2014/12/14

Alien Isolation: hold your pants tight

Hey Hey,

Wow, I feel like its been a decade since my last post, ...but creating your own start-up takes a helluva lot of time!


That said, I've found some time to play to the new release of the Alien franchise: Alien Isolation. I'm a super big fan of any Alien related stuff....I've played every single game there is: From the Amstrad CPC versions (here and here), to every single PC game that came to my hands:

Old school baby, who cares where I'm aiming, die you dumb Alien!

See that guy? That means you'll die in the next 2 seconds

Remember that jumping map? Yeah...me too
Mounting a GoPRO inside an Alien's mouth? Awesome

Inter-species love? Don't think so

You can say I'm a big fan of the Universe created by Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger so I was expecting the new Alien:Isolation release anxiously, specially considering that latest PC Alien related games were quite crappy, to be honest. The only exception would be the Aliens vs Predator 1 & 2 from 1999-2001, specially the first one.

Alien Isolation

So here we are with a new version of the Alien franchise. Alien isolation, for those who haven't heard of it, the main character is Amanda Ripley, daughter of our beloved Ellen Ripley, and the main plot (no spoilers here) points to getting the black box from he Nostromo ship that is within the Sevastopol station. This black box could provide a clue about what happened to the Nostromo crew and to Amanda's mother.

Sevastopol in all its glory, better get used to it
I won't go into details about graphics, gameplay, etc, I'll just say that this game is a master piece from that perspective, and even if you don't like or never cared about Alien games, this one is worth your time.

Now let's see why I think this game is awesome, step by step.

Atmosphere

It has been years probably since I've played a game in which I feel absorbed by the atmosphere such as this one. The recreation of the original Alien universe can be depicted everywhere you go....door controls, corridors, buttons, screens, monitors...the whole lot. 

Isn't this familiar? I had nightmares with those corridors :D
This feeling of overwhelming immersion is even bigger in those levels where the "creature" is lurking you, but overall, even those that feel more "relaxed" where only human or droids are a real menace are incredibly detailed. Thus, level designs are simply awesome, and more than once you'll need to revisit some places due the contained dimensions of the Sevastopol station and the game duration (main plot took me about 25 hours to complete), but you never have the feel of "been here already, this is boring", the plot is consistent and makes you feel like you need to do that, although you just want to get pass that level quick. Simply put, there is no place safe enough to feel comfy for too long.

Fear

Talking about fear when it comes to a videogame can be a subject of discussion, but in this case, its justified. This is specially true until the first encounter with the "creature".

Crouching and motion-tracking, better get used to it

This is probably because whenever you face the creature, unless you have some kind of "weapon", you're screwed, plain and simple. The Alien is so fast, strong and lethal that any attempt to "kill it" is useless. Hence, is all about hide & seek. The games warn you to don't run very often, and I say, don't you EVER run. If you need to run, the Alien will spot you YES or YES, and then you're done. Use distraction, caution, crouch, walk silently, but don't you ever RUN if the Alien is stalking nearby. 

You gonna spend a lot of time in one of those

Another reason for being scared most of the time is the fact that hiding won't save you either. You will spend a lot of time inside closets, boxes, under tables, etc. But one essential fact remains...the Alien will find you eventually. This urgent feeling of "can't stay here for too long" is stressing. And that's what the game is about...make you feel uneasy...scared in one word.

There are many situations in which you have to manipulate some sort of device while the Alien is hunting you down. That, added to the complexity of using this device will become like a lot of "lucky run" trials. You will die in this game, a lot, and you better save whenever you have the chance. Man it was ages since I played I game where finding a saving spot made me feel so lucky. Its simply very hard to find a game like this nowadays.

Sound

The sound (or sounds) in this game are simply over-the-top. To really feel the difference I'd recommend using a 5.1 or 7.1 surround system, and in case you don't have one, use some set of nice gaming headphones that simulate that the best way possible. A big plus is to use the ButtKicker too, there is lot of humming, scratching that if you feel them in you butt will make you jump on the chair (I promise, this happened to me).

Tunnels, not a safe place really

This is specially true whenever you jump into a ventilation tunnel and you feel surrounded by all sort of sounds that come from the outside, and you feel that the Alien might be coming in any minute. In other places, the most scaring sound you'll face is the Alien foot steps running in the vent system. Whenever you hear that, hide or run, the Alien is very close. 

The sound design is plain and simple amazing, even when you go out to space within a spacesuit, the only thing you hear is your own breath, and then you're missing all the noises and sounds that made you feel uneasy within the station. The beeping from the motion tracker gets a bit annoying sometimes, but it is a life saver, and most of the times you're so scared you won't care about it.

A.I.

This deserves a special chapter by itself because I'm still amazed with the Alien A.I. most of the times. I've played many many games, and most of them, increase difficulty by two means mostly: lower your HP, damage, etc. or increasing the enemies one to a point where is very hard to kill them. But, unless some exceptions, all enemies tend to follow a movement pattern or you can infer the behaviour by simply stare at them for some time.

Well, that is not the case with the Alien creature in this game. Whenever the Alien is "patrolling" looking for you, there is no pattern, it will change the places where it looks randomly, pretty much like a person would do when looking for someone. That, added to the very possible situation in which the Alien spots you or listens some noise you made, make it simply impossible to determine the next move of the creature. That said, this is one of the points that increases the difficulty a lot, and the most rewarding when you're able to move from one place to another not being hunted down.


Final words

This is just a great game, I'd suggest you go there and buy it right away, but I must recon this game is no for everyone...unless you're expecting to feel OK with feeling overwhelmed by the Alien most of the times and dying a LOT of times, then go for it...otherwise go and play Colonial Marines or similar :D.

Besides, the game comes with some curious game types where you'll have to face the Alien to reach some place, some sort of survival mode that you play with other characters than Amanda. It's worth a try and its good fun too. If you really liked the game then good news, because there is going to be an expansion in which you play with the original Nostromo crew! Yeah, you heard that right, Ellen Ripley is coming back to our screens! Can't wait to get my hands on it.

Go, Ripley, Go!

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