Save Points and Molotovs: Hands-On With Alien: Isolation

Alien: Isolation will have fixed save points and no auto saves.

That was the biggest new takeaway from the three full levels of the game I played last week during a preview event for the game in San Francisco. As I worked through a space station hospital in search of a medical trauma kit to save another character, one of my biggest goals was to locate and utilize the emergency phones, thereby guaranteeing that one single, lethal error would not be my undoing.

This is the largest dive I’ve gotten into Alien: Isolation so far, although having played the game on four separate occasions before now — twice in builds of its story campaign and twice its story-free “challenge” mode — I’ve got a pretty good sense of what the game is like. Mostly, your job is to hide from the alien and other enemies like edgy human looters and the occasional hostile android, completing objectives like finding keycards and opening pathways. The game’s stealth is mostly based on breaking sight lines and trying to stay quiet; the alien actively hunts you, and its AI is procedural, rather than based on set patrol patterns.

All of this we’ve seen before in various takes, so being slow, deliberate and quiet pays off. There are also other options available to the player for making their way through the game. Equipment can be scavenged from throughout the aging Sevastopol Station, the game’s setting, to craft items like noisemakers, molotov cocktails, EMP mines and other objects that can be used to distract or disable enemies. There’s no killing the alien, but you can at least drive it away or draw it off, at least for a while.

In this three-level burst, there’s finally more of a sense of how Alien: Isolation will bring things all together. Protagonist Amanda Ripley is dispatched to go hunt down medical supplies for her friends, quickly coming upon a doctor who can help, so long as she can find the keycard and password to get into the facility’s elevator. That means heading into different sections of the hospital to gather those items. Of course, the alien is nearby and hunting her.

The first level of the build is chiefly about Ripley finding said keycard, which was in the control of the hospital administrative staff when they died. That means wandering through their offices, checking computers and logs to find out where they were headed before disaster struck.

The alien itself hunts with various stages of interest. The longer it goes without finding you or being alerted to your presence by sight or sound, it seems, the more likely it is to go into what could be considered “lower” alert states. If the alien starts the level as slithering out of a vent and stalking around on foot, it gradually spends more time in vents, out of sight, as it has more and more trouble finding you. That makes it easier to get around.

Ripley’s skill as an engineer means she can access certain “rewire” boxes, which allow her to adjust what station systems are powered in a local area. That might mean opening access vents she can sneak through beneath the floor, at the expense of powering room’s doors or its air filtration system — which results in a clouded areas of low visibility.

There are also little things that give Ripley an advantage in a tight moment, such as emergency override switches for doors. Most doors are activated by motion, meaning the alien can trigger them with no trouble. But if you’re fleeing and can manage to get through a door and slap the override button, it’ll buy you precious seconds as the passage locks down.

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