Alien: Isolation Review

Alien: Isolation Review

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CIVILIAN: "I wonder what the kids are doing right now." Seeing as how I spent most of October losing  my mind, I figured it would be a good time for   a brain cleanser. Alien Isolation is a game that I  always feel like came out a year or two ago even   as time marches on. I'm not able to easily shake  that for a few reasons, but that doesn't change the  

fact that the game is now starting to age and now  getting issues from it. So I'll talk about some of   those before I get properly started. See when this  originally came out on PC, it had witchcraft levels   of optimization. I didn't have a good computer at  the time but I could run it on high with a good   frame rate. Even friends I knew with overheating  toasters could still play Alien Isolation pretty   decently. So nowadays you can push settings to  the max and still easily get triple digit frame   rates. Now typically that's usually just PC nerd  garbage not worth bringing up, but nowadays it  

runs so well that it can start messing up  how things are scripted. An item menu might   not display, even as you try to bring it up. If you  have really bad luck certain doors might not open,   but those are still pretty rare. What is common is  the sound for scripted events desyncing - when you   get caught by an enemy on the station there's a  chance that no sound will play or it'll play the   right sound just far too early or far too late.  The effect is watching a horror movie like this: You need that proper timing. The fix is easy  enough, just lock your frame rate below 100 and  

you should be good to go. And because you have  so many frames to spare you can use these. While the   game ran spectacularly the aliasing is pretty  bad, and you can't easily override the setting   like you can do in other games. So if you don't  want object edges kind of crawling around on   the screen, there's a tool called Alias Isolation.  It's a fun little name, has a simple GUI, and fixes  

most of your edging issues. Most of the jaggies  are obliterated and the game still runs great.   A little logo appears briefly on loading to let you  know it's working and that's it. There are all   kinds of engine tweaks you can do too, but nothing  really worth covering here. A lot of these become   trade-offs for other visual issues so it gets  a lot more subjective. I'll pin a link to that   tool and that covers it. So what's this all about?  Well Isolation takes place 15 years after the   original Alien movie. It relies on no knowledge of  any sequels or Predator or . . . ugh, so just the 1979 Alien  

movie and you don't have to have seen it. There's  no Ellen Ripley as she's currently in the frozen aisle in deep space, so you've got a brand new  cast and are playing a new character.  ???: "Ripley?" This is Ellen Ripley's daughter Amanda Ripley,  who I'm just going to call Ripley from now on.    A Weyland-Yutani android named Samuels informs her  that the company has found the flight recorder   from her mother's ship the Nostromo. It was  found by a freelance vessel and taken to a   freeport space station so they don't actually have  possession of it yet. Samuels will be leaving with  

a company lawyer to retrieve the find but he wants  Ripley to come along. She's an engineer but Samuels   doesn't want her on the retrieval team purely for  her skill set - instead he's offering her the spot   mainly out of compassion. SAMUELS: " I know why you're  working in the region where she went missing." SAMUELS: "You're still looking, aren't you?" SAMUELS: "I've been cleared to offer you a place on  the Torrens, if you want to come along."

SAMUELS: "Maybe there'll be some closure for you." Yeah, this will be a healing experience. I'll be just like traditional animal therapy but with a  diddle beast. Ripley sets off for the Sevastopol   station and things get heinous. The station has  gone to hell and Ripley must survive. It's a   simple story but you'd be surprised at how long  it goes on for. There are some reasons for that  

I'll get into later. Beyond that this game is  all about the atmosphere and it's one of the   best ever. From the moment you start the game the  attention to detail on display is insane. The way   lights flicker on and cascade on a dark hallway  while smoke pours down from the walls. There are   plenty of devices to interact with just for fun,  and it's clear that they're really trying to make   the world lived in. All the computers are blocky,  heavy dinosaurs - 1979's view of the future still  

included CRT monitors. The art team put in a huge  amount of effort in keeping that aspect, they were   even recording menu and UI elements onto actual  VHS tapes then putting them back into the game.   They'd pull on cables and use magnets to cause  interference and the result is the effects are   genuine. Like if you've grown up with, or seen  actual VHS tapes, you'll notice some people who  

