HIGH TENSION AND ANXIETY: THE GAME
The Bro-Op tandem of myself and Briz has not had the pleasure of watching credits roll together since we sacked ZombiU back in January. After that we moved onto Alien: Isolation on the XBox One which took us just under six months to beat thanks to a multitude of life changing and schedule altering events that prevented Bro-Op nights from happening. Plus, the game is no breeze and certainly challenged the depth of our wits and the resilience of our sphincters.
The game looks and feels great. The only current generation console I own is the WiiU and as much as I love it, I've not been able to play the AAA, graphically powerful releases on the XBox One or PS4 firsthand and this was my first chance to do so. Briz picked up the game for us and the first few moments of the game where you move the character around the ship was a pleasure to take in. The smooth movements and frames, the striking amount of detail, and the sounds emitting from the ship were astounding. A screenshot simply wouldn't do it justice, you have to be immersed in the world to get the most out of what newer games have to offer over the platforms of the most recent generation.
The gameplay is simple enough. You mainly rely on stealth to navigate around the ship in a linear fashion. You acquire scrap to craft items you'll need like medkits and molotovs to defend yourself against humans and robots. When it comes to the Alien, you'll have to rely on your tracking device and hiding until it's gone. It takes a while to get used to the cues the Alien gives you about its behavior and even then you'll never be able to predict what it will do next. The patternless behavior adds difficulty, tension, and at times - much frustration.
Everything you do makes noise and every noise you make attracts the Alien. There's even a mode that we opted to play in where the Kinect sensor can hear you so even if we made noise in Briz's living room, the Alien would be alerted. We relied on whispers to interact during gameplay and when the dryer buzzer from the washroom went off it was a risk to our lives. It was a very interesting dynamic that made the thrill of escaping the Alien on screen that much more anxiety inducing and almost cost Brian a newly reupholstered couch (from fear squirts).
You're familiar with Alien movies, right? The Alien hates you and wants to murder you and everything else with a heartbeat. The plot involves Ripley's daughter from the original movie and she has arrived to her mother's ship looking to answer what happened to her mother. Unfortunately, no memo was sent out that said "Don't come, murderin'-ass-Alien is here, seriously, stay home." Instead, we get to experience the Alien for the first time and first hand as our character.
Most of the game relies on fetch or point A to point B quests with the challenge of staying alive and away from the Alien while doing so. While this can be tedious and eye-roll inducing every time the game asks you to backtrack or find a new route because the quickest and most logical one is blocked, it helps add to the tension which is what the game is all about.
I appreciated the game for its ties to the original film as it was an adequate amount of fan service for those who enjoy the Alien series. The game is inventive as the Alien's AI is almost entirely unpredictable which adds to the difficulty and tension. The game did what it intended to do perfectly and looked brilliant doing it. However, the fun waned for us in the later stages of the game where we felt like we had just about enough and yet there was more game to suffer through. I don't typically complain about games being too long as you want to get the most for your money but the game could have stood to shave a few missions off and I would've still been happy.
Parts of the game had some frustrating difficulty spikes. Specifically, I recall a mission where we were required to make our way down a long series of corridors while avoiding the Alien along the way except that son-of-a-bitch would just not leave us alone. Several times we made it to the end of the corridor only to be spotted and brutally savaged at the last minute. Had it not been for the Bro-Op perk of passing the controller off, there would have been plenty of times I would have turned off the game and not returned to it for weeks at a time if I were trying to play it by myself.
All that said, the game is worth the money. I appreciate the stealth aspect of the game and am excited to see similar takes on it in the future - that is, after I finish the therapy sessions I'm required after suffering through countless cut scenes of the Alien mistreating my flesh-bits.