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‘Alien: Isolation’ Review: Fight or Flight

After a slew of games that have ranged from disappointing (Alien vs. Predator) to the downright awful (Aliens: Colonial Marines), the Aliens franchise hasn’t had much luck in the virtual realm of video games. Developer Creative Assembly aims to change that with Alien: Isolation, a terrifying game of cat and mouse set in the Sevastopol space station.

It’s clear from the very beginning that the team behind this game is made up of fans of the films. The game has a decidedly old school VHS look, and the environments look like they were taken right off the set of the 1978 film. It’s really quite impressive, enough so that I found myself wanting to watch Alien only a few minutes in.

Alien: Isolation nails the “lo-fi sci-fi” look and feel of the original Alien perfectly. Making sure the Sevastapol station looked like it could have existed alongside the Nostromo couldn’t have been an easy feat, but Creative Assembly has done a fine job in bringing it to life. I found myself exploring every nook and cranny not for places to hide, but just so I could soak up its world.

A remarkable eye for detail was needed to make the Sevastapol as memorable a locale as it is, and as it is, it drips with personality that’s immediately recognizable as belonging to this franchise.

This strength extends to nearly every facet of the game, from its menus to simplistic design. There’s a certain level of beauty in this kind of horror game, which continues the popular trend in horror games to drop the player into an unfamiliar environment with limited resources and very capable enemies. Going in guns blazing will always get you killed, whether you’re fighting a gaggle of Working Joes or its more intimidating baddie, a lone xenomorph that hunts poor Amanda Ripley throughout the Sevastapol.

It’s a shame the story and characters are outshined by the gorgeous world they each inhabit. Few of the characters make much of an impression. Many characters are left underdeveloped, their sole purpose to serve as fodder for the game’s enemies.

The game takes place 15 years after Alien and follows Amanda Ripley, the now very grown up daughter of Ellen Ripley, as she embarks on a mission to find out what happened to her mother. With the help of a team formed by Weyland-Yutani, Ripley and co. make a trip to the Sevastopol where the Nostromo’s flight recorder is being held. Finding the answers she needs won’t be easy, because video games, as things almost immediately start going horribly wrong for Ripley.

Alone in an unfamiliar environment where something has clearly gone horribly wrong, Ripley must use her wits and a liberal helping of resourcefulness in order to survive.

Creative Assembly didn’t waste time taking creative license when coming up with the enemies of Alien: Isolation, so they should all be familiar to fans of the films. Personally, I prefer this, because these antagonists have already been proven effective since their introduction in 1978.

This also looks to have given them more time to make sure every one of them is thoroughly terrifying. The androids (called Working Joes) are especially unsettling with their creepy glowing eyes and total disregard for human life, and then there are the fan favorites, including the iconic Facehuggers and an freakishly tenacious alien.

As much as I love the Working Joes, the xenomorph is the real standout. It’s complex AI makes it a cunning predator that will offer a challenge no matter how skilled you’ve become at playing survival horror games. This thing is supposed to be the perfect hunter, an apex predator, and in Alien: Isolation, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a true villain, built to kill and lacking any modicum of mercy.

Unfortunately, the moderately repetitive gameplay mixed with the steep learning curve can sometimes make this game frustrating. When you have what’s essentially an unkillable enemy and a player-controlled character that’s almost completely useless in combat, keeping things from becoming frustrating becomes a balancing act.


As a first attempt, it’s understandable — expected, even — to not get this completely right. Even as a first try (the first in what I hope will become a new series) Alien: Isolation does a fantastic, if imperfect, job at keeping what could have been a massively difficult experience for some players from being too frustrating.

Even still, you need to know going in that this game is tough.

Much of the game revolves around exploration and stealth bits, as Ripley is tasked with locating items or simply surviving long enough to make it to from point A to point B, hiding from enemies and gather precious resources along the way. The items she scavenges can be used to craft tools that will be needed to escape the Sevastapol.

Ripley can make all sorts of things, from flares to noisemakers, smoke bombs, mines, molotovs medkits and even pipe bombs. Finding creative uses for some of these tools can save you, and I really cannot push the importance of learning your way around each early on hard enough. Every item has a purpose, and Ripley will need every ounce of help to stay alive.