try to replicate that style will use a digital  plugin. Which a lot do look like dog [ __ ] but   it's understandable because having a proper VHS  to digital conversion setup can be a huge pain   in the ass. There's all this equipment we need...  tapes...ehh just use an overlay. It's a tiny thing   no one would fault them for or even notice,  especially in a video game, but that's just   one example of where the ambition was at. The film  studio gave the team virtually an all-access pass   to all production assets from the Alien movie, so  beyond being better able to recreate things in a   movie like a set or a costume, they had concept  art and other ideas that might have been too   high budget for the actual movie. This meant  they had an extremely precise and authentic  

style guide because while there are homages and  little fan service "remember that" moments, they   make a ton of new environments and weapons and  technology that fits right in. The core idea was   if they reasonably could not make the technology  or prop at the time, then we won't either. Sure the   scale can be massive and impressive at times, but  you'll never see a hologram or a touch screen. What you will see are smaller details like the FEAR OF JAPAN. See in that time Japanese products were  highly esteemed. They hadn't invented EDF yet  but their consumer goods were very high quality.   

A lot of people believed that Japan could become a  superpower purely through technology and business   dealings. I mean that idea was instrumental in the  cyberpunk genre forming, I mean could you imagine   how something like Blade Runner would look without  that influence? Oh... you're here. Anyways if there's   some directional signage or an important location  marked, that better be in Japanese too.

Sevastapol shows the influence by having a capsule hotel as an option, it's not showing katanas or mechs, it's   showing how adults in the 80s might think things  could go. They're making a sci-fi game under the   layer of a period here's a throwaway  line of dialogue. AXEL: "Hey, don't move!" CIVILIAN: "Oh! Okay...okay... We're not looking for trouble. Who are you?" AXEL: "I'm John, this is Ringo." Would that Beatles joke actually land in the  future? I don't know, but if you're pretending it's   for an audience in the 80s they sure as hell get  it. Actually what year does this game take place in?  

Oh no...oh God. It's back. Ohhhh proszę nie! The art direction's incredible. It's one of those games   that seems like every hallway in every room could  be a screenshot. The quality of all the models and  

textures is complemented by how intelligently  they use the lighting. The mood and tone is set   perfectly. It's a well thought out and layered  and gorgeous realized world, in service of a   game where you hide from a big monster in a  locker sometimes. Even then what the locker   has inside of it can depend on where you are in  the station. I mean hell, there's all the detail   in the first person animations too. Which sure,  mainly has a lot of ways of opening doors, but  

there's still little bits of character here too.  Like how smoothly Ripley handles her tools.  She works in mechanics and engineering and isn't a  soldier, so when she does get a handgun and is   scared out of her mind they added a slight  trembling to the animation. It doesn't affect   your aim or anything, again, it's just a neat  little detail that adds some character. Though   reloading the revolver won't track your spent  casings accurately. This is worth pointing out   because there is no way someone somewhere  didn't fight for that. I can see your pain.  

Speaking of pain there are some shortcomings  in the visuals. They're not horrible they just   stick out because of how good the rest of the  game looks. From the environments alone I could   not tell you this game is from 2014. That effect  stops the second you get up close to a character   model. They're a little bit plasticky which is  fine, it's just their facial animation is very   stiff. The lip syncing is also barely there so  you get this kind of ventriloquist dummy effect.  

SAMUELS: "I realize it's a very similar model to-"  RIPLEY: "The Nostromo." SAMUELS: "Yes. M-class. A later pattern, but close in spec."   TAYLOR: "I feel like death. I don't know how you people put  up with hypersleep regularly." Even the pre-rendered cutscenes are pretty rough looking for the time,  and yeah this does feel like nitpicking since   usually I wouldn't give a [ __ ] about this. BENNY: "No, no-no.  If the bank spends it on fancy stuff-"

It's more this is the only way I can tell the game wasn't  made a week ago, but more importantly it's that a   trade-off happened. They didn't give the cutscenes  enough time and budget to look like a mainline   Final Fantasy game but the world itself looks  like this. This was the right call to make.  Yeah the humanoid models aren't the strongest but that  gave them more resources to develop the real star.

