Tuesday, October 11, 2016

VGR Alien: Isolation

They say in space no one can hear you scream...

...but they'll definitively hear you screaming on your couch while playing this game!

VGR: Alien: Isolation
From Creative Assembly/SEGA of America./20th Century Fox
Played on PS4
Also available on PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Type Science-fiction Horror/
FPS/Survival Horror/Survival game
Year October 2014

There's been all sorts of games based around 20th Century Fox's Alien license over the years. Some good, some pretty bad. But none ever really captured the tone of the original film in my eyes. 

In 2006, it was developer Sega's turn to acquire the rights to the Alien series.

They immediately put several game into productions. Several of these projects never came to fruition, including a fairly interesting Aliens MMORPG concept.

A first new AVP (2010) game gave us a lot of hope. But the following title Aliens: Colonial Marines was an abysmal failed attempt at a more cinematic experience closer to the films.

Honestly a little segment in that game were the player was trapped with a single alien really impressed me. And that's exactly that segment that sort of-got expanded in this title Alien: Isolation by Creative Assembly!

The story is set 15 years after the events of the original Ridley Scott's 1979 Alien film!

Our protagonist is Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley, an engineer working for the Weiland-Yutani Corporation looking for answers regarding her mother's disappearance.

The year is 2137. They finally found some news regarding the USCSS Nostromo, which was brought aboard the Sevastopol space station. Amanda joins a small crew to search and retrieve the Nostromo's logs.

But when they arrive all they find is the Sevastropol station completely deserted of life. And things might not be what they seem at first...

Amanda's efforts to investigate the disappearance of her mother brings her face to face with the infamous Xenomorphs!

Even the "Working Joes" synthetics seem to be malfunctioning... And the all-controlling AI APOLLO short-circuited and has been put into defensive mode...

Finally an Alien game completely ditches the action genre for a much slower atmospheric setting. Gameplay is actually a lot more horror-oriented.

Lately on this current generation of gaming there's been a very intriguing push for more survival-like games, a new breed of horror games akin to older survival horror titles, yet with less emphasis on action.

Since the player controls Amanda Ripley from a First Person perspective, you get to actually play an engineer protagonist who is not really a fighter. All she can really do is search and loot for resources, craft items and operate all kinds of tech she's able to hack.

Gameplay falls in between traditional exploration from survival horror games and this recent trend of slow-paced cinematic survival of recent horror games. Closer to, say, Ridley Scott's Alien rather than James Cameron's Aliens.

It's basically an open world to explore bit by bit, backtrack back and forth across this huge space station a few times as you open up more and more areas through the story.

Your main enemy is, of course, the unkillable and scary alien. But there's also the dangerous defective synthetics roaming around and a few hostile humans you might encounter. The synthetics are super creepy, although they can be killed unlike the xeno.

To help you survive, you have access to flashlights, your trusty motion tracker (which the alien can hear!!) and limited ammunitions for a handful of weapons you will slowly gather including a revolver, the shotgun, the flamethrower and a bolt gun. You can craft various more items from stuff you gather around such as noisemakers, EMP bombs, molotov cocktails or even pipe bombs! But supplies come in very short hand so don't waste anything!

You have to be stealthy to avoid and outsmart enemies. Don't bother trying to traditionally defeat your enemies specially the alien. It's always better to try to solve difficult situations by either hiding or even using the alien to attack or kill other foes!

This is easily the best to have come out of Sega and 20th Century Fox's partnership. And there's even been words about Fox probably adapting the game into a film, thanks to its great reception with fans and the general audience.

Developer Creative Assembly truly redeemed Sega's work with this one. They made such a true-to-film experience, which is incredibly impressive when you think they were mostly known for the (great) Total War games up to this point.

When production began, at first they were looking into making a multiplayer game of "hide and seek". Where some players would have played the aliens while others would have to hide in the environment to survive. They quickly decided to design their game after the original 1979 Alien and not the following sequels, going for a more atmospheric direction. Something that had never really been done with the Alien games.

They also perfectly recaptured the design of the 1979 film, creating an entire much dirtier "real" low-tech scifi look, filled with CRT monitors and Betamax-style videos. Even their hacking-minigames used quite a lot in this game had to be reimagined, since there was no proper "hacking" back in the 1970s like they would have done with 70s props.

The game almost was a third person experience, but they soon found out it was much scarier from a first person view.

The game was finally developed around a pretty great new proprietary engine which allows for some super-detailed photorealistic visuals and quite an impressive lighting. As well as a whole alien behavioral AI (which was sadly simplified for the last gen releases of the game). Giving the alien so many possibilities whenever he tries following you from room to room.

Let me put this up right away, the game's beautiful!

Everything looks so amazing and right along how it looked in the original Alien.

This is pure fan service done right, you can find and recognize so many details from the film. They certainly recaptured the 1970s low-fi aesthetic. The game is deeply rooted into the lore of that first film.

It's a great fun loving tribute to the great vision of Ridley Scott.

And it's also a perfect transcription of how science-fiction horror can be adapted into a video game.