Most of the time you’ll want to stay under the radar, but when that’s not an option, Ripley will have access to a few weapons to get her out of stickier situations. There’s not much, but whipping out a revolver, shotgun or flamethrower — my personal favorite — can grant her some breathing room, when it’s needed.

The most important tool in Ripley’s arsenal is the motion detector. You’ll want to use it as often as possible, especially in the game’s darker and more labyrinthine environments. Having an idea of where the things that are hunting Ripley is the only real advantage she has, and it can save you from some horrifying close encounters that she likely won’t survive.


Being resourceful and creative with Ripley’s limited supplies and weapons is key, and it’s why Creative Assembly didn’t overcomplicate the design. Without “game-y” elements like special moves, abilities or any sort of complex interactions, the player is free to focus on survival. There’s no awkward cover system, deep combat system, or anything of that nature.

It’s bare bones, and it works.

If I haven’t hinted at this enough, let me make it clear that you will die, and there’s a good chance you will die a lot. It’s up to you to take a page out of the alien’s book and learn from your mistakes. If you can evolve and learn to react faster than the xenomorph that hunts you, then there’s a lot of fun to be had here.

This game is a love letter to one of my favorite films, and it gives me hope in the future of this franchise, at least when it comes to video games. We had to wait a long time to get a great Alien game, but this one was worth the wait. Feel free to wipe the last decade and a half of failed attempts from your memory. This game is even good enough to make up for Colonial Marines.

The Final Word: Alien: Isolation wants to build a terrifying survival horror game around one of the most influential films of all time, and it’s hugely successful in that endeavor thanks in no small part to its strong cast of enemies and some beautifully realized environments.





  • Saren Nevac

    Really good game. Just learn the rules of the game eg crouch to stay quiet, no using tracker when you see Alien and use the hold breath/pull back option when in lockers.

    Also mission 5 and 6 can be a nightmare but i swear the alien calms down after them missions. Great game.

    • Weresmurf

      Yeah, it gets its aggression out, you sort your issues out, come to a mutual understanding of living together… it all works out and ends up like OUTER SPACE ‘FRIENDS’

      Chandler Alien… there’s a concept 😀

  • Grimphantom

    Now someone try making one of John Carpenter’s The Thing!

    • YES!

    • Tosufai

      Yes! The Thing, with the same period aesthetic as the film, with the same type of gameplay focus as Alien: Isolation would be amazing.

    • James

      Oh god yes!!

    • Brodequin


    • Kimar31

      That game was awesome on xbox

  • Brodequin

    Fantastic nerve-wrecking game. I love it!!!

  • liltrav88888

    finally an alien game that doesnt suck

    • Weresmurf

      Possibly due to the fact it’s actually a viable threat again. In other Alien games, they’re reduced to annoyances you can clear out with your trusty pulse rifle. I love how in this, the Alien is an all powerful imposing menace, you just have to avoid it. It’s almost godlike in its ability to soak damage. Makes you actually worry.

  • Taboo

    I finally got my hands on this few days ago and man am I loving this game a lot. It was definitely worth the wait. I was so amazed at the attention to detail that I spent like half an hour just exploring. Visually this is one of the best games I’ve seen, especially for 360. The score music is perfect. All the creecking and banging you hear throughout the game makes one feel so tense. My first encounter with the alien was so awesome and creepy. CA did a great phenomenal job with this game, they should be very proud.

    • Taboo

      Man and those Synthetics are some tough and creepy sonavabitches.

  • G.A. McGillivray

    Best game I have played in a long time. I watched Alien the night before playing just to get into the zone.

    It’s funny that the only ‘bad’ thing I can say – is actually coming from something good. In some missions, I get too tense – and I just want to get the objective and get the hell out of there – so on occasion – there might be a few rooms or offices that I will NOT go into on purpose – again just so I can get to the objective. I am missing some messages on the computer systems too because of this 🙁 So – I know I am missing a few things. But of course – the fact I get tense – well that’s what I paid for.

