Holy crap, there’s no fire button in Alien Isolation. The alien, all three metres of it, lurches towards me after reacting to my footsteps, narrowing my options with every sickening thud of its tread. Using every bit of FPS training I have, I mash all the shoulder buttons on the DualShock 4, hoping for an ironsight. A super-soaker. Something. But those skills won’t save me here – I was never supposed to kill the alien, just survive. I got reckless, and now without any means of defence I’m going to get dead. I can’t stop grinning with delight.
Alien Isolation gameplay hands on
Alien: Isolation, a first-person horror from PC strategy specialists Creative Assembly, is the Alien game you’ve always wanted to play. And I don’t say that lightly – Gearbox’s bombastic Colonial Marines show floor presentations, empty promises and “we’re all really big fans of the movie” platitudes are still ringing in my ears as well as yours. So it’s natural to be cautious – cynical, even – about the IP, but if you’re looking for a firm indication that Creative Assembly’s vision is something to believe in, consider this: they let me go hands-on with it straight away during the reveal at its Sussex HQ, before anyone uttered the word ‘authenticity’ or showed us any ‘target footage’. Also, I don’t know if I mentioned this earlier, but there’s no fire button.
This isn’t a shooter any more than its source material – the original 1979 movie, Alien – is an action flick. No, it’s a first-person survival horror game – an unbearably tense round of cat and mouse between yourself and a nine-and-a-half foot xenomorph in an abandoned space station. An adventure that “takes you back to the roots of the original series, to Ridley Scott’s haunted house in space”, creative lead Alistair Hope tells us.
You play as Amanda Ripley, a Weyland-Yutani engineer with some lingering mummy issues since Ellen and the rest of the Nostromo crew disappeared without trace 15 years ago. Isolation’s narrative arc begins with a chance of some closure for poor Amanda when the Nostromo’s flight recorder is found at the decrepit Sevastopol space station. Company execs Samuels and Taylor inform her of its existence, and recruit her for the recovery mission. The three trek across space, secure the black box without incident, and return in time for freeze-dried, dehydrated space supper.
No handy pulse rifles lying around, then.
Just a motion tracker, a flashlight and a
melee attack that looks too weak-wristed
to finish off a kitten in one go
Except, of course, they don’t. This is a videogame, silly. Something dreadful happens that separates Amanda from the others, leaving her alone (hey, I just got the title!) on a mysteriously abandoned space station with your friend and mine, the alien. It’s a situation she’s “underpowered and unprepared” for, as Hope puts it. No handy pulse rifles lying around, then – just a motion tracker, a flashlight and a melee attack that looks too weak-wristed to finish off a kitten in one go. The underpowered and unprepared vibe certainly resonates as I’m dropped into a level set midway through the game – along with the sense, even before I pick up the controller, that just maybe someone finally understands how to make a good game within the much-loved Alien universe.
That feeling is cemented during the torturous-but-exhilarating 15 minutes that follow. Things start serenely – I’m alone in a corridor as a line of lights flash on one-by-one, showing off some awfully pretty specular lighting and particle effects as dust dances around in the beams. Samuels breaks the silence, radioing in to urge me further into the unknown. Begrudgingly, I teeter forwards into what feels like Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie set. Fans of the movie will feel instantly familiar within the first few impeccably matched corridors: those odd padded walls, a colour palette of creams, greys and gold, and dozens of extraneous flashing lights and CRT monitors. Each element has been expanded into a new setting without feeling tacked-on or copy-and-pasted.
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