On top of the visuals the sound design is also  excellent. Like all the visual stuff they had   access to, they were also able to use the movie's  original sound banks. This meant not only could   they recreate a lot of the environment stuff  one to one, but they could also remix it in   some interesting ways. For starters you go "oh  it's an Alien game, you have to have the siren." "You've gotta have all the chunky computer  sounds especially that one that's like:" These are the authentic touches you want but  now you have an explorable world where you can   really play with the Alien because they have the  sounds that made the xenomorph. They can now mix  

those into the environment. Is that just machinery  creaking or is the Olympic orifice diver around? (clanging of metal machinery, pipe hisses and groans) Guess we'll find out soon. If you look around there's a lot   of comedy in how mean they make some of these. (pipes hissing) It's not just a pipe hiss, it's probably the  one they used to make the actual Alien sound.   The game is so rich with its layers of sound  effects. Besides the immersion factor, learning  

how to properly pick out threats can give you  a huge advantage. There are sections where the   alien is close enough that you can hear it  messing around but if you stay careful and   quiet it might not ever leave its horrible  hidey hole. There are plenty of areas players   have thought there is no alien when it actually  can emerge there in the right conditions.   For example there's an area near the beginning of  the game where you need to wait for a tram. They  

take their sweet time building up tension  as that tram slowly, agonizingly, approaches. (alien screeching in the distance) (tense music with a heart monitor sound) (tram whining into station) (alien screeching intensifies) Over the years I've seen a lot of people say  that you can't see the alien until several   hours in. That's because most people got to this  part, wisely hugged the tram door, and went in   the second it opened. If you would like to see  the alien early, take a bit more time to explore   or maybe make some noise. This is a good part to  bring up the music. To no surprise it takes most  

of its cues from the original film score. It's  greatly expanded out and most of the soundtrack   is dynamic. This can be a double-edged sword, like  to give one example they'll use the horror sting   effect, but sometimes the actual scare is  so small that it just seems silly.

Yeah I guess he saw me. Oh [ __ ]. On the other hand sometimes the tension buildup   is so good I've gone in hiding just  because the music was that threatening. And in the big action moments sometimes the music  has synced up so well it seems like witchcraft.

Considering how much can be unscripted it's  pretty impressive. Then you have the moments   where the music becomes horribly grating  because the Starbeast knows you're around   and keeps sniffing the air for you and the  track can be caught in this kind of rising   tension loop which can go on for a long  time if the alien keeps sticking around.   It can go from being music to noise and  just deflates the tension. The moments that   put the back of my pants the most danger  playing Alien Isolation usually had very   little musical build up because without that  musical sting I had no clue what to expect. Jesus Christ . . . It's quality music and can be scary, but it's hard to   beat the alien quietly breaking into a full sprint.

There are some relaxing ambient tracks  as well, even a few diegetic ones that   can be easy to miss like the  one in Sevastopol's spaceport. Anyways there's give and take with dynamic  music, but considering they were doing   strategy games before this it's a pretty  good implementation. I probably should have   mentioned earlier that Creative Assembly  made this game. The studio that spent 20   years making Total War games and Halo Wars 2. I don't know what was happening over there.  This was their opening try at making  a first person game. I guess they did okay. Put simply - presentation wise the game is a  [ __ ] masterpiece. Even people who hate the  

game don't seem to contest that often. Now we get  to the fun part of actually playing it. There are   a few difficulties to choose from, but the game  recommends playing on hard. I'll do that for now,   but we're gonna come back here. On first entering  the station, it almost appears to be abandoned.  You do see there are tiny pockets of survivors mainly  keeping to themselves or in tight-knit groups and   you're not welcome. In this initial stage you get  to poke around on your own - scavenging for items   and finding any clues to what might have happened.  Discovering blueprints means you could take the  

parts you find to craft new items, and you learn  that some areas are gated off by needing a tool,   or a passcode, or a key card. It's fairly linear  but gives you some room to explore and kind of   get the hang of things. If you are getting lost  then you do have a map. You'll need to find local   directories to fill a map out completely but  it is another help between the audio logs and   emails and just looking around. You put together  where to go and also what Sevastopol was like.   It's owned by the Seegson Corporation and was  in the process of being decommissioned. This   helps explain why some of the doors, elevators,  and other machinery are on the fritz. It's a  

