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Oct. 21 2014
Alien: Isolation - PS4 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
10/10/2014FiveStarSegaThe Creative Assembly1None
Media HDD Install Resolution Touchpad PS4 Exclusive OFLC Rating

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H.R. Geiger's alien design is gorgeous.
One of the most loved movie franchises of all time is Alien and with it one of the most horrifying creatures ever devised. With the H.R. Geiger designed xenomorph providing the ultimate frights it's not surprising the franchise has spawned a large number of video games, but Sega's Alien: Isolation looks to be different with a focus on suspense and tension rather than all- out action.

Alien: Isolation is set in 2137, fifteen years after the events that take place with Ellen Ripley on the Nostromo in Alien... Now, Ripley's daughter Amanda, who works for Weyland-Yutani like her mother before her, continues to search for the truth behind her mother's disappearance. Amanda is soon on the space station Sevastopol to find the flight recorder of Nostromo however the station has been infiltrated by an alien and Amanda is soon confronted on all sides by a panicked, desperate population and the unpredictable, ruthless Alien.

If ever there was a game that could be described as a "slow burn" this is it. It took us almost 2 hours for us to our first encounter with the alien besides a brief cut-scene a little earlier, but that's not a bad thing and this is a pretty lengthy game to complete. Indeed Alien: Isolation is a very different experience with similarities to the suspenseful Alien film rather then the action-packed sequel, Aliens. This game is all about stealth; hiding from the Alien and making as little noise as possible is key to progress, failure and you will die and yes, you will die a lot in Alien: Isolation but fortunately there are a lot of save points littered around the levels.

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Using a molotov cocktail.
This isn't a game with just the Alien to be mindful of however with both androids and humans also potentially dangerous to Amanda's well being. Best of all though, if you encounter humans you can listen to conversations and determine if they are a threat, or would welcome you. If the former setting off a Flashbang or Noisemaker will see the Alien come to investigate, and in doing so take out the enemy humans for you - although it's pretty advisable to find a decent hiding spot or you'll also end up in impaled on the alien's tale or looking directly into his mouth! Fortunately it's possible to hide in cupboards and cabinets, under desks or behind objects.

There are some short diversions from the stealthy corridor based gameplay - at one point you'll return to the original alien mother ship with the Space Traveler, and see how the alien got onto the ship, there are some puzzles to solve (mostly involving turning on power circuits, turning on air purification systems to clear toxic gasses, or some mini-games to hack into terminals or doors).

One can't talk about this game without talking about enemy AI. While the humans are pretty standard for any game, and the androids are pretty robotic (as they should be), but it's the Alien which shines. The developers have spent a considerable time ensuring the creature acts excatly as one would expect and his actions are completely randomised - he will not follow a set path, and he will not behave the same at all times. Not only does he react to sound, but also sight; throw a flare and he will investigate, move around and he will spot you and head straight for you.

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The flame thrower; gorgeous and one of the few weapons the alien avoids.
As a stealthy game weapons aren't the focus in this game, or at least there's no pulse rifles, rocket launchers or grenade. As you traverse the levels however you will pick up items which can be used to craft items - EMP's to disrupt androids, Noisemakers to create sounds to attract enemy attention, Molotov Cocktails, Flashbangs and more. It wouldn't be an alien game without flares to light the darkened corridors and they are present too. There are actually a few weapons; a pistol, a shotgun and flamethrower.

One neat aspect of this game which we were unable to try was the effect of the PS4's camera. If you make a noise when playing the alien will hear it and, you can even look around corners by moving your head which the camera will pick up.

Beyond the main campaign mode this release includes a Survivor Mode which sees you trying to escape an area being searched by the alien in the shortest time possible, with some side objectives to complete such as collecting ID cards, locking down doors, deleting system data or much more. It's a pretty good mode which could add some longevity to the release, and also provides online Leaderboards. If anything this mode is even scarier then the main game and will have the hairs standing up on the back of your neck as the alien comes racing towards you and you have limited supplies.

