Alien: Isolation is pretty good. I don’t think it’s great, but it’s certainly the best Alien(s) franchise game we’ve gotten in a long time.
The environment is the real star of the game. The graphics are great all around, but the humans and Alien just take a back seat, character-wise. The ships/space station are so well modeled, so lovingly crafted with amazing attention to detail, that Isolation just draws you in. You feel like you’re on this ship, and I can imagine playing with an Oculus Rift must be insane.
And once you finally get to the part where you’re being hunted by the alien, the game (and the environments) really shines. It just takes too long to get there.
I think I played for an hour and a half before I was presented with any real, lasting tension. The game is ripe for it, but constantly hampers the atmosphere with dull conversation, and obnoxious backtracking. At one point I wandered around for fifteen minutes trying to figure out where to go next. Finally I found a trap door in the floor I was supposed to use.
I’m all for games not handholding, but there needs to be some sort tutorial in the overall design of a game. For instance, if the first time I had walked over this stupid trap door, Amanda had said something simple like “Hrm, what’s this?” to give me a cue to look around, that would have been perfect. It would have subtly led me to find the trap door, and simultaneously informed me that doors in the floor are something this game does. For the rest of the game, I’d know that particular element is in this game’s toolbox. But wandering around and backtracking for fifteen minutes because I didn’t happen to look down at the right time was fairly frustrating.
Backtracking is also something that seems to happen a lot, which is sort of a downer in games like this. With the tension running high, you want to feel like you’re making forward progress, not trapsing back and forth through the same area three to four times.
As good as Alien: Isolation is when it’s at its best, it also feels unecessarily padded in a lot of placed. I’ve heard estimates that this game clocks in at almost fifteen hours and, while I haven’t completed it personally, based on what I have played… that’s too long.
For a survival horror game that rides its whole nut on the tension and fear it builds, dragging things out with repetitive sequences is counter-effective to the overall experience.
So like I said, I still think it’s a good game, and I still think it’s worth playing if you A) Love the Alien franchise or B) love games in the vein of Amnesia (the first one) and Outlast. However I think those two examples I just mentioned still stand as better examples of this particular genre.
I streamed live for about four hours last night, and you can watch the entire thing here if you wanted to. However, here’s the condensed version (possible spoilers from the first few hours of the game):