Alien: Isolation Hands-On: Where Everyone Can Hear You Scream
As the alien comes close, I’m forced to slink around the edges of my hiding place, keeping plastic and metal between it and me. I manage to elude it for a few long moments, until the airlock cycles.
When the alarm letting me know I can go through the door finally sounds, I’m still stuck. The alien is between me and the door, still pacing around. As it turns its back and heads down the hall some, I make a break for it, hit the door switch, and dive through as it slides shut with the alien on the far side. There’s an explosion and yelling across the radio, and then the outer airlock door opens, blasting Amanda into space, and the demo ends.
Previews are tough, especially preview events, because they represent small slices of games that are often polished to a fine sheen. What I saw of Alien: Isolation was impressive, particularly in art direction and in tension generated by facing the alien. The creature stalks around believably, and the emphasis on horror, rather than gun-toting action, is a welcome change for the franchise. For many players, this seems to be the Alien game we’ve all been waiting for. But it was also a very short, very linear, and very controlled demo of the game.
The areas that give me pause are marked by being the portions of Alien: Isolation we currently know the least about. While at least a portion of the game is about hiding from the alien, we know that Amanda and the crew she arrives with at Sevastopol are not the only people on the station. Creative Assembly wouldn’t outline just what encounters with those people will be like, but it seems we should expect at least some kind of combat with adversaries you can defeat. After all, I was carrying around that hammer, and could swing it offensively, in the demo. Right now, I have no information about what to expect from those enemies and characters.
Alien: Isolation’s user interface is an impressive part of the game from an art direction standpoint, but I also generally found getting around to be difficult. Players will likely find themselves checking their maps frequently, going a few rooms, and orientating themselves again.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if many people play Alien: Isolation with the tracker in their face all the time, which would be a shame. The depth of field that makes using the motion tracker a trade-off with actually seeing what’s going on means these players are apt to miss out on Isolation’s great art direction (and a whole lot of other things).
Those misgivings aside, what I played of Alien: Isolation was intense, and the underpinnings of the game seem very solid. The Creative Assembly clearly is a company full of fans of Scott’s Alien, and they’ve done their research. Aesthetically and thematically (and from what I could gather of the game’s narrative), it seems like Alien: Isolation is on track to be the Alien game fans have always wanted. But we’ll have to wait for the finished product to know for sure.
Alien: Isolation is headed to PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 in late 2014.
Disclosure: Sega provided airfare and accommodations for our writer to attend this preview event.