quiet, atmospheric tutorial where you learn the  ropes, discover things on your own, and get your   trusty ...wrench. Huh. Anyways this makes it a  lot weirder when the second tutorial starts. RIPLEY: "I'm Ripley." AXEL: "Where'd you come from, Ripley?" RIPLEY: "Off-station. A ship." AXEL: "There's no ships here!" RIPLEY: "There are now." This is Axel. He barely gives any more insight  into what's happening, which is fine, it's more  

like it seemed like the game could trust you to do  things on your own and Axel feels like a Band-Aid.   He teaches you things you've learned already  and mainly serves as a bald commentary track.   AXEL: "Inquisitive type eh? Stay close to me." AXEL: "Hope this ship of yours is the real McCoy." AXEL: "I've had run-ins with those guys before." This NPC holding your hand telling you where to   go seems like the kind of thing they would  start with immediately. So beyond just being  

unnecessary, it's redundant, and you could apply  that sentence to a whole lot of other moments   in the game. This one sticks out the most to me  because it immediately breaks that lonely pacing   and it's done in service of: Axel teaches you your  flashlight will run out of batteries. Axel teaches   you to hide from people with guns loudly saying  how they'll blast anyone who comes by.

AXEL: "We need to move! This way, get down!" CIVILIAN: "This is [ __ ] man." Yeah exactly!  It is a short section and I shouldn't be that hung   up on it. He does show firsthand how brutal the  situation is between people, instead of you just   finding the after effects of it. I think I just  hated having some leeway and agency completely   interrupted for this, because following someone  around while they do...that! That motion right there!

I can't tell you how many games I've seen  that in. We have too many of those and I call it   the dog walking sub-genre. RIPLEY: "I need to know what's  going on right [ __ ] now."

AXEL: "Fine, like I said, there's a killer." RIPLEY: "A killer? What does that even mean?"  AXEL: "I ain't seen it but it's here...picking us off..." See we don't need this Axel monologue either because three  minutes later we get a much more direct message.

AXEL: "There's a killer." RIPLEY: "A killer..." CARVER: "What does that mean?" RIPLEY: "What does that mean?" After the Axel incident is  where the game properly gets going. Beyond the   alien, the jumpy survivors are a threat. A lot  of them don't want to kill you and will try to   warn you away before opening fire. You can beat  the game without ever killing a human being and   there are some interesting aspects to that.  For one sometimes there are unarmed friendly  

survivors so beyond being a dick, ambushing  them is just a needless waste of resources.   Every hit you take means more scraps spent  on making a med kit and every round you fire   means it could be a long time until you find  more ammo. You can't pick up survivor weapons   either, which does stick out in a game where you  dig through boxes for wire. You can find or craft  

non-lethal options too like a stun prod, smoke  grenades, flashbangs... you have a lot of options   for sneaking around and distracting your threats.  These still carry their own risks and poor use   of them can affect you later. If you stun a  human being it's quiet, but now it's a charge  

you don't have for a different problem. Seegson staff Sevastopol with its own androids - the Working Joes. RIPLEY: "Hello? My name's Ripley - Amanda Ripley. I need your help." JOE: "Please take a seat, someone will be with you shortly."

RIPLEY: "No wonder Seegson is losing the tech race." As it turns out, people can be creeped out by  human looking androids. You don't know who they   are, or what they might be up to - at least that's  how Seegson puts it. With their droids you "always   know a Working Joe". They're behind Weyland-Yutani  technology, so their robots look like horrifying   mannequins, but at least you know. They're managed  by the station's AI Apollo, which is also a budget  

invention. Between the decommissioning, and the  alien, and the anarchy, something's going glitchy   with Apollo and the Working Joes are becoming...  unpredictable. RIPLEY: "I need to get into comms control, it's urgent."

JOE: "That is a restricted area." RIPLEY: "It's an emergency, don't you realize what's going on?" JOE: "Apollo has the situation in hand, your registration is almost complete." RIPLEY: "Forget it, I'll find my own way in." JOE: "I wouldn't advise it..." They may not be high-tech androids, but  they're still very strong. So when their  

protocols get quirky it becomes a  safety hazard. If you have to kill   a man with a wrench - you can. Joe won't be so easy. JOE: "Tut tut."

