Published on August 15th, 2014 | by IceCube
GLiTCH Plays: Alien Isolation
Hi guys, I’m GLiTCH and welcome to my latest preview!
I recently got a very first, private hands-on with Alien: Isolation! I’ve been looking forward to this game for a while, because SEGA appears to be (finally!) taking this franchise in the right direction.
This first-person survival horror game takes us way back o the retro-tastic vibe of the original 1979 film, Alien. It even uses the same ’70’s style computers and technology within. Set 15 years after the events of the first film (and 42 years prior to the sequel, Aliens), the game follows Amanda, who is investigating the disappearance of her mother, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver).
If you haven’t been following the trailer snippets, this isn’t your guns-blazin’, gung-ho military shooter. With the aid of new developer, Creative Assembly, SEGA have finally grasped the essential fear and intensity of sharing a floating space vessel with an unwanted Alien guest. The first time the Alien crawled out from a grate in the ceiling, the size and presence was so domineering that I nearly pooped myself.
This game is about survival, and they kept the concept simple: you and a handful of survivors versus a single alien. The aim is stealth and evasion, but the Alien is a smart hunter that can track you with sight and sound. It also moves in random directions, so you can’t study it’s movements on reset, it will be different every time.
This game is hard. Like, stupidly-ridiculous, Dark Souls hard. This is a path that a game without frequent autosaves really shouldn’t venture down. When I watch an Aliens film, I like to think that there’s a chance I could come out on top of a survival situation. Unless changes are made, or options provided, I’d confidently say it is impossible for anyone to complete this game on their first run without dying several times. So much for surviving!
I died way too many times in this demo, and I’m not a complete gaming buffoon. Twice I had to hand the controller to the dev just so I didn’t run out of time, and I felt quite incompetent and frustrated when doing so.
There are some aids available. First up, you have hiding places littered around the vessel, like under tables and inside lockers. Provided the alien doesn’t see you enter a hiding place, you should be safe enough until it stalks away, but it will pull you out of a locker if it spots you going in.
Sound plays to your advantage too, as the Alien’s heavy footsteps are perhaps the best indicator of its current whereabouts. If all goes quiet, your classic motion tracker can be raised to screen level by holding down the left trigger. Unlike in the film, it’s a very poor and inefficient tool to use, but an essential one nonetheless. The classic green LED markers and infamous ‘bleep’ sounds only give you a vague idea of where the beast and next objective is. Holding the tracker up hampers your movement, and keeping clear of the Alien requires so much focus that figuring out where to go is an afterthought. I was literally hoping that if I evaded it for long enough, I’d find myself hiding in the correct room
You have a small inventory of tools and gadgets, most notably a flashbang grenade, which temporarily stuns the Alien for a quick getaway (if thrown in front of it). There’s also flares you can light and throw, which attracts the attention of the alien. I found all the tools difficult to use effectively in the tight corridors. Sometimes I’d throw a flare towards the rough direction of the alien, but ultimately had no idea if it was chasing the flare or my fleeing footsteps. Basically, the tools were shit.
Despite the Alien’s random and unpredictable movements, it had a frustrating tendency to loiter around your current whereabouts. If it could investigate the furthest corner of the area, it wouldn’t. If it doesn’t have any reason to suspect you are even there, why doesn’t it just hunt some prey elsewhere for a short while and provide some well-earned breathing room? It will walk away, but never very far.
Your default movement is a tall walk, with the option to sneak quietly or run loudly. All of these movements feel slow, but that’s cool. When in the presence of an alien, you would feel slow.
This game has all the right ideas and it is so close to being amazing, but there needs to be some fine-tuning between balance and realism, because it’s not quite there yet. I believe Creative Assembly is confident in the current difficulty of the game, but I’m concerned it’s going to frustrate gamers to a point where they give up and miss out on all the game has to offer.
To prevent this excellent game from being tossed out of windows in anger, it really needs an Easy mode and to just chill out a little. The mode could use a faint objective marker on the screen, and more importantly, frequent autosaves, instead of the hidden savepoints found on certain walls. If I had missed just one of those wall saves and died, which I nearly did a couple of times, I might have just walked out.
The only thing worse than dying repeatedly is redoing the same motions over and over again. Replaying the same moment kills the authentic atmosphere they are trying to achieve, and by the time I watched the Alien make its debut drop from the roof for the 7th time, my fear was replaced by a disgruntled sigh.
I feel like this game is very close to being an excellent, groundbreaking Alien title, but in my opinion, the success will come down to the fine-tuning before release. Regardless of where they go from here, I love the concept of this game so much that it’s super-high on my 2014 radar. It’s one of my most anticipated games of 2014 and I’m looking forward to the final version.
For more on Alien: Isolation, stay tuned to Gamebug.com.au!