I find that I have tremendous difficulty playing the most recent style of first-person horror games, with the distinct exception of more action-heavy horror games like the later Resident Evil games. Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent always send me noping the heck out to the title screen before I even see an enemy, because I know I’m helpless against them when they do show up.
One of these games I have profound difficulty with is Alien: Isolation, a game I am supremely fascinated in, but also frustrated and angered by. Before actually buying it, I borrowed it from the library, and one particularly annoying death literally had me deleting the game and marching off to the return bucket within seconds.
But anyway, this game has you play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley from the films, as she sets off to an economically declining space station to recover the Nostromo’s flight recorder, and find out what happened to her mom. As it happens, the station has been infiltrated by the titular Alien, and Amanda is trapped on the station with it, at more or less the exact same time the creepy android knock-offs populating the station start going berserk and killing everybody.
The game is set up as a sort of hybrid of Bioshock and Outlast, as you find weapons, tools and upgrades to around the environment, both to handle enemies Amanda can kill, like other survivors and the androids, and to help evade the one enemy she can’t kill. The Xenomorph’s appearances shift the game into a straight survivor-horror game, because the most Amanda can do is cause the Alien to flee. Getting caught by it, no matter what, is an instant kill. Watch me shoot this dang thing with a handgun, before it turns around and kills me.
Until you get more powerful gear, you’re at the mercy of the Alien’s procedural AI, which learns your pathetic human tricks the more you rely on them. Hiding is the order of the day, since it runs much faster than you do, and evading its sweeps on your way back and forth across the levels is as close to core gameplay as Alien: Isolation gets.
It’s also hard as heck, given the one-hit kill rules for the Alien and Amanda’s fragility dealing with just about anything else. What’s more, the save system is geared towards making you scared of losing about 20 minutes of progress at a time, and save points themselves don’t make you safe. That video I’d embedded was about as far as I’d managed to get under these circumstances.
The atmosphere the game creates is rock solid, and Creative Assembly dedicates itself to recreating the tone and feel of the original Alien film, starting with the lo-fi tech populating the world, down to the classic 20th Century Fox logo on a distorted VHS that plays upon booting the game up.
I want to love this game, and in many respects I do, but it keeps killing me in one hit with a clairvoyant alien monster that most certainly was not made by a bored Michael Fassbender. Basically, watch this if you want the memory of Alien Covenant forcefully beaten out of you.
Logan Graham is a senior studying media arts with a focus in games and animation at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Have you played the Alien series? Let Logan know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.