And any sound of combat will likely  attract the attention of more Joes.   Not using an item or a weapon on  a human could save you when you're   facing off against the back page entry  of a Sears catalog. They're an in-between   threat of the humans and the alien, and  they add so much character to the game.

JOE: "Don't do that." JOE: "Please come to your nearest fire assembly point, this is not a drill. Do not panic."    JOE: "Biohazard containment level: omega." They're similar to the survivors that you're not always sure they're a threat, but  

one going haywire is usually a much bigger  problem. There are points where you need to   work with Joes in order to move forward. While  the game doesn't spotlight the choice there   are times where you could not work with a Joe  and find a way around it. They literally don't   have a mean word in their body to say even  as they're coming to murder you. When you're  

dealing with a non-hostile one it's never  clear how things might go. It adds another   creepy layer onto them, they're such a great  addition and add so much tension. You're   always aware the alien is out to get you,  with a Working Joe you never know. It's also worth noting that a lot of these  elements are very familiar if you've played   System Shock 2. I've seen people say  this probably isn't intentional but... ...are you sure? I mean even beyond the story of  dealing with a broken maintenance AI and an alien   threat with a kind of hacker as your hero, it's  interesting what elements they couldn't transfer   over that they might have wanted to. When you take  a moment to start crafting items the game won't   pause, it's just like Shock 2 except there you  can also pull up the map in real time and still   be vulnerable. I'd guess this would be some kind  of resource issue because not only would the game  

not stopping to check your map add tension, it would  also give you something to do while you're hiding   inside of a locker. That's a little thing I  thought about. While Isolation doesn't have skills,   it does have blueprints and blueprint upgrades -  letting you craft more effective items, sometimes   for less. The game will already have you backtrack  at points, but a lot of the time you could just go   and explore back through the station if you want.  You can use upgraded cutters and hacking tools to   reach areas that you couldn't before, which is  good, but on hard you can be drowning in items   fairly easily. There are limits on scrap and parts  to encourage you to craft but you can hit those   item limits pretty fast too. You don't have System  Shock 2's big inventory, you don't have skill  

points or implants or nanites. No research items  or chemicals or quite the variety of weapons with   all the ammo, plus all the random [ __ ] you could  grab. So Isolation tries to entice you with story   bits like emails, or logs from the Nostromo, or the  classic collect 'all these things to collect them all'. While System Shock 2 has its issues, it has a  big variety of challenges and obstacles. This was   made as a sci-fi roleplaying dungeon crawling kind  of game. Isolation is streamlined all in on the  

horror. It has some similar threats, but a much  lower variety. The hope was for one super enemy   to carry a lot of the game. That is a gamble, but  if it's paced out tightly I can see how it would   Oh [ __ ]. Yuh! Ohhh...

All right let's talk about the alien. The xenomorph has never before looked and  sounded so good. When you reach the stage of  the game where it's regularly around, a lot   of earlier systems fall into place. Using tools  on doorways require a little more interaction  

than usual. Something like using a movement key  to go along with a wrench or guiding along with   the path of a cutter. Hacking a door involves  matching up symbols on your tool. You manually   find the signal, you line things up, and it's easy  as that. Stronger security systems might have more   symbols or something else of a shake-up, but  they're so simple I wouldn't even call them   mini games. Even if you go in and try to get the  fail state that just leads you to the universal  

tech solution - you have to unplug it and then  plug it back in again. It's clearly not meant to   be a challenge, what they do is narrow your vision  and force a tiny bit of attention on it that you   wouldn't have just from a timer. So it does seem  nearly brain dead until the alien arrives. The presence of the alien can change how  this goes for players. Someone who's more  

freaked out has a higher chance of slipping  up and messing up a symbol. When the alien is   on the hunt every second counts. It's not just  "can I get to a door" it's "can I get through it   in time" and this effect definitely works  better on a controller. These interactions   force you to be vulnerable and add a bit of  uncertainty. A second or two can be life or death. I do wish that if you failed a hack would  trigger like, a loud security alarm.