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Androids often try to stop Amanda.
There really isn't a lot to complain about with this game but if we are to nitpick it would be that there is a bit of backtracking in this game which, with the Alien always lurking around - well, for a lot of the game anyway - means it's often slow moving around the ship and can become tiresome. It's also a little annoying how often you will die. It's fine to die a few times in a game, perhaps a few dozen, but I died well over a hundred times before the end credits rolled and that's a lot of restarting from save points. There's even a trophy for completing the game without dying - but I guarantee you'll be saving at every opportunity to achieve that!

My other complaint is one I can level at the whole industry and it relates to the pre-order DLC. Those who pre-ordered Alien: Isolation received either one or two missions featuring the original crew - yes that includes Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. That, to us, is a massive incentive to pre-order, but to those who didn't you will be handing over more cash for what is, for Alien fans (and let's face it, that is anyone interested in this game really), a massively exciting prospect.

This release also fails to feature any multiplayer modes, either competitive or co-op. Now we understand that the developers want to focus on the single player experience, and for that we can see where the effort has gone, but this franchise is perfectly suited to some multiplayer modes. Imagine a Deathmatch or CTF styled game where you are not only battling each other, but any noise made could also attract the attention of the alien. Now that's a multiplayer mode... which sadly isn't here.

Alien: Isolation runs at 1080p and uses a custom engine developed for the game. We have to say that overall we were a little underwhelmed by the title with some visuals that can hardly be described as earth shattering on Sony's new console. Indeed even the cut-scenes pause and stutter at times - why is it that the developers couldn't pre-render the cut-scenes and stream them off the Blu-Ray disc? It's puzzling and disappointing.

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Note the depth of field, focus on the motion tracker or action.
What does impress with the visuals in Alien: Isolation is the authenticity to the Alien universe with the developers capturing the aesthetics of the films - the sterile looking corridors, the old-school styled green computer screens, and of course H.R. Geiger's wonderful Alien design. The game also has a grainy, deliberately imperfect VHS styled look to the Fox logo as well as scenes showing ship exteriors. Indeed 20th Century Fox provided the developers with a swag of assets including set photos and notes, as well as original sound recordings and soundtrack.

For all the visual prowess the Alien films and games have always resonated due to the audio. Be it the pings from the motion tracker, the old-school computer systems, the squeal from the alien about to chase you down, the alarm systems or the weapons this game has it all. Well, OK, so there's no Pulse Rifle's that we love from the films and many other games, but this game has everything else. Dialogue is effectively handled as well as the music which includes not only the original score, but additional cues not used in the film however the music really is kept to a minimum as it should be.

What elevates this game above the mundane is the way in which surround sound is so effectively used so you can track the alien simply by the audio - you will hear him in the air vents above, or moving around rooms looking for either yourself as Amanda, or other human inhabitants.

Kudos to The Creative Assembly for taking such a risk with this game, not with regard to the Alien license, but to create a game which is such a slow paced game that takes two hours to even see the primary enemy. That's not a bad thing, in fact Alien: Isolation is a remarkably effective game in conveying the suspense that made the original film such a hit. Definitely worth checking out.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSThis looks and feels just like the Alien film, but it's not a great looking PS4 game overall. Cut-scenes are less then perfect.
SOUNDFor us, audio in the Alien films has been a key to building atmosphere, and that holds true here. Brilliant surround sound will have you panicking!
GAMEPLAYIt's a slow-burn beginning (almost 2 hours before you see the alien!), but this ramps up becoming an engrossing, stealthy game, occasionally action packed game that doesn't rely on guns.
VALUEYou'll die - a lot - which extends the game length, but there's still considerable content. No multiplayer limites life.
OVERALLAlien: Isolation isn't for those looking for an Alien inspired shooter, but for those looking for a true Alien experience like the original Ridley Scott film need look no further.

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