The whole concept of the game was perfectly recaptured into the gameplay.

It's all about stealth, trying to avoid  you death at the hands (or mouth) of the alien. You have to be careful, spend more than half of the game playing a dangerous game of hide and seek with a monster, not drawing too much attention to your foes.

It's also a pretty long game for the genre.

The story seems to go on unending twists and turns to keep things running. With a single alien stalking you the whole game not unlike Resident Evil 3 Nemesis' titular Nemesis ().

So naturally the game tries for some variety, to keep you on your toes. There are some confrontations with different enemies, the return of the alien a few times, some more enemies WITH the alien's return at the same time. A great flashback sequence to the exploration of the franchise's infamous derelict ship.

During the last act or so you finally get rid of the alien, things get safer for a while.. that is until the game throws the player inside an alien hive! Because, of course the game had to through you inside an alien hive eventually! And you will be greeted by more than one alien!!

Creative Assembly did a phenomenal job playing with the mood and the tension of this game, it can get pretty intense and scary!

In one word, this is without a doubt the best Alien game ever made! 

It really feels like you're inside the universe of Alien, fighting for your survival. Gameplay can best summarized as "being hunted by an alien: the video game".
And if the main campaign's not enough, the game also offers a Survivor mode where you have to escape some restricted maps while performing a few select objectives.

This is easily one if not the best Alien licensed game ever made, which doesn't surprise how it received so much praise and has gone on selling over 2 million copies! I still think it could have fared a lot better if Colonial Marines didn't ruin the brand recently...

And finally a word on the great score composed by the talents of Christian Henson, Joe Henson and Alexis Smith combined, directly inspired by Jerry Goldsmith's seminal work on the original film!

Overall, Alien: Isolation is perhaps one of my favorite games from this current generation.

Taking the best cues from the original movie and the survival horror genre combined into one really fun and original game! Highly Recommended!

The game also has fantastic art direction, gorgeous environments and sound design! It truly feels like you're inside the film! And let's not forget the great AI from the very smart alien! 

The game was released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. And the last gen systems the PS3 and the Xbox 360 also received a port of the game, still sporting some very impressive visuals they were able to adapt, although the AI of the alien really suffered along the way apparently.

The game would receive several downloadable content packs after its release, including the below single player campaigns and some Survivor mode additions.

And good news, there's even been talks of a sequel for Creative Assembly's game considered by Fox and CA, although Sega wasn't to keen on the idea...
I give it:
3 / 3 Necronomicons!

VGR: Alien: Isolation - Crew Expendable
By Creative Assembly/SEGA
Type DLC expansion pack - additional singleplayer campaign chapter
Year 2015

After the release of the game, two DLC chapters were released for Alien: Isolation. While the first one included as a pre-order bonus was actually the second one below, chronologically-speaking the first additional chapter was really Crew Expendable.

Based around a scene from the original Alien that plays near the beginning of the movie.

The player gets to pick one of the crew of the Nostromo: Ripley, Dallas or Parker. A scene that plays early in the film while the surviving crew is trying to flush the alien in the vents into the airlock... At this point the whole crew is still alive except for Kane and Brett.

It's a pretty faithful recreation of the huis clos tension of the original film. 

What's more impressive is that even got entire the original Alien cast to voice their characters for the game, including Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, and Yaphet Kotto reprising their roles more or less as they sounded 40 years ago! Marking the first time they were all brought back together since the release of the film back then! And they even put some great effort, avoiding usual problems with recreating older movie scenes like either phoned it in or bad imitators...

Overall: Crew Expendable is basically pure fan-service!

It's really fun getting to replay a scene from Alien!

It's a fun distraction if a bit short, I would certainly have loved to get the entire film or at the very least some more scenes from the film.

It's was a bit more difficult than the main game, so be sure to actually play that first before the DLC.

A great bonus addition, and fantastic likenesses and original voice overs from the cast.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score! 

VGR: Alien: Isolation - Last Survivor
By Creative Assembly/SEGA
Type DLC expansion pack - additional singleplayer campaign chapter
Year 2015

This DLC chapter was originally contained with the game's Nostromo Edition or as a pre-order bonus.

Last Survivor is basically the last chapter of the film.

This chapter is set during the climax of Alien. Ripley has to set the self-destruct system and reach the escape shuttle alive... and then, it just ends?! 

I honestly wish they could have made this longer, like starting it earlier in the story. And I really expected to see them take elements from Ridley Scott's Alien Director's Cut such as getting to come by Brett's egg-morphing cocoon...

This DLC could have been a lot better by simply getting to play the last stand-off with the alien inside the escape shuttle, specially since the game teases you with the spacesuits near the pods...

At least there's some great visuals after Ripley sets off the self-destruct sequence...

It just ends abruptly...

Overall: Last Survivor was a bit of a letdown, and I don't really know why they included this DLC with the Pre-Order and the Nostromo Edition of the game..

I would have loved to actually play through the entire ending of the film.

It's super short, and super easy...

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score! 

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