Alien: Isolation is not a horror game. It’s a masterful experiment in tension and unpredictability.
Alien: Isolation should have been named Alien: Tension. It’s unpredictable, beautiful to look at and fun to play. The fact that The Creative Assembly managed to dig themselves out of the boring rut that is the Total War series and make something like this, something completely different, is just worthy of applause. Thanks guys, Alien: Isolation is now among the survival horror greats. It’s revitalizing the genre, rebranding it to survival tension, and can easily be described as something like the video game equivalent of 28 Days Later. Which probably means we’ll get one good sequel and countless shitty hacks trying to cash in on the new craze.
Fuck cheap jump scares, give us atmosphere. Fuck numerous unnecessarily elaborate monstrosities, give us a single scary God.
Alien: Isolation is one of the first AAA entries in the now trendy video game revival wave of survival horror. Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within is out too and I haven’t played it yet, but in the long run I feel like it will fail to hold up as well because it relies on pure horror and not pure tension like Alien: Isolation. Players do not want to be scared, they just want to be kept at the edge of their seats. Fuck cheap jump scares, give us atmosphere, fuck numerous unnecessarily elaborate monstrosities, give us a single scary God. This formula has worked for thousands of years in real life, why shouldn’t it work in interactive entertainment? Monotheism, bitch!
The Alien in Alien: Isolation basically is a God. It can’t be killed and it can’t be wished away. However, it can be intimidated (by a flamethrower, obviously it’s just like Jesus and his dad), it can be avoided (not easy) and it can be ignored (not smart). It’s omnipresent, and it seems omnipotent and indestructible. The stellar sound design will make sure you never forget that the fucking thing is always upon you, rattling the vents and ready to descend on your frail carcass like a deformed hyper sensitive eagle on a plump fluffy bunny. The fact that the game designers decided to have such a powerful presence in the game is commendable and since the Alien’s movements are randomized it adds an element of utter confusion.
There’s more than a single Xenomorph in Alien: Isolation. There are numerous defunct droids with surprisingly lovable but terrifying personalities and several boring human characters which people simply won’t care about. They will manage to piss you off because their actions make no sense even if the human AI, as it should be, is just as scared of the Alien and the droids as the player. “Why are you fighting me actual human NPCs? Let’s team up and live together!”, I cried. And then was promptly shot in the face by a human NPC wielding a revolver. It wouldn’t upset me that much if the revolver wasn’t a fucking useless weapon that can only be used to shoot down other humans.
Alien: Isolation is one of the games that will mark 2014. It’s an excellent high budget title and a game that that builds on its IP. It’s a memorable throwback to the origins of the series and it has a hilariously lovable and relatable protagonist which is the only in-game human with hints of actual grayscale human traits. Play this game.