First, I should explain this. How can I review a game that doesn’t come out until the 7th? And no, I haven’t pirated it. I am now, barring last minute objections, a paid writer. As my first test assignment, I was invited to review this. With the publisher’s permission, since it wasn’t to be published anyway, I publish this first impression here.
The universe is as close to being infinite as you can have it. The problem with infinity though, particularly in this universe is repetition. Nature, or the universe, likes to repeat itself. That means that somewhere, out there, among the galaxies and stars there’s another Earth with humans, and there’s me. Like the analogy that Rock, Paper, Shotgun used, in that world I’m standing in line and cos-playing an egg.
When it comes to computer games, us Alien fans have always had a hard time. Maybe five years ago, a friend of mine back in Sweden came over to our house with a disc, and said “you gotta watch this”. On the disc was, of course, the original Alien aboard the Nostromo. I’d heard of the franchise, who hasn’t in this day and age, but I hadn’t actually seen the film. By now, I’ve seen all the films – even the films I shouldn’t have seen, and which I won’t mention.
But if the films grew tired and weird as the years went by, that’s nothing like the franchise’s fate within the media of computer games. Whenever someone mentions that they’re making a game of the slinky acidic aliens, an ice-cold fear grips the fans. And it has nothing to do with expectation – but more to do with the fact that if someone makes another terrible computer game about this franchise, nobody can hear you scream. Even if a million fans across the globe let the cry out.
So, when the rumours of Alien Isolation started coming out, the correct response was extreme scepticism – even anger at yet another studio trying to make a quick buck by exploiting these iconic creatures. But as more information came out, we fans started to become… interested. Could this be what we had all waited for? A good Aliens game?
Over the weekend I’ve spent my time crawling around vents, ducking behind crates, keeping a tight check on the motion tracker. Out there, on the same station as I, have been one alien. Only one. But if I see it, I’m dead. If I hear it behind me, I’m dead. If I stay in one place too long, I’m dead. I’ve been a squishy engineer female, armed mostly only with key cards and various tools. I am nothing against this creature, except possibly a host for it’s larvae.
There are certainly glitches in the game. There are things I would have done differently. It is certainly frustrating at times, because I’m used to not being so helpless. But after playing through the game over the weekend, I can only come to one conclusion. Finally, there’s a good Alien game. More than that, it’s extremely good. I haven’t been this frightened since a mate brought over a certain disc all those years ago.
I’ve always held that computer games are an underdeveloped form of story telling, and I think that this game is one of the few games that explore the media’s potential. In normal story telling, you always have a narrator and a protagonist, but computer games by necessity guts those concept to allow the player to be both the narrator and protagonist. It takes a different type of story telling when the reader or viewer dictates how events unfold.
Alien Isolation shows how computer game story telling can come into its own, and create a story telling foundation which is unique. It simply is far more visceral to be the one who is hunted by the alien than it is to watch someone else be the prey.