That would be funny. The save stations follow the  same idea, except they purely do use a timer   out of mercy. Once you do, it needs some time to  recharge before you save again. It also warns   you when enemies are nearby but they have  to be extremely close for this warning.   A raging alien can easily clear that distance  in that short amount of time. Where Resident   Evil has safe rooms, here you're never 100%  sure. All the combat and distraction stuff  

I talked about earlier - that might also bring  the alien over. This means in a weird way the   alien itself is a tool you have. The maintenance  jack's greatest strength isn't in opening doors or   being a combat wrench, it's making you a  great shaman who summons the xenomorph. CIVILIAN: "Hey did anyone else see that?! Someone's here." SECURITY: "Something's moving around out there."

Something else funny is that the alien is not a  solution to the Working Joes. They don't know what   to make of the creature and they're so artificial  that the alien doesn't even register them as a   living thing. There aren't just alien encounter  set pieces, it meshes into everything else. Those   one-on-one encounters are what people wanted  but they added a lot more to it. It's interesting  

because these face-offs have some of the game's  best stuff and also some of its very worst.   The alien has a good amount of ways of trying to  find you. It'll stalk around rooms, looking around   or even under furniture it thinks you might be.  You can even hide in certain lockers and cabinets,   though unlike Outlast where you close it quietly,  here you slam it like a middle schooler who just   lost yet another argument with Dad. There are all  kinds of objects you can bump into or knock over   that seem like they should attract the alien,  but they don't. This was likely deemed to be   way too frustrating to be practical but it does  feel strange because sound is so critical.  

One of your key tools is a motion tracker which was  converted over from some kind of rat catching   device. It's instrumental in finding the alien  through the walls and ceilings, since sometimes   the thing will lie in ambush waiting for you.  If it's too close the beeping of the tracker   can give you away, so it can be unclear what  sound counts for the alien, which is uncertain   in a bad way. It still doesn't stop the hunting  sequences from being a lot of fun. You're given  

a lot of options for dealing with it, and sometimes  have to change things up. If you start to overuse   distraction items in an area, it'll wise up and  begin ignoring them - instead looking around to   try and find the source. The AI has all kinds of  conditions and behaviors attached that change as  you play the game. That way as the game goes on  it appears to be learning, doing new things, and   acting unpredictable in a good way. None of your  weapons are powerful enough to kill the alien but   you might be able to ward it away or buy some time  to escape. Getting a flamethrower at first seems  

like the perfect fly swatter, and it's no longer  a problem, until it really starts probing it. Maybe   even getting some hits in before the flames drive  it off. But even as you walk around that sloshing   sound reminds you of how limited your ammo really  is, not to mention how long it takes to reload.

You're given just enough agency to experiment,  distract, and fight back, instead of only hiding.   At its best it's an amazing back and forth dynamic  with some risky maneuvers and relieving payoffs.   Then there are the times where it won't [ __ ]  leave. I've spent minutes under a desk or in a   locker doing nothing as it circles the room over  and over, steps out for a second, and comes right   back in. Oh Christ...

Sometimes it'll weirdly bug out  and notice me for a reason I don't understand, but   there are plenty of other times where I have  no clue how it didn't see me. These still pale in   experience of the puppy guarding, because  really there is no perfect stealth game. I mean the canonical xenomorph hunt experience  would be some kind of experimental art game   where you would just be murdered by this thing  in five seconds over and over again. The issue   is the game kind of tethers you to the alien to  stop it from getting too far away, but sometimes   it feels like something has gone wrong and it  can't be more than 10 feet away from you. I've   tried mods that remove this tether, but that's  not a perfect solution either. There can be more   surprise encounters which is great, but there can  also be a lot more nothing. By just hiding for a  

bit the alien can wander off so far that you don't  have to deal with it for a long time. You're not as   likely to be annoyed by the alien, which is a win,  the drawback is if you're an experienced player   who seeks out and downloads the mod you probably  know the game well enough that you won't have to   deal with the thing that often. In general making  a realistic stealth game would be fairly easy.   Everyone playing it would probably hate it when  they realize how easily detected they are.  Stealth game enemies are annoying if they detect you too  easily and annoying if they act too stupid, and   this range is measured by everyone subjectively.  So when your game stars a variable hydra it's   no wonder it's so polarizing. Sometimes I've played  this and the alien will haunt my dreams that night,   sometimes I wonder if it'll make it up the stairs.  It's the nature of the beast. However there's also  

