Alien: Isolation Hands-On: Where Everyone Can Hear You Scream
In a panic, I stuff myself into a locker. Alien: Isolation isn’t without its tried-and-true horror staples, and hiding in cramped spaces is one. I wait it out, staring at the tracker, until the alien has headed into another section of the area. Later, watching other players, I’ll realize that the beast will investigate lockers if it’s suspicious, pushing its face close to the grates. At that point, players are prompted to draw back from the grate and hold their breath. According to Creative Assembly, failing to do so can get you caught, and killed.
The alien reacts to stimuli created by the player — not the tracker pings, but the use of flashlight and noises like running will draw its attention.
After the alien moves on, so do I. It’s tough to balance the motion tracker with actual sight, but I have a vague sense of where the alien is as I try to activate a switch that will let me get into the next area. With the darkness and angles, it’s not easy to see. Pinning down the alien’s exact location is tough, and I can’t run or use my light much for fear of drawing it.
Creative Assembly says that the alien reacts to stimuli created by the player — not the tracker pings, but the use of flashlight and noises like running will draw its attention. When that happens, the creature will go into an alerted state, signified in changes in the way it moves and carries itself, and start searching for me. Escaping is easy in principle, but tough in practice: like other stealth titles, I need to break line of sight and get myself somewhere out of the way if I want to avoid being run down.
As I round a corner, I run almost straight into the creature. It sights me and charges. Creative Assembly has noted that there’s no defeating the alien in straight combat, and my hammer quickly proves useless as the creature pins me down and murders me in a distinct kill animation. I’m told the crafting system will allow players to distract the creature or otherwise drive it away, but that will cause the alien to learn and adapt. It won’t react the same way twice to a given item, and some may cease to be effective at all after they’re used.
Reloading, I’m killed again and again. It’s tough avoiding the alien, especially when I don’t really know where it is. At one point, freaked out at the increasingly incessant motion tracker letting me know the alien is extremely close, I crouch and hide in a corner. A second later, the alien drops out of a grate in the ceiling, literally on top of me.
Another time, the alien sights me and I sprint for a nearby locker, but before I can open it, I stop abruptly. Amanda’s gaze drifts down to find a spike protruding from her chest. It’s the very same located on the end of the alien’s tail.
After five or so deaths, I finally move on to the last phase of the demo, but more or less by accident. I finally get to the switch I need to throw, but not without alerting the creature. Sprinting to the door, I actually escape by triggering a brief cutscene (which takes place seamlessly in first-person, rather than cutting to a third-person camera), with explosions rocking this section of the station. I’m informed I need to make it to a nearby airlock after hacking a computer for more information.
There are lockers, but I can’t get to them in time before the thing stalks toward me, searching.
The road to the computer is pretty easy, and I hack the computer with an analog device, prompting a mini-game in which I have to match up several symbols that are smashed together to make them more confusing. The device itself is all knobs and plastic. Creative Assembly has said that it took pains not to include any props that wouldn’t have been available to Scott’s film crew in 1979, and this hacking device definitely fits that bill.
As I finish hacking the computer, the long black tail of the xenomorph descends from the ceiling and Amanda, panicked, hides beneath the table before her, only barely avoiding being seen by the monster. I’m out of sight here, but the alien is pacing the room, and it becomes clear after a few moments that there’s no pattern.
I need to get to a nearby airlock and leave this section of the station. After a few seconds building up some courage, I check the map and head out one of two doors of this area.
I’m in a long hallway, and my motion tracker says the alien hasn’t yet picked up on my whereabouts. Staying low and keeping close to boxes and bits of equipment in the walkway, I head to the airlock and pull the switch to activate. An alarm blares; a computerized voice reminiscent of the one from the Nostromo notifies me that the airlock is cycling and I’ll need to wait.
Of course, the sound is going to draw the alien, so I move away from the door and crouch behind one of the boxy protrusions. There are lockers, but I can’t get to them in time before the thing stalks toward me, searching. I can’t see it well, but holding up the tracker makes me vulnerable.