It seems that The Creative Assembly has been tasked by Sega with the question :”Why have games from the Aliens franchise failed?” With Alien: Isolation, the answer they’ve come up with is simple – drop the ‘S’ and focus on what made the original film a classic. That meant getting rid of the high-tech shooters we’ve seen in the past and instead focus on terrifying the player by making them bait for the sole Xenomorph.
But you’re probably wondering how it all works. So far, Sega have already shown us the interaction between player and Xenomorph. The radar allows players to get a vague idea of where life forms may be, but you will get a better idea should you turn to face the threat indicated. Sounds fairly primitive so far.
We were led to a darkened room where various versions of the game were on show. This was revealed to be the E3 build that introduces some dynamics that on paper may sound like they’re detracting from the original vision. I was given the ability to create tools to distract the alien to another location, or heal myself after an encounter with the newly introduced humanoid hostiles. These are usually to enabled me to lure it away from a particular objective, or alert patrols to a location where they can rendezvous with a grizzly end.
Even with these tools and the inclusion of humans and androids who react hostilely, neither detracts from the main objective – not to get eaten by the Alien. This is compounded by the fact that you can make them paranoid by merely giving yourself away before hiding. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword really because the AI will fire randomly, alerting the Xenomorph to their location. Naturally their demise is at this point inevitable, but was hiding under that table or in that closet enough? That is the constant peril that Alien: Isolation presents and the paranoia that sets in thanks to the gloomy atmosphere of the dilapidated space station is enough to put you on edge.
As I was put on the edge so many times by an Alien that loved to skulk in the ventilation shafts, it wasn’t easy to figure out what I was supposed to be doing by the time I got there. Retention of tasks is a bit more difficult when you are being constantly hunted, so when it came to hacking into a computer to unlock a safe to grab a key to unlock a door, it really became a test of nerves. Some might find that to be a hindrance, but it’s certainly in keeping with the aim of being utterly terrified.
I did get rather lucky not to have to avoid the Android on patrol while hacking terminals, but when fleeing the station it became a rather tense game of cat and mouse. When being pursued by the Xenomorph, the last thing you want is a couple of guys firing at you. I just about made it through that area, but it was certainly touch and go. Anything can set the Xenomorph on your trail, including knocking down an object.
Unbelievably tense and full of paranoia, Alien: Isolation is utterly terrifying and I love what that means! The game launches on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on October 7.
Be sure to read our interview with senior designer Gary Napper and creative lead Al Hope about the upcoming title.