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Alien: Isolation
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sek929
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Nov 7, 2014, 06:02 PM
 
Now that I've gone toe-to-toe with the Xenomorph for a solid several hours I feel it's time to make it official and give my thoughts. As usual there will be very little rhyme or reason to how my impressions are laid out and expect poor sentence structure and mnay spelling mistakes...

First off I love the Alien franchise. Alien is a great horror movie, Aliens is a great action sci-fi (that every military-themed sci-fi anything has been ripping off since), and Alien 3 is a hell of a lot better than most people give it credit, and I find it the darkest and most depressing film of the lot. What's that? Alien Resurrection? Never heard of it... Prometheus? I think you're just making these up... Alien vs Predator, ALRIGHT so the franchise has about as much good as bad, and given nearly every attempt game makers have produced it has been a long time since our favorite acid-blooded head-penetrator has shown any signs of life. So when I say I love the Alien franchise it is akin to saying I love the Simpsons, there's an implied qualifier of "the good ones"

Isolation breaks new ground by actually tearing all new ground away from the series and drawing all its inspiration from the first movie. There's no space marines, there's no well-establish evil mega-corporation, there's no Alien-human hybrid and there's no unintelligible nonsense set against the backdrop of Charlize Theron's toned buttocks...(can you tell I'm bitter?) Just one terrifying monster roaming one claustrophobic space station with one plucky woman named Ripley trying to make it out.

Visuals are an Alien-fetishist's wet dream, old CRTs everywhere, beige padded corridors, metal grating...I mean basically anything that comes to mind when you think space station, since as I've said before pop culture has been copying the groundbreaking set design since it came out. You can tell the designers love the source material, attention to detail is everywhere and everything is comfortingly familiar without coming off as lazy. The air is thick and recycled, small particles burst into view under certain lighting conditions and shadows and blinding direct lights toy with your periphery vision.

Sound design is the bread and butter of survival horror, or just horror in general. Unnerving is the perfect adjective for the ambient sound of the station. Machines click, whirr and buzz, things you interact with beep and boop with just a hint of fuzziness. If you turn quickly on certain surfaces your shoes squeak, those weird duct openings slide with the sound of lubricated metal, the hum of air purification and the clattering of exhaust fans. It all blends together beautifully, as sounds fade in and out as you traverse the hallways. The sole "out-of-place" sound is the shrill beep of the save station, which is as welcome an intrusion as a nice big table to cower under.

It looks like Alien and sounds like Alien. The atmosphere is spot-on and the graphics on the PS4 are on full display, with particle effects and lighting being the biggest contrast to previous gen games. Of course throwing an Alien into your face in the first ten minutes would betray the tension and world-building. Tune in for my next post entitled...

...The Most Terrifying ai You Barely See
     
sek929  (op)
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Nov 10, 2014, 04:47 PM
 
The game starts out as you'd expect. We are introduced to Ripley Jr., we are reminded of the chunk of time Ripley Sr. spends in stasis following the Nostromo, allowing her daughter to live an entire life before she is discovered by Mad About You. You eventually find yourself aboard an identical space station that is close to being decommissioned. You find your mom immediately, the space station is powered down, and everyone has punch and pie back home. But really, the place is a shit show when you get there and you are totally isolated from your crew due to stuff and things.

First off, I am playing on the highest difficulty, so even some of the earliest human encounters were particularly difficult to survive. Survival Horror should be hard, or more accurately, the penalty of death should be a very real concern at all times. Tension can only be built properly if there is a slim chance of survival.

The first sneaky bits seemed hard at the time. Humans have good eyesight and good hearing, they will spot you if you are anywhere in their line of sight. Armed with only a sony walkman during the first encounter I struggled to path my way past the area. Just when I thought I had managed to squeeze past someone in one room there would be another waiting for me on the other side of the door. Sitting down for a while didn't help either, as the AI paths all over the goddamn place, and while they will exhibit a pattern for the first few minutes there is no telling when they'll break off and walk somewhere else. Large tables provide the best cover in the game since, unlike lockers and other hidy-objects, they are silent to use. Still I died and died trying to bypass one room with 4 enemies. Emboldened by death I triggered the event for the 6th or 7th time and simply moved swiftly (not crouching, just walking slowly) directly up the stairs where the enemies eventually pile down and snuck into a small room adjacent to the exit hallway. Three humans walk past, one turns and walks through the door I'm hiding on the other side of. He stands with his back to me for a brief moment and I clobber him with a melee, he staggers forward but is not knocked out, clobber again, he falls down but is not knocked out, third clobber is a charm and I briskly walk down the hallway and to freedom. Not really of course, since Isolation uses save stations in lieu of any auto-save feature. Luckily there were no more enemies and carefully made my way deeper into the station.