nightmare mode. This is a different way of playing  the game that gives you a lot more to appreciate. (alien screeching) Nightmare mode takes away your UI, takes away your  maps, makes your motion tracker broken and glitchy,   and significantly changes the balance. You will  barely find parts to craft anything, let alone   items. You have to dig deep in scavenging to afford  anything. Your enemies are deadlier and much more aware  Nightmare becomes an oppressive survival  game that strangely calls for a faster pace at   times. Stationary hiding is a lot less effective.  Areas that might have hidden you before will   no longer work. The alien also appears to hunt  faster and will linger in an area for far less  

time, but without items it's all about sneaking. A  misconception about this game is that you have to   crouch walk everywhere and you don't! Usually  I automatically assume this too because it's   what most games seem to want, but people who  play nightmare figure out pretty quickly that   walking is still quiet. You need that speed  to keep moving and away from the threat. It's   not the perfect solution, there are times where  it lingers around for way too long, but it does   make me wish they divvied out the difficulty  like System Shock. Because nightmare is hard   to recommend for a first playthrough because  you are so resource starved and miss out on   some fun combat encounters and using items. But  compared to hard the AI does seem consistently  

better to play with. It's still a great mode but  probably too far in the deep end for first timers.   Difficulties aside they did try to add more  variation in dealing with the alien but now   we're getting into spoiler territory. Without those  I can say the game is too stretched out and the   pacing is all over the place. There was a massive  story rewrite only a year or so before the game   came out. There were even plans for multiplayer  modes until big daddy Sega saw how Colonial  

Marines did. That really is the game that keeps on  giving. So if you don't want spoilers go to here: Well story wise, I don't find much worth talking  about. When the scummy, blackmailing businessman   is named 'Ransome' and he wasn't written by Kojima,  there's not a lot there to get into. Well after   doing various odd jobs, Ripley meets Marlowe - the  captain of the salvage vessel who found the   Nostromo flight recorder and who landed on LV-426  with his crew. It's a walking sequence that for the   most part just lets you re-experience the original  Alien movie. I also don't think it's fair to write  

this off as pure fan service, even though it was  [ __ ] awesome going through it the first time, but   someone in the world has played this game without  seeing the movie. So instead of just hearing the   story they actually get to be there and feel the  wonder and mystery. The Space Jockey captivated   me as a kid and it's still kind of magic now. The  cast and crew on set, various franchise directors,  

those who made the prop and set, all had various  ideas on what it could be. James Cameron thought   it was a bomber from some kind of ancient war,  the film's cast who got up next to it said It   felt benevolent and if it was alive it wouldn't  have hurt them... let's not talk about what Ridley Scott thinks. There's no ties to any of that  beside a single piece of technology which   is pretty organic looking. You could interpret  it as a reference to a different movie but it   still seems too appropriately alien to me. I get  the sense the art team made it ambiguous like  

this because they may have also hated the idea  of seeing living Space Jockeys. In any case one   of the crew got infected and brought the alien  aboard Sevastopol. After this, a plan is hatched   where Ripley blows the thing out into space... and it  works. Right after this all the Working Joes go on  

the attack. Apollo has them murdering everyone on  site and this is where things could get really   interesting. The game has gone through all the  beats of the Alien movie, a bit out of order,   but now we're in brand new territory - an android  apocalypse with no alien. The issue is the pacing   slows down again greatly and there are still big  stretches of emptiness. When you do get to the   points of interest it's great and the journey down  to Apollo's core is very tense. As much as I love  

drama queen AIs like Durandal or SHODAN, I deeply  appreciate games like this and Soma where the AI   is very clinical. They don't talk directly to you  really, you put their actions together. Well Seegson lucked out and the entire Sevastopol station  was purchased right as Marlowe arrived. The buyer   was Weyland-Yutani, once again after their prize.  All the Working Joes and intercom announcements  

about containment breaches and hazards weren't  about protecting you or the people - it was about   protecting the alien, which is a clever twist  to throw in. Unfortunately Apollo won't accept   the alien is no longer on board, because the  reactor has not been scanned. You then get the   reveal of this massive open space maintained  by the Joes and descend down into the reactor.

