Title: Alien: Isolation
Developer: Feral Interactive
Publisher: SEGA Europe Limited
Genre: Action, Horror
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 5/12/2019
Price: £29.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Alien as a franchise can take you all the way back to 1979 with the original theatrical release directed by Ridley Scott based on an original story created by Dan O’Bannon. It was met with Box Office and critical acclaim and spiralled into a franchise that has stood the test of time for 40+ years, with a cult following to boot. However, I would argue only the original film Alien, is truly a horror. It builds a tremendous state of tension and audibly scores the most anxious 117 minutes of any science fiction movie I know. Alien: Isolation creates that same feeling. A tension that’s hard to replicate and a claustrophobic sense of confinement that spans its 20-30 hours. Actually this particular version of the game is likely to take significantly more time to fully complete. As a port of the 2014 version released on both Xbox One and PS4, its fully loaded with all seven DLC’s released during this time, including two missions on The Nostromo and the original setting of the film.
The game is stylised and clearly directly inspired by the 1979 classic, with special guest star voices from the original cast, including the return of Sigourney Weaver herself as the voice of Ellen Ripley.
Aboard The Sevastopol
The protagonist in this story is Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen and set 15 years after the events in the first film. Since Ellen left earth little is know of the events that took place on The Nostromo. Amanda has made it her mission to discover what really happened to her mother. As luck would have it such an opportunity has presented itself for her to do just this, and to visit Sevastopol Space Station a key location that spans the entirety of the game. A series of events and unfortunate complications result in Amanda stranded on the Sevastopol, alone. Or so she thinks.
Her journey ahead is riddled with Artificial Intelligence, robots, androids and a few humans here and there. Oh and a 3 metre tall, predatory Alien solely focused on your untimely demise.
Fear The Xenomorph
It’s this particular antagonist that has the horrifying ability to make me lose all recollection of the controls for the game. Those first few times you cross paths you are swept up in this moment of panic and a compelling fear that makes the game truly a horror. It reminded me of the first moments I crossed paths with The Nemesis in Resident Evil 3, he had this illusion of overwhelming strength and unrelenting focus on my destruction. The Alien is much the same, however, unlike the Nemesis there isn’t really any way to take it down as such. Your best bet? hide. Stay low, stay quiet, hide in a locker (though not too often), distract it, be patient, and try not to cry.
The style of play is well-paced as you navigate through levels across the Sevastopol, uncovering notes and voice recordings as well as unlocking new areas that help to move the narrative along. As the game evolves and you progress there is a skill and tool building element with blueprints and parts to source that build gadgets and tools themselves. Radar is a great example of this, alerting you to locations of humans, robots and the Alien herself. In reflection, I’m not sure if this made me more or less scared when that horrifying blip popped up on the radar and I had this crucial moment to fight (hide) or flight. These moments were also crucial to quickly decide on a solution that was unlike my previous decision, as this Alien has smarts. With cleverly implemented AI it will begin to learn your hiding places and search these areas first, mixing it up and doing the unexpected is the only way to survive.
Audibly the immersion of this game is hard to replicate or compare. Yes, horror games can often do a great job of throwing you into the moment with screams in the background or howling wind, but Alien Isolation has this incredible ability to make you jump out of your skin. The sounds of a rattling air vent, a creaking door or the sound of a hissing steam pipe are atmospherically exhilarating. In fact, you know it’s good when you feel compelled to take regular breaks for a cup of tea and to pull yourself together before you dive back in. Headphones are a must!
A Visual Upgrade?
Visually I must say as someone who played the original version on PS4, it was a stunning game at its release in 2014. I anticipated some small compromises to squeeze all that content on the Nintendo Switch, but I’m flabbergasted by the work that has gone into making this a visual joy on the Nintendo Switch. My first instinct was, this looks even better, but how? Well, there’s some incredible wizardry that has taken place using Creative Assembly’s in-house tech to improve image clarity. There’s a better use of anti-aliasing with more adaptive frame-rates to improve motion replication. In summary, the frame rate doesn’t have a 1080p lock like the PS4 and Xbox One versions allowing the developer to make the right calls for the player. Another great example of pixels not being the be-all and end all of the gaming experience.
Reflections and nit-picks I do have of the game, are mostly set around the crafting model as well as some of the contextual menus the player is forced to navigate. It’s complicated and never feels natural to explore. It can be confusing creating items, and there were certainly times where it felt an absolute chore to do.
Nit-picks being the crucial word, this game is such a treat for the Nintendo Switch to finally have. It’s a true sci-fi horror classic, unquestionably the very best horror offering available on the Nintendo Switch, Rapid Review’s gold and a superb tribute to the original source material delivering justice to Ripley Scott’s classic.
Which can hardly be said of Alien: Resurrection.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy Alien Isolation from the eShop.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.