Most horror games in the last decade have either been too short, over reliant on jump scares or not nearly scary enough to fully enjoy. However, there is one diamond in the rough that may be the greatest horror game I’ve ever played. In space, nobody can hear you scream.
Developed by Creative Assembly and published by Sega, Alien Isolation is a first-person survival horror game released in October 2014 and was met with rave reviews. Unfortunately the game didn’t sell incredibly well, and a lot of people missed out on a true horror masterpiece. If you’re looking for a terrifying game with a great story, tense gameplay and incredible AI; today is your lucky day.
Alien Isolation follows Amanda Ripley, a young woman trying find answers to what happened to her missing mother, Ellen Ripley. Her search leads her and her crew to a space station known as The Sevastopol, which contains a recently recovered flight recorder of The Nostromo, the ship her mother went missing on. What should have been a quick recovery mission quickly turns into a disastrous decent into hell.
One of Alien Isolation‘s greatest strengths is an incredibly unsettling atmosphere and setting of The Sevastopol. In fact, it’s so effective that the first few hours focus entirely on the decaying space station and its’ inhabitants. With terrified survivors who’ll kill anybody they don’t recognize and slowly deranging synthetic androids called “Working Joes” who become more dangerous over time; it’s clear that whatever happened has caused true internal chaos onboard The Sevastopol.
The environment alone is one of the most horrifying aspects of the entire game, as its a character of its own. With its’ dimly lit hallways, inconvenient power outages and extremely loud functioning systems – you will find it constantly betraying you by design. You will never feel safe while onboard The Sevastopol, even if there is no immediate danger lurking around.
The Perfect Organism
The sight of H.R. Giger’s iconic Alien design itself can be enough to haunt your nightmares, as it was for me growing up. For many, watching the Alien hunting down a crew of well established characters a film is terrifying enough. The primary attraction and thrill of Alien Isolation is how it puts you in a situation where this nightmare fueled creature is coming for YOU.
After a few hours of feeling the presence of what lurks behind the dark metal walls, you will finally be introduced to the Alien personally – and you will wish you hadn’t been. From this first encounter onward, the Alien will unrelentingly hunt you down and make your life a living nightmare. There is no way for you to kill your hyper lethal hunter, so you’ll need to get creative when dealing with it – or die.
The Alien will intelligently pursue you with a groundbreaking A.I. system that will learn how you play. For example, if you hide in lockers, vents or under tables often, it will eventually start looking in those places as a first priority. For the majority of the game, your only defense will be moving slowly, quietly and outsmarting the Alien to the best of your ability as it aggressively follows you throughout The Sevastopol.
The Alien’s sound design works brilliantly as both a form to scare and inform you. With the heavy thuds in the vents surrounding you, nearby growling with heavy footsteps, and the deafening scream it releases when it spots you. As these are designed to provide information to you, there’s a good chance it may also make you freeze in fear or slip up, resulting in the Alien chomping your face off.
The Best of Horror
You may not be able to kill the Alien, but as an engineer, you have many tools available to you that just may just save your skin. Using the motion detector to help locate hostiles and crafting things such as noise makers to deter the Alien away from you are essential. However most tools may have some… Unintended consequences.
The gameplay evolves as the game progresses, keeping the experience fresh and scares high. Shooting at enemies, activating certain controls and even standard movement and tool utilization can alert the Alien. You’ll need to think through and approach situations carefully under immense pressure, and even then things will go wrong.
Ultimately what makes Alien Isolation so frighting is how unpredictable it is. Aside from several set moments for story purposes, the game is presented as openly as possible. From Working Joes who could help or kill you at any second, to the Alien chasing you down in real time – everybody’s experiences will vary.
Even better is how the game never throws lazy jump scares at you to get a reaction. At times, just seeing the Alien walking across a room is more effective than a jump scare ever could be. The very few jump scares in the game are placed so separated and so unexpectedly that they work wonderfully.
Ultimately Alien Isolation is truly an underappreciated horror game that, in all actuality, is better than most on the market. Despite the game frighting to me core, the high quality and intriguing story continued kept me engaged the entire time. If you’re a fan of the Alien franchise, or just enjoy good quality sci-fi horror, Alien Isolation is a must play as one of the highest recommendations I could give.
Interestingly, nearly the last half of the game remains untouched in my recommendation – as the game contains numerous surprises. Only 8.14% of players have completed Alien Isolation on the Xbox One, which begs the question; are you brave enough to venture onto The Sevastopol to take on the Alien?
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Listen to my personal project, The Noble Core Podcast on Spotify and Apple. Our weekly Podcast primarily focuses on Halo news and content; and we most certainly talk about Alien Isolation as well. Follow us on Twitter @TheNobleCore, you can also find me @TheGrunt4500 and my co-host @JonTheChief117 as well.