Next encounter is everyone's favorite, murderous androids. What space station would be complete without murderous androids? Eventually you find the pistol and think,"I wonder if I can kill these bastards instead of sneaking away from them?" The answer is no, moving on. The Droid LG G4 Maxx™ is a slow enemy that has more predictable pathing than humans. If one spots you he will snatch you up and demand you complete a quicktime event, if successful you can then run away at full speed and hide somewhere, or just run through the whole section until you reach the elevator or whatever. The androids are pretty scary, but ultimately not a concern...on their own.

So I'm sneaking through some vents, duh, tracking those bastard droids on the motion tracker I just got and through the ambient noises I hear a faint thunking. I turn to the sound with the tracker up and a dot moves past, quickly, and diagonal to the hallways I'm looking at. We've got Alien. I mean, how cool is that? The Alien is introduced into your gameplay so subtly, and yet so effective and terrifying. You hear that quick thunking and see the dot whizz past and you're like, "holy shit, is it coming for me now? Is it waiting for me up ahead? Is the game just ****ing with me?"

The game is not, in fact, messing with you. The Alien is indeed scampering around in the ducts overhead. Time for ultra-stealth-sneak-mode. I slip past the androids at a snails pace, all the while the Alien bumps and bangs around in the vents, sometimes directly over you, as the tracker will indicate. With my blood pressure through the roof I make my way to a transit hub, and the delightful chirp of the save station greets me. I wonder... is the Alien a real threat at this time or is this just building tension? I stand up and sprint around, clanging my boots against the metal. Within oh, 5 seconds or so, the musical score kicks into gear and I am stabbed through the chest from behind, a clawed hand is the last thing I see. Uhhhh okay, so the Alien is totally on my ass right now, and it is lighting fast and killed me with ease....all without me even seeing the damn thing yet. Christ.

When the Xenomorph finally makes its grand appearance basking in steam and flickering light, it's almost a relief. FInally, here's the asshole that is going to make my life a living hell. I watch it unfurl and look around, then I watch it run at lighting speed to eat my face....I guess I was a bit to close. Next time I hang back in a more dignified awe, it looks around and scampers away, disappearing behind a corner and too far away for my tracker to pick it up. Jesus christ, so if I'm within scanner range I'm close enough for it to sense me and eat my face and when I'm safe I have no idea where it is. I walk briskly to the left in a large 0-shaped corridor around a central room and hide behind a crate. The Alien makes it rounds on my heels, probably heard them squeak, and passes the crate. Frozen in terror I lift all my fingers away from the controller and sit as still as I want Ripley to be. The Alien eventually peers my way and my face is, yet again, eaten.

This would be the first room in a series of areas that give you what I would call a "trial by tiny mouth death." The Alien is incredibly fast, The Alien makes use of the same duct work you can and a ton of others you can't. You cannot outrun it, you cannot fight it, even using decoys (flares, noise makers, etc) is incredibly risky because it puts The Alien on alert, and if the Alien is on alert you have about a 0% chance of surviving most of the time. So I died, and died and died. Get through 4 or 5 rooms, die....die on the first room a few more times. Brilliant AI. When it's walking around you, which hopefully would mean you are under a desk, it doesn't moonwalk into the furniture and appear jerky in any way. It navigates the environment very smoothly, and when it is chasing you, incredibly efficiently.

I'm now well past that point but it teaches you a valuable lesson, really the only lesson I feel helps overall with The Alien. Just go for it. Obviously running will alert it and you're screwed. I don't mean just book it, but you have to take your opportunities whenever you can. Under a desk and The Alien turns around from searching for you and leaves the room? Time to make a break for it, just make sure you consult the map since there are no objective markers and also refresh that key code you just read because you'll be punching it in while The Alien eyes the back of your skull.

Oh yeah, the PS4 light bar glows green when the Alien is close, check it out.


That's all for now folks.
     
andi*pandi
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Nov 12, 2014, 10:31 AM
 
That sounds fun, and thanks for the detailed review! I got tense just reading it!
     
The Final Dakar
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Nov 12, 2014, 10:37 AM
 
Pants crappingly good, eh?
     
   
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