NOVEMBER 02, 2014

First of all, fuck this game.

As you may or may not know, I am not good with scary media. I have perfected the art of “updating my phone contacts” every time something vaguely unsettling comes on the screen. This is mainly because I have the constitution of a 5 year old girl. Video games are even worse because it’s a far more interactive sort of fear and really who has the time for that shit. I had to play Slenderman with no volume on a tiny window in the corner of my monitor with only 1/5th of it visible. Because I have a finite supply of underwear.

Now after the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines last year, you’d be forgiven for dismissing this game on principle. This is because Aliens: Colonial Marines was the gaming equivalent of the Holocaust. I dared my friend to try and finish it with me in one sitting and it was kind of like running up an infinite down escalator until you’re crying and everything hurts but you’re determined to finish it because dammit you came this far.

Aliens: Isolation is a whole different kind of game, one that perfectly recreates the world of 1979’s Alien. The interior spaceship design could be a set from the movie, complete with CRT computer monitors with green screens running DOS and the familiar beeping of the motion tracker. The audio snippets craft a fantastically familiar world. You play Ripley’s kid, Amanda, who is searching for her mother sometime between films 1 and 2.

And you are being hunted. By a xenomorph. Just one xenomorph whose mission in life is to fucking end yours. The fact that there’s only one makes it infinitely scarier, contrasted with the hordes of machine-gun fodder in Colonial Marines (I’m going to stop talking about that game now). And it has a distinct advantage because it’s a god damn Alien who will impregnate your face and you are a teenage girl armed with sparklers and a scanner. You get a gun, with like, 4 bullets, but god forbid you use those bullets because that Alien will drop from the ceiling and slice your freaking arms off. So basically, shut the fuck up and move really slowly because it can hear you. Your best battle strategy is to hide, all the god damn time, because if it sees you from across the carrier you might aswell jump out of the cargo doors into the sweet cold embrace of space. 

It’s not just oldmate Xeno (Xenoooooooo) who you have to kill, with a whole bunch of other hostiles aboard that will do their best to shoot you in the eye hole. It is superbly satisfying to unleash the alien onto a room of unsuspecting people if you can be discrete about it. The Alien will slowly learn your behaviour (it’s evolving!), so if you accidentally play a raging guitar solo and attract its attention then decide to hide in a nearby locker, it will start searching lockers one by one until it can slaughter you. I recommend playing during the day in a public place.

The game does get a lot easier, like when you learn the intricacies of that god damn motion tracker (which has a battery life and makes a loud alien-attracting noise) but mostly when you get an actual flamethrower and can gleefully scorch the alien with burning hellfire. Note: Xeno will not respond kindly to this and will still probably kill you but you can sometimes scare it off momentarily, like waving away a rabid bear with a tiny stick.

There is a pretty interesting crafting system that lets you upgrade weapons but I didn’t use it a whole lot. It’s a loooong game, probably too long, and there is a bunch of times I thought I was near the end only to find the game telling me to go screw myself because you got another 5 hours, buddy. Towards the end, there’s some Mr Miyagi Switch On/Switch Off engineering stuff that is pretty mind numbing. 

It’s meticulously well-crafted, both graphically and environmentally, and the Alien AI is unprecedented. The scares are genuine (at least at first) and the requirement to devise a strategy for each encounter makes it a rare gaming experience. But it does get stale towards the end, with the unkillable nature of Xeno becoming quite frustrating. Go away and let me finish this god damn game, buddy, you can live in the vents, I don’t even mind. Just stop following me around and bein’ all creepy. 

8/10 would play again but with the lights on