    There are a few parts of the game that are scripted – like – the alien will be at a certain vent in the ceiling waiting – and if you wait him out – he will go to the next etc – and you can replay it every time and it’s the same. So, in that a case you need to learn the timing – or as I found out later – just throw a noisemaker and it will disrupt his pattern.

    Everything good you read on the internet – I agree with. So I will just say a few things I’d like to see changed.

    It bugs me when I am in a room – and there is a survivor in there searching for me – and then the alien comes in the room. And… nothing… They both just walk around the tables and there is no reaction unless they both turn into each other.

    But these are small things.

    I haven’t finished it yet so I don’t know how it ends – but I just watched Aliens a few nights ago… and I wonder if they could make a sequel with a little more action… some NPC’s that actually work… that would be awesome.

    Regardless, this is the best Alien game ever made for sure.

    BTW good review, spot on.

  • Tosufai

    Isolation is the Alien game that I have always hoped would get made. The xenomorph is terrifying, ruthless and is finally treated like the type of apex killing machine that it is — not cannon fodder. If you’re a fan of the series, or just of horror games in general, you won’t regret picking this up.

  • ThunderDragoon

    Sounds amazing. Can’t wait to play it.

  • ragethorn

    This is my GOTY so far. But maybe it’s because I’m an Alien fanatic. I can’t figure it out. Destiny got boring after a couple of weeks. Shadow of Mordor was so fun but got repetitive. Evil Within was too much trial and error so it bored me. I’m playing through Alien a 2nd time now and I’m finding so much that I missed the first playthrough. Unreal.

  • James

    This game is amazing and the first time I found myself hoping that we do get another attempt at a full alienS game. This has proven it can do suspense and I think they’d actually be perfect at doing a game with many aliens and still keep it terrifying. The look and feel of this one is astounding. Now I want too see what they would do with a full hive of aliens and a queen.

  • shaun jones

    i played it for about 2 hours, and i couldnt play anymore, its just flat out boring, which is a shame because it LOOKS amazing, the desing is epic, despite the characters constantly sweating in the exact same way and place as other characters for some reason, i love the alien series, but, this just isnt what i wanted, if they do another with more aliens, a few ways to defend yourself, dosnt have to be a gun but sneaking around games bore me to near death unfortunately, its just too slow and repetative

    • Samael

      Uhm, the game you may be looking for is the one you stopped playing. Hang in there and you will be rewarded with a fantastic game.

  • I held off getting the game and now I’m glad that I did as your review pretty much reveals what were my concerns almost from the very beginning when I learned about the game’s concept. The biggest one being the single alien that you can’t kill because otherwise there would be no point to the game. So, ultimately what we have here is like you said a beautiful looking cat and mouse game that hopefully allows you to kill the beast in a way that’s rewarding by the end of it. I for one am not willing to spend my money to find out, I rather just re-watch the movie again.

    • Daz

      Single Alien? hahahaha ..think again. So much more to this game then the reviewer has specified.

      • Granted, but the game’s star is the Alien hence part of the title and on the game cover. My feeling is that by having just one Xenomorph the developers have shot themselves in the foot because every gamer knows before even booting up the game that the only way to survive it is to evade. The better approach would’ve been to include more than one alien but not necessarily all at once and based on how the game is played. This way the game would allow the player to make a choice, do I try to kill it or…Also the introduction of more aliens could have been based on the player’s decisions. For example, a face hugger is attempting to impregnate a character and if the player fails to stop it then they could choose to either let the character live or kill him so to not not deal with yet another Xenomorph in the future. Also, aliens don’t kill those that are impregnated so the character could be used in strategy to kill the alien or help escape it.

        Bottom line I appreciate the direction just feel that with more aliens the game would’ve been more interesting, more frightening and offer a higher replay ability value.

        • Daz

          I quote you”The better approach would’ve been to include more than one alien” man you have no idea if you want to kill the “star” then go for it plenty more where he came from don’t know how many times i have to say it – multiple Xenomorphs, multiple face huggers, Is this the best kept secret in gaming history?

