Sunday, 15 November 2015

HALLOWEEN 2015: Alien Isolation

For halloween-ish time this year, we like to play a scary game. Or at least a kind of unsettlingly weird game. Sometimes it's kind of about jizz or mutant babies, like I dunno if that's part of the criteria now? ANYWAY, a lot of people this year have been telling me to play Alien Isolation and that it's really super duper scary. I wasn't really sure I wanted to play anything as scary as Amnesia: The Dark Descent ever again in my life, but... here we are. Oh, and I'm taking you down with me, Tobes.

Lens flares and generators: This game in a nutshell.

Dipping in, it becomes immediately noticeable that Amanda is drunk. Her movements bob and sway so strongly, and her vision blurs almost instantly. If I’m going to play this, I’m going to have to turn as much of this stuff off, or I’ll be puking my chest poppers out.

OK first up, why am I Ripley’s hot, silky-haired big-lipped Lara Croft-esque daughter? ARE WE STILL NOT DONE WITH PRETTY GIRLS WITH BROWN PONYTAILS AS FEARFUL AND RESOURCEFUL SURVIVORS?

Morning Rips. You uh.. you wearing that to the meeting?

Am I in a dream because I CAN’T FIND MY CLOTHES.

That sounds like one of your dreams alright.

I stumble across my ship, and meet the crew. Samuels is the first I met, and he appears to be robot going by his stiff movements and unconvincing human expressions. Samuels is going to be the straight talker of the gang, I’m guessing. He is very matter of fact and his purpose seems to simply be to pet you on the head and tell you you’re special. Next is Taylor, who has a similar robotic demeanour. I’m going to guess that unless everyone is going to be a robot, this is just going to be what I’m going to have to deal with. Taylor is the token fish out of water who’ll flip out a lot.There’s also a captain and a …-nother person, but they feel so unnoteworthy and throw-away, that I don’t think they need elaborating on.

hnngh don't... try the freeze-dried lasagne....

I appear to be in doom 3 again. I mean, the graphics are a lot more crisp but it’s definitely doom 3. I’m wandering about a ship turning generators back on and listening to voice recording logs for codes to enter storerooms and oh look there’s a flashlight and an AI buddy who asks you to follow him.

Welp I died already. Walked backwards and bumped into a dude with a gun. In my defense I don’t play a lot of stealth games.

So this is where my descent into madness started. There’s like this big room where you have to walk from one end to the other, which triggers a bunch of humans to appear. All of these humans have guns and will try to kill me for no apparent reason at all. If you get spotted, you basically die and have to start over. Having done this about 7 times in a row, I looked up a Youtube video on how other people do it, and after a few more times I made it through it.

Oh, hello there. Are you using that save spot? I'll come back later.

After a little bit of wandering around you are basically introduced to the titular ‘alien’. It drops down from the ceiling and walks away. In spite of the spoopy music, and incidental sound effects, you’re pretty safe and asked to make it all the way back to that one big room again. Now you are competing against the humans and a bonus alien. Having failed this same stupid room a few more times, my patience ran out. It was becoming tedious and annoying and I didn’t get what I was doing wrong, and the game gave me headaches as an added bonus. I threw in the towel, and wish Allie the best. More like Allie-n Isolation.

Oh geez. It’s all up to me. On the plus side, so far it’s not been particularly… scary? Like, a lot of people were telling me this game was easily as scary as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and I was expecting to have kind of a bad time in that regard, but.. so far it seems more like Doom 3, or like, what I imagine any standard stealth game to feel like. Maybe I lack a certain kinda… xenophobia(heh) that other people have to find aliens and space themes scary? Or maybe Amnesia has toughened me up? Or maybe it’s because this game is UTTERLY PREDICTABLE with all of its set piece jumpscares, token disasters, and whatnot.

You mentioned several times that a large chunk of this game is not actually about any alien. So what do you do if you aren’t being hunted by a xenomorph?

Mate, let me tell you, mate. It’s all about those Working Joes, mate. This game is padded out with shambling androids with slow melee attacks and conveniently simplified AI. These guys are patrolling all over the large parts of the game where there’s no alien, muttering status updates and gently choking you to death. I’m actually starting to find them kind of endearing. Could it be…. oh, yep, I’ve gone insane. Not from fear mind you, just from like getting electrocuted, choked, inhaling fumes, and crouching in vents banging my head against the portable radar waiting for everyone to just leave the PISSING ROOM ALREADY AAAAHHH!!!


The crux of the story is basically to board a ship that has information on what happened to your mum in the first Alien movie. When you arrive, you quickly learn the data you wanted to recover is destroyed. Amanda should have just rented a DVD or Netflix’d it.

Yo, so, I did it! I beat the game! It was roughly everything you anticipated plot-wise but with 70% more tedious setbacks, slow walking sections and killer robots. I’ve noticed that the protagonist keeps being outraged at how quickly her comrades are willing to sacrifice and endanger her and the other peeps in order to nuke the alien threat. Here’s the thing though… I’m squarely on team 'Detonate everything and get in the smallest possible escape pods and then burn up the escape pods and then get a cat scan and shave your head and break up with your boyfriend and clean your fridge and have like a really really hot shower.' Fuck Amanda, everything’s going to blow up anyway I guarantee it. It’s an Alien game.

Human. Don't you know how to greet a new pal? (sorrysorryasgsdg)

That seems like a fair guess. There’s a bunch of tropes in the game that you can immediately spot and expect. It seems like it goes counter-intuitive to the horror theme and atmosphere, if you know what to expect. I guess my two question are:
1) Would the game be more effective as a horror game if it wasn’t part of the Alien franchise?
2) Is it good as an Alien game?

1) No. If it wasn’t an Alien franchise game, it would be Doom 3: stealth and hacking edition. So many video games are BASICALLY Alien, that I’m not sure the title matters. Can there be a more effective horror game set in space? Probably. I still haven’t played Dead Space or SOMA. And there’s that ‘Routine’ in the works. Remember that?
2) Yeah. But Super Metroid is a better Alien game. ;)

Y’know, in spite of all our rampant bitching, the game has a good quality feel to it, and it deserves some respect for indeed not compromising its survival/stealth themes by keeping things fairly relentless and stressful. It has these manual save spots where you can get ganked while waiting for the game to save. It has an array of hacking minigames and QTE things that are amusing enough. You feel against the odds to the very end. Wasn’t very scary though.

Like I'm scared of something with straighter teeth than me.

I give this game a WoOoOoOoO(did i scare you? no? ok.)/10

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