Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Alien: Isolation review: The best, most terrifying Alien experience in nearly 30 years

Hayden Dingman | Nov. 18, 2014
"This is about survival!" a thin, twitchy guy named Axel yelled in my face, and it was at that very moment I knew he was going to die.

The sad part is that all these flaws are forgivable in levels where the save system is similarly forgiving. Rather than checkpoints, Alien: Isolation makes use of a save point system. Periodically you'll run into "Emergency" call boxes in Sevastopol. You have to activate one of these boxes to save the game, a system devised to raise the tension.

It works, but only when Isolation isn't punishing you for trying to play. Certain levels are fine — an abundance of save points, coming at important intervals and establishing a just-right feeling of "will I find a call box in time?" dread. Others, you'll go twenty or thirty minutes without seeing a save point. There were multiple nights I finished playing Isolation on a low, quitting not because I'd reached a good stopping point but because I was exhausted of retreading.

Working Joe

It's not a horror game. The alien is dumb. Save points turn certain sections into a slog. You're probably thinking, "I haven't heard one real word of praise from you yet, Hayden."

Despite the title, the alien part of Alien: Isolation is the least interesting. The real star of Isolation isn't slinking around the ship — it is the ship. Sevastopol is a tour de force, from every 1970's-style computer terminal to the stupid drinking birds on people's desks. The best parts of Isolation happen when the alien disappears, giving you time to simply wander around and take in the set dressing.

And that includes the station's Working Joes, the android creations of Seegson Corporation, rival to the infamous Weyland-Yutani. "You always know a Working Joe," the androids repeat ad nauseam, and indeed you do — their creepy, glowing white eyes stare right into your soul.

Beneath the surface-level tale of Amanda Ripley, the Nostromo, and how the alien reached Sevastopol is a darker, grittier tale of corporate subterfuge and capitalism gone wrong. The alien might be more impressive visually, but the Seegson undercurrent is a far more interesting story, not least because we haven't already seen it before in this universe.

Unfortunately, Isolation is ultimately hurt by its own ambitions. With two stories running parallel plus a fairly enormous ship to explore at the speed of your fastest crouch (a.k.a. not fast) Isolation starts to really drag towards the end — and this despite the fact that it largely abandons stealth at numerous points in the latter half. I think the saddest part is there are all sorts of Metroid-style "You should come back to this later!" areas that you're most likely never going to head back to because doing so is inviting another few hours of deaths-by-alien.


Previous Page  1  2  3  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.