    • Waveboy

      The frustrating part is that it using twin stick wiggling clunky robotic Dual analog as it’s control scheme….Sorry, but wii pointer controls(ala Metroid Prime 3 for ex) were absolutely ‘ground breaking’, extremely realistic, immersive, intuitive, you felt like your hand was an extention of the game characters ect ect. It blows my mind that move controls weren’t supported as an alternate control scheme. shows how idiotic and close minded these developers have become.

      Also the Wii U game pad would of been amazing for this, with the 2nd screen and all. There are so many possibilities with it! frick!

      I realize the Wii U doesn’t have the horse power under it’s belt for this game, even if it did, it still would of probably just made it to the PS4 and One. if you’re getting a Wii U you’re Getting it for NINTENDO games and that’s A-ok with me considering how terrible 3rd perty devs are the majority of the time in this day and age

      • Daz

        get a decent PC and use the Keyboard

      • get off the console crap and invest into a decent PC, console = crap

        • Waveboy

          Not into PC gaming, sorry I like My Nintendo console & handheld crap. 😉 Won’t be getting a PS4 until later on in 2015. I’m also no fan of keyboard and mouse. 😛

  • brodkil

    I definitely enjoyed this game. I didn’t even mind the drawn-out length and frequent back-tracking. It’s truly the best horror game this year (though The Evil Within doesn’t look too bad), and by far the best Alien-themed game in a long time.

  • Waveboy

    Those fools at IGN gave this game a 5.9….it goes to show you how childish they are, since the majority of them can’t stand a good challenge which is a rarity with modern gaming as it is. I never planned on getting a PS4(since these days I’m just into Nintendo) but as a secondary console for Horror games, you can now count me in. 🙂
    Alien Isolation, Resident Evil Remake HD, The Evil Within, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and maybe The Last of US Remastered. I won’t be getting a PS4 until 2015 though. 😛

    • Weresmurf

      If it’s not a COD Broshooter, IGN don’t want to know…

    • IGN must stand for Icky Gnome Nuggest, am I right?! HA! IGN’s gonna need some ointment for that burn! Or rather, some Incredibly Good Neosporin!

      BOOM! Adam out.

    • Charlie Kelly

      fuck ign! they don’t know shit!

  • Brodequin

    This is it:

    • … second best, right? Right?!

      • Brodequin

        Yes, yes! Forgive me master!

  • Daz

    Playing this game makes me wonder.. will we see the first recorded case of a heart attack from a video game?

    • first? did you just wake up from hypersleep? lots of heart attacks from games in the past days, something called the news, ever hear of it?…

  • Dylan Summers

    Have already completed this game twice. Absolutely love it and finally I am so happy to be able to play not just a good, but a brilliant Alien game. The only thing that irked me was the ending. Such a long, drawn out and well considered game with such a throwaway ending? As much as I’d pre-order it right now I really can’t see there being an Alien: Isolation 2 so I wish the ending had been slightly more, y’know…ending(y).

  • Alien was a fun play for me and completing it on the hardest difficulty was so rewarding. Quality story and cutscenes. Amanda’s character development was absolutely impressive. She’s genuinely scared throughout, in her breathing and conversations with others you recognize the fear and it rubs off on you, too! The duration of the game, for me made the final levels all the more intense and emotional, it really emphasizes the survival aspect of survival horror. 10/10 in my book, right next to The Last of Us on the shelf.

  • Flu-Like Symptoms

    Late to the party, but refused to read anything about the game that could possibly spoil any element of it as I was playing through it. Time constraints had me baby-stepping my way through the game over the course of about a month. Now that I’ve finished it I’m soaking up all the fan-reactions and such.

    SPOILER! I have to agree with everyone who have voiced displeasure over the ending. I get that it’s realistic to the mythology that these things will get you eventually, one way or the other. But shit. Not the way I wanted to see things unfold, especially after guiding Amanda like a boss through so many life-threatening situations.

    But, I can’t let the ending taint the rest of the game. In a word: it is fantastic. Anyone who is tempted to check it out, but have been leery because of Colonial Marines (and every other Alien game); put those fears to bed and stop depriving yourself of the ultimate Alien video game experience. Give it a go, and be sure to stick with it beyond the first two hours. Big thumbs up on this one. The franchise has finally been done some justice in the virtual world.

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