‘In space no one can hear you scream.’
Ripley has the motion detector in hand, watching the little blinking light get closer.
Her heart is pounding in fear. She has to get away. There is nothing she can do to stop the monster that hunts her. She can only escape.
It could be an Alien film, or it could be Alien Isolation.
I may be late to the pool party when it comes to Alien Isolation, but it is a game I have jumped into the deep end with.
I pulled out my PS4 camera, headphones and microphone, and braced myself for an immersive horror experience.
I was not disappointed.
The Set Up
In Alien Isolation you take on the role of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley who disappeared along with the Nostromo 15 years ago.
Amanda is an engineer in the employ of Weyland-Yutani, who is sent by the company to recover the black box of the Nostromo, which has been recovered by a space station, the Sevastopol, which is owned by rival space faring company Seegson.
Arriving at Sevastopol Ripley discovers the station has fallen into anarchy, androids are killing people under the control of a rogue AI, and there is something much worse hunting her…
You cannot kill the eponymous alien in Alien Isolation, and if it sees you it will kill you.
You have to hide, you have to creep, and you have to keep moving.
I have always loved the lo-fi aesthetic of the Alien films and the game dives deep into this aesthetic. Cathode-ray screens, and bulky industrial grade machinery fix the game firmly in the world of Ridley Scott’s classic film, long before you encounter Geiger’s classic monster.
The visuals are complemented by amazing sound design; you hear pipes dripping and the broken space station groaning as it falls apart slowly. Subtle music sets the tone of loneliness as your footsteps clang unnervingly in metal vents as you try to navigate various locked-down areas of Sevastopol. This game is best experienced with headphones.
If you play with a PS4 camera attached you can activate motion detection, which allows you peak around corners by leaning in the real world, adding to the immersion this game provides. The final level of immersion offered comes from the use of the microphone.
In a move that feels particularly tailored to trip up streamers, if you make loud noise into the microphone you can be heard in-game, which draws enemies to your location. Talking to your audience becomes an action that increases the risk to your character. It is a clever manoeuvre that adds to the difficulty for players who like to create streaming or video content out of their gameplay.
The alien is not the only enemy you face on Sevastopol. You face the aforementioned androids that are hardy but slow moving. You can out run them but running draws the alien to your location. It is best to avoid being seen by them if you can. You also face human survivors of the disaster that has struck the Sevastopol. They are faster moving than androids, much louder, and have guns. They can harm you from a distance and will regularly attract the attention of the alien by themselves. If you can hide well, the alien will kill them all for you, but once they are dead you are the next on the menu.
This game is a fun and disturbingly immersive dive into Ridley Scott’s Alien universe. You are weak and alone. You creep your way around an atmospheric space station trying to survive, with sweat trickling down the back of your neck in the real world.
If you are a fan of survival horror experiences I would recommend playing this game. If you are a fan of the alien franchise I would recommend playing this game. If you are not a fan of these things I would recommend watching a streamer play it, so you can experience the tension with a degree of separation.
This is a master class of tension building in a video games and one I am excited to complete.