RIPLEY: "Ricardo, they're all here. Everyone that's missing. Everyone!"   The alienS are nesting in the reactor. Your motion tracker is lit up. There are new threats in the  forms of eggs and facehuggers. The threat of one  

alien is now a squad. It's a fantastic way to mix  things up for the end, and there's no queen. The team had made assets that would tie into Aliens  which were ultimately cut, meaning it's possible   they're reproducing by eggmorphing. This was  a scene from Alien that was cut, ironically, for   breaking the pacing. The weird hive [ __ ] on  the walls breaks whatever is put onto it into   a genetic soup that it then forms into eggs.  This came from the idea of the alien being a   high metabolism bioweapon that would kill a lot  and then die off shortly. They weren't space bugs   yet, so could that be happening. The game's writer  has given a definitive answer but that's no fun.  

The reactor isn't too big either so it doesn't  take Ripley long to initiate a system purge.   It's all built up to this, but the aliens are clearly  running out of it all over the station, which means   we have hours more of the game... and we go back to  having a single alien at a time for most of it.   There are impressive environments and set pieces that  don't amount to much, it seems like they had areas   that were far along, but when the rewrite happened  they couldn't just throw them out. This amazing   set was scrapped for pacing, this was not, but at  least Ripley finds out what happened to her mom.  

ELLEN RIPLEY: "I'm stuck on this lifeboat, long way out." Iit builds up again to more aliens, and again to   more aliens. Sevastopol goes boom and Ripley  escapes, but there's a single alien again with a   terrible, terrible, quick time event. She gets  away, someone finds her; The End. The story   just refused to die, like the franchise. The lore and  setting stuff they show is interesting, seeing how   these stealth remixed elements from later movies  like having their own Bishop is fun to chew on, but   man these characters are so flat and spread thin.  Even when they have their moments or bring up an   intriguing point or conflict it's over so fast. It  gets to a point where it's out of new challenges so  

keeps looping back in on itself. For all the  many, many issues Prometheus has it at least   keeps you guessing throughout the movie. This was  a game made for an Alien purist so you're going   to get the alien. There's no strange variations on  that or nothing you haven't seen before, but where   they did break the mold a bit was impressive. I  would love to see what this team could do with   an alien story that goes off in their own  direction. Sadly most the brains behind the   operation are no longer at Creative Assembly. The  most development I would realistically see going  

from this would be some kind of RTX patch. This  seems like the kind of game that Nvidia would   want to show off reflections in and maybe in  that process some bugs would be ironed out. Keep   in mind this is my pipe dream version of events.  There was DLC that included challenge maps with  

some of them featuring locations that didn't make  it into the main game. There's Lone Survivor where   you play as Ripley aboard the Nostromo, and Crew  Expendable where you can choose from a variety   of characters. This means you could pick Parker  and fully immerse yourself in the nuances of   the bonus situation. I adore Alien Isolation but I  can't deny it has lots of problems. Though I think  

some outlets might have gone too hard on it. It may  not have made huge waves in video games but it's   not leaving Alien as a franchise anytime soon.  The GOGlins have arranged for it to be 80% off   for the next while so I'll pin a link to that  too. In space no one can hear you ...whiff a flare. "What is the worst game I've purchased that  I could not stop playing?" Ironically Aliens   Colonial Marines. A group of friends and I bought  it and multiplayer was extremely funny to break.  

There was a class of alien that exploded on  death and left, like, an acid pool around it   when you died and we figured out if we all use  this class fighting marines in their escape mode   they could not get away. If they tried to revive  anyone they would just slip and slide to death.   "Any opinion on games back seating like the new  God of War?" Please make it an option. Cyberpunk or Shadowrun, conceptually? Shadowrun sounds  like it should be more interesting but Pondsmith Cyberpunk actually is. "Are there games  that have made it hard to sleep at night as   an adult?" 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. I was horribly  ill that week which could have been part of it  

but trying to sleep I thought that was another  symptom or even a feature of the game. Try it, go in blind.   "Are there games I adored as a kid  but realized are bad now?" Oh man there's a lot   of those. I will make videos on some one day,  I'll say the most prominent one was about King   Arthur. Okay have a Happy Thanksgiving, or Black  Friday shopping, or whatever is happening today.

2022-11-27 12:20

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