Sega and Creative Assembly are attempting to turn-around the moribund Alien game franchise with Alien: Isolation. Colonial Marines turned into a disaster on many fronts, but does a switch from action to a stealth-horror mix payoff? Reviews so far mixed in large part due to its length.
Alien: Isolation releases Tuesday, October 7 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. The game takes place 15 years after the events of the original 1979 Alien film starring Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley. Players take on the role of Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s daughter, as she investigates her mother’s disappearance. Her investigation leads her to the space station Sevastopol to find the Nostromo flight recorder. However, she’s forced to face another infestation of a single Alien, just like mom.
When Alien: Isolation was first announced, I was concerned about two things. First, would it be scary enough. Second, would playing hide and seek with the deadly Xenomorph keep players engaged enough for a full-length game. Remember, most movies run under two hours. Gamers expect $60 titles to run for at least six to eight hours, if not more, and Isolation reportedly goes for up to 20 hours.
The first reviews released Friday indicate that the game nailed my first question. The second part if decidedly mixed though.
The Guardian loved it with a perfect score of 100. They called it a “terrifying game” that is a “passionate homage to a horror classic.” As for keeping players engaged?
“The game is constantly mixing things up to keep you on your toes.
“It never once feels repetitive during its 15-20-hour duration, owing to smart, systems-driven stealth and the fearsome intelligence of the alien.’
Joystiq scored it an 80 noting that the great work with the Xenomorph AI makes the inclusion of additional human characters and androids seem bloated.
“In the same way that Ash respected the alien for its brutality in the original film, though, maybe I also respect Alien: Isolation just for how long, grueling and relentless it ends up being. Instead of completing the game, it feels more like I’ve escaped it and the nightmare it put me through. I no longer have to hear the sickening slump of the alien being spewed out of a vent.”
Shacknews gave Ripley’s survival horror adventure an 80 as well. They weren’t a fan of the title’s puzzle solving mechanics, but couldn’t stay away from the game despite the grueling stretches of gameplay.
“Alien Isolation is for people who can withstand a heightened emotional state for a prolonged period of time. Patience, observation, and fast action are paramount. There were numerous occasions, after being brutally killed again and again, that I had to step away and say, “Ok, that’s enough.” But the thing is, it wasn’t. I kept going back to see if I could be a survivor, out maneuver the perfect organism, and get through the level alive.”
Destructoid dropped an 8.5 out of 10 on Alien: Isolation and called the Survivor mode portion the “best part of the game, distilled.” Sadly, there’s only one map included with the rest coming as DLC.
“It’s basically the best part of the game, distilled. The single included map is static, but every time you play it, it will feel different. One time, I found myself sprinting to a door to lock it behind me, stopping the alien right before it could get in, freeing up about 20 precious seconds before it found its way back to the level through the vent system. The very next run, it bypassed the door entirely before I could get there and was lurking on a staircase right above me. This is the kind of randomness challenge modes should strive for.”
GameSpot is not a fan, however. The site score Alien a 6 out of 10. The site was harsh on the save mechanics that can leave you repeating the minutes of “slow, careful, sneaking” over and over again combined with the trial and error introduction of new gameplay mechanics.
“It’s the endless meandering in between that proves troublesome, much of it intended to build tension, but most of it falling victim to a never-ending sameness. I say neverending, but in reality, Alien: Isolation limps to its frustrating ending after many hours more than it can support. This is four hours’ worth of a great idea stretched into 14-plus hours of messy stealth gameplay, creaky video game cliches, and limp exploration.”
IGN gave Alien: Isolation a beating as well with a 5.9 out of 10 score. They loved the game’s atmosphere and the scares, but also felt it dragged on too long.
“It may seem strange to complain that a game’s too long, but when the genuine scares of being hunted by an unstoppable predator are so diluted by repetition and padding, Isolation’s epic length really does work against it. Someday, someone is going to make an incredible Alien video game that checks every box. But, sadly, Isolation is not it.”
The mixed review scores for a survival horror game are not surprising in the least. What is surprising to me is Creative Assembly stretching the length of Alien: Isolation to 15 to 20 hours. Would a slightly shorter experience been better? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
[Images via Alien: Isolation]