueprints or anything...
I'm playing with an Xbox 360 controller by the way, so ignore the text across the bottom of the screen. It switches over to showing the keyboard commands whenever I hit the screenshot key, which is exactly what you want really.
I can't choose to talk to people on board, but if they have anything to say they start up a conversation as I'm walking around the room. I'd say jumping around the room, but the game's denied me jumping privileges because jumping isn't scary. The lip synch on the NPCs isn't the best in the world, but creepy doll people are scary so I'll give them a pass there.
Anyway there was no dinner scene, but we all met up on the bridge to see the ship approach Sevastopol station. You'd think with all the chairs around this place there'd be a good sized crew on this ship, but besides us three passengers there's only two people flying the thing.
I don't much want to leave this cosy alien-free ship and neither does Taylor, but they're not going to just throw this flight recorder over to us. In fact they're not even answering us, which means we're going to have to make a spacewalk over to the airlock to get inside.
A FEW SECONDS LATER.
This place reminds me so much of BioShock that I keep expecting a splicer to come around the corner and try to bash my brains out, but there's nothing. My current objective is to 'find help' but I'm apparently alone down here.
This is the kind of disaster movie antics I felt was missing from Colonial Marines; a bit of that Half-Life-style 'crawling around behind the walls' action, getting around damaged hallways and locked doors. I like how they've actually bothered to put some lights in here as well, instead of having the vent lit by magic like a lot of other games. It's all proper dynamic lighting as well, which I found out after I head-butted the bulb by accident along the way.
Oh, plus the vents have the same kind of iris hatches on them as in the movie!
There's no checkpoints or quicksaves, or even regular phones for me to use, just save phones. Still, it could've been worse: I could've had to wait for it to save to a cassette tape like the icon on the top right suggests, and if you've ever tried that before you know how horrific that is.
Fallout 3 vibes from this computer terminal I've found. I feel like I'm exploring a Vault right now, except I can't run outside and buy more supplies when I get into trouble. To be honest though I feel like there's only so many times you can investigate the downfall of a community before it starts getting a bit repetitive.
One thing that's interesting is that the station was run by the Seegson Corporation, not Weyland-Bloody-Yutani for once, though it looks like they hired the same interior designer that worked on the Nostromo. So I get to find out how an entirely different corporation screwed everything up I guess.
I honestly wasn't expecting this cinematic horror experience to have a crafting system, but I probably should've realised that bringing up the menu wouldn't pause the game. To be honest it seems strange and out of place to have such a video gamey feature in an otherwise immersive horror simulator. Anyway I have a medikit now, but I'm going to hold off from using it for a bit as I don't know how much it heals and I don't want to waste it on a grazed elbow.
It seems that the level designer has chosen to use the Left 4 Dead style of environmental storytelling here, where they just write the story all over the environment. Not that I can judge the survivors for noting down every stray thought that's crossed through their mind, as I'm just starting my third page of notes here myself, but I hope if I'm ever trapped on a decommissioned space station I hope I can manage to come up with something a little more insightful or wry than this.
Hey, I am in that aforementioned situation! Where's all the spray cans at? Why don't I have a Duke Nukem Forever-style drawing minigame to scribble my thoughts across the walls?
Oh by the way those glowing light boxes over on the right that look nothing like map terminals are actually map terminals that I can use to update my auto-map! But if I did that then they'd turn off and there'd be nothing left to light up the graffiti.
Wait... I just saw something. A prompt flashed up on screen for a moment, but then disappeared again. This has happened a few times now, and it means that I have to retrace my steps and look at everything I may have glanced at earlier, searching for the item I can interact with.
Ah, there you go, I can move this orange vacuum cleaner thing out of the way of the vent by pressing a button hidden around the back of it.
ONE HOUR INTO THE GAME.
Oh I also found an audio diary on the floor revealing very little about what happened down here. It's fine though, I can guess. Or just read it off the walls I suppose. Audio diaries are far more common in this than they were in Colonial Marines, and the game's kind enough to let me access them in my menu at any time.
Now that I've got maintenance jack on my team, I can finally get some of these doors open. Not the ones that need the power restored, or a passcode, or a keycard, or an ion torch, or a plasma torch, or... but some of the doors. It's a bit Metroid with its gating. In this case to open the door I have to hold both triggers, then pull the left stick across to mimic the act of grabbing the handle with both hands and turning the wrench. It's a very Fahrenheit way of interacting with things, David Cage would approve.
I had to do something like this earlier to turn a power generator on as well. The game likes to give me tasks to complete that leave me out in the open, helpless, with my back turned to all the nasty things creeping around in the dark.
The blue lens flare might seem a bit 'J.J. Abrams', but it's actually faithful to the look of the first 'Alien' movie; that film's all about the lens flares. It's also about an evil monster picking people off one by one, which apparently has been going on here too according to my new friend. Not a huge shock I know.
I just came across a security access tuner device lying next to a locked door, which was convenient, but I need to find a data cell to fix the thing before I can hack the door open. I'm pretty sure I could sneak around up here if I'm quiet, but this is a pretty big room and I don't know which way... SHIT, they've seen me!
I'm hoping I can outrun them, as I'm not sure where I could hide up here. Oh, never mind, they shot me twice in the blink of an eye and now I've reloaded back at the last save phone.
SEVERAL TRIES LATER.
Right, I need to think this through and work out a plan. If the rows of chairs in there are too small to hide behind, and I can't sprint through, then I need to lure the looters out of this massive room into somewhere more manageable. There's a vent behind me, so I'll try hitting the wall a few times with the jack to get their attention, then duck inside out of sight and watch to see what they do. Maybe I can get them all to walk right past me without any unpleasant confrontations.
SEVERAL DEATHS LATER.
You're just so determined to shoot me aren't you? I'm a harmless engineer with a rescue ship waiting outside for me to call, who just happens to have the skills to fix the security tuner and get that locked door open for you, but don't try talking to me or anything! I guess I'm just far too scary for your group of well armed psychopaths.
Well if you want to run up close and stick a Space-Desert Eagle in my face, fine, that's good, it means I can introduce you to my good friend Maintenance Jack!
I'm just swinging this wrench wildly now, killing whoever I can, then ducking back behind the wall to use a medikit and wait for the next pair to come around the corner. I've tried this a few times now, getting an extra kill each time before catching a bullet, so I reckon I can actually pull this off with a bit of luck.
Do I eventually get past the looters? Does the xenomorph ever make an appearance in this Alien game? You'll have to click this link to find out: Part two.