Guess what? I actually managed to finish Alien: Isolation! It took me six months of not even daring to touch the thing but I did it.
So how did I finally conquer my fear? Well to be honest I just woke up one day and said, you know what, I’m going to turn it on and give it a try. It could have all ended there of course as my fear felt just is strong as last time, but I managed to get through the room I panic’d in last time and it gave myself a little hope that I could cope. And that hope turned into a two day marathon that left me stressed, tense, and extremely on edge, but also very satisfied.
Before I dig into what the game turned out like I’ll say now there will be spoilers ahead, but I’ll try and keep them light.
So after my first few encounters with the Alien what did the game throw at me? Well more Alien to be honest, from that point forward you really have to be careful of making any noise wherever you are because it WILL appear at the slightest noise. There are also partly scripted sequences, like when an alarm goes off which attracts the alien, who then spends that section patrolling the area (not in a predictable way I might add). This works well, if you didn’t have the alarm you could likely do these sections very quickly by just keeping quiet, so it really adds to the game play to have the alien there.
So is the whole game just you sneaking around playing hide and seek with the Alien? Definitely not, you quickly develop strategies to avoid it, not to the extent that you’re no longer afraid but you feel confident you can get through sections without too much trouble. If this continued through the whole game it would probably get boring, but it mixes things up. There are sections when certain events mean the Alien does something unexpected (you usually die the first time on these bits, but you start to learn that when your waiting for a door to open not to stand near the door), and things also change as you gain more weaponry.
Calling it weaponry might be giving you false hope however, sure you have a revolver but you are terrified to fire it for most of the game, and that shotgun works great on androids but your pretty much putting a sign above your head saying eat me at that point. The most useful things I found were the noisemakers and the flamethrower. The noisemakers are great for the classic throw it one way and run the other way tactic, although if the Alien isn’t already in the area I’d rather not attract it at all. They are also useful for clearing out other humans on the station *grins maniacally*, yes I know throwing a noisemaker at a group of people and watching the Alien tear them apart isn’t very sporting, but one, they would shoot me on site, and two, I couldn’t give a flying fuck about anyone else (baring a few) on this station by half way through the game, I just want off!
Now lets talk about the flamethrower. This weapon signifies a shift in gameplay, no longer are you completely helpless against the Alien, you can’t kill it but you can scare it off. Giving it a quick (not too quick, made that mistake a few times) jet of flames sends it running into the nearest vent. This is pretty much a 10 ish second safe period where you can do whatever you like and the Alien won’t come running, and running is what you usually do. It is very tempting to start being brave and walking at the Alien, flaming it and running to your next objective, this is a mistake. Firstly you have very limited ammo, and trust me you’ll need it later on, and secondly your bound to make mistakes and get yourself killed a few feet away from the next save point.
So does the Alien hang around for the entire game? Yes and no, there is a section in the middle where the game becomes something very different, mainly because you think you’ve got rid of the Alien. In this section the story progresses quickly and you can actually run around freely, you become mainly concerned with androids and other humans, the androids are now more of a threat since APOLLO (central computer) has up’d the threat level. They will kill on sight now and this actually results in more deaths of the people you like than the Alien ever produced.
However, this section doesn’t last forever, and while you are given a break from the suspense, able to run around and throw pipe bombs at will, the tension returns as quickly as it left, taking the terrifying form of facehuggers! I don’t want to spoil this section of the game too much for you, but this is what you need your flamethrower for, these things give you very little warning they are coming and you’re not always sure where from. So just flame them all right? Well yes, but don’t get too trigger happy, you never know what else you might attract.
I don’t want to spoil any more of the game for you but lets just say every time you think you’ve made it out, think again. Overall the game is utterly fantastic, if you can cope with being on edge for a good 14+ hours then I highly recommend it, although you should probably space it out more than I did. The story is really interesting and worthy of the Alien franchise, the aesthetics are spot on and really add to the atmosphere, and the sound…just wow. The audio guys for this game deserve an award, or several, seriously it wouldn’t be anywhere near as tense without it, and I’m not just talking the musical score, the background noises as you’re walking around keep you from ever losing that edge of tension.
If it wasn’t for a certain other game (which will feature soon) this would definitely be my game of the year, if you can cope with it, play it!
P.S After I finished this game I decided to do something simple like washing up, to calm my nerves you know. Well that was great until Minerva (our cat) decided to knock something over and scare the living crap out of me!