Alien: Isolation
Alien: Isolation Hands-on Preview - Alone in the Dark
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Imagine a proper Alien game. One where you’re vulnerable, one that’s scary, one that manages to translate the fear and tension of Ridley Scott’s original movie into an interactive experience. Imagine that.

Nobody has really done it before. We’ve had far too many video game spins on James Cameron’s  more action-oriented sequel, Aliens. These games have bullets and flamethrowers and xenomorphs galore, with gung-ho marines capable of dropping iconic monsters at will, empowered and unthreatened. We’ve had that. But we’ve had precious few that make you feel alone and fragile, while quite violently crapping your pants.

Until now. Possibly. Late last year I was invited to play an unannounced title at The Creative Assembly’s offices in leafy West Sussex, England. After a short presentation I was lead into a darkened room, given headphones and a controller and left to my own devices to play what immediately became one of my most anticipated upcoming releases.

Alien: Isolation promises to be the Alien game I feel like we’ve all been waiting decades for. In the demo section I played, viewed in first-person, my character didn’t have any guns or grenades, flame-throwers or mechs. In fact she didn’t have any weapons at all. Isolated on an eerily empty spaceship, all she had for protection was a motion tracker. She needed it, because there was a single, terrifying menace lurking in the shadows.

Here’s the setup. When Ellen Ripley left Earth to work on the ill-fated space freighter Nostromo, she promised her daughter Amanda that she would return home in time for her 11th birthday. But as we know, Ripley didn’t come home, and Amanda never saw her again. Fifteen years later and now working for Weyland-Yutani, Amanda hears that the Nostromo’s flight recorder has been recovered and is being held at the remote trading station, Sevastopol. So she sets off to discover her mother’s fate. But there’s also something else there waiting for her.

I only pressed fully forward on the thumb stick once during the entirety of my time with Aliens: Isolation. I was too scared to do otherwise. Pushing further would have meant that Amanda strolled or walked briskly. Nope. Instead I crept, every step filling me with dread that it may alert the xenomorph. Wanna know what happened when I did push the stick fully forwards? I died within two seconds. I’d tell you what the death animation looked like but I had my hands over my eyes and was squealing like a girl. It’s a genuinely scary game.

My mission was to reach an airlock and get off the ship, hacking devices and collecting the necessary items along the way, all without alerting the attentions of the prowling alien. Armed only with a motion tracking device and its telltale bleeps, I had to crouch, hide and otherwise skulk my way around the gorgeously detailed environment, slipping past the ripped-in-half Synthetic and a familiar Drinking Bird toy on the way to safety.

We had one hour to play the demo. I died once, largely thanks to the fact that I was tip-toeing around like a scaredy wimp, making it out of the airlock in just over 30 mins. Others didn’t fare so well, stepping out of the demo room an hour later, visibly shaken. One colleague was sweating buckets, slightly traumatised. I’m assured that another had found a locker on the ship and had spent most of his time in the demo hiding, peeping through the slits at the xenomorph creeping around outside, too scared to move.

The ships feels like it belongs in Alien, like it was an unused set found somewhere at Shepperton Studios, dusted off and relit. The team at The Creative Assembly has had access to the original archives, painstakingly building rooms, corridors, logos and clothing that can stand alongside the original designs. It’s a 1970’s vision of the future. As such, the technology is chunky and tactile, all knobs and fuzzy CRT screens. There’s not an LCD or a touch screen in sight and the environment gains from it. There’s also some exceptional lighting, with dull blue glows  and patches of darkness lending a truly ominous tone.

And then there’s the xenomorph itself. The demo successfully made H.R. Giger’s fearsome monster cast its shadow over your every move, even when it wasn’t there. It’s not always prowling around, it’s not always in view, or on your motion scanner, but you know it could pop out of the shadows at any moment. And then when you do see it, it’s fleeting, peered at from behind a desk or through the slits of a locker. I’m assured that it also doesn’t have a set, scripted path, instead reacting dynamically to movement and noise. Alert it and you’ll die, there’s no running or fighting it off. Just death.

So that’s all brilliant. Based on the demo I played, Alien: Isolation is one of the most exciting games I’ve ever previewed, a terrifying survival horror game with some iconic imagery. But there are caveats.

First up, we still don’t know what you’ll be doing when you’re not crawling around in fear of your life. The Creative Assembly says that the game will contain some kind of combat, primarily against enemies of the non-alien nature. The reasoning, and it’s sound reasoning, is that the experience would otherwise be too intense. The pace needs to change. Yet we have no idea how that is going to pan out, what it will look like or how it will play. Question marks remain.

Also, the eponymous alien. During the demo, it did its job, scaring the crap out of me constantly. But I never got the chance to poke at the machinery and investigate the AI. It could be that if you’re not playing along with the fiction, if you tease the xenomorph out and test its responses, exploiting its programming, then the whole thing comes tumbling down. For example, although the alien responds to noise and movement, it can’t hear your motion tracker bleeping away, something the developers say was deliberately overlooked for the sake of the gameplay. It makes sense, but  we don’t know how many similar concessions have been made, nor what effect they will have.

And then there’s The Creative Assembly itself. It’s a fine developer, with a strong track record. But it’s a track record of quality, primarily PC-only strategy games. Its abilities to develop a AAA survival horror title across numerous platforms is untested. On the evidence of the demo, there’s absolutely nothing to be worried about. But attempting to pre-empt the quality of an entire campaign, with massive chunks of gameplay about which we don’t even know yet, based on half an hour of play, is an impossible task.

But maybe I’m being too cautious. Alien: Isolation has the potential to be phenomenal. Like the xenomorph itself, it has come out of nowhere and sent a shiver up my spine. I’ve wanted to play a game like this for as long as I’ve been aware of the original film. And now it looks like I might get it. It’s so good in fact that I’ve written this whole preview without once mentioning the mess that was Aliens: Colonial Marines. Except just then. Bugger.

Alien: Isolation is out on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 and PC later this year.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 451
Comment #1 by deluxnugs
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:06:14 PM
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Sounds atmospheric and sweet. i dont much like the alien franchise and have not bothered with any of the games. maybe ill check this out.

Forum Posts: 3571
Comment #2 by LickableLemons7
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:07:30 PM
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Hmm. Alien: Isolation or... The Evil Within?

Decisions, decisions. And Isolation is only PC and 8th gen?

Forum Posts: 2132
Comment #3 by Mr Arrow
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:13:23 PM
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The trailer says its also for Xbox 360 [and PS3]

Forum Posts: 220
Comment #4 by Deadly Krueger
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:15:50 PM
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Ok so going through Nostromo for Weyland-Yutani, sounds like a cool/good first stage. But what after that? That's where it could go downhill. Is it really gonna be a whole campaign on one ship and we just gotta get back out? Hope there is more to it than that honestly.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #5 by Backlashlaze
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:17:29 PM
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@2 I don't understand why your having to choose? Get both god damn.

Forum Posts: 46
Comment #6 by LeeBradley [STAFF]
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:21:07 PM
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It does! Have updated.

I played the XBO version, btw.

Forum Posts: 3571
Comment #7 by LickableLemons7
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:22:29 PM
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@3 Ah, ok. Can't watch the trailer on my phone, unfortunately.

@4 Dead Space (the first one) only took place on the USG Ishimura or whatever it was called, right? Well, most of it did. I think the last chapter had some other locale. People love that game. I prefer the second over the first. Dead Space had good atmosphere and sound design but it mostly felt like, "Isaac, go there and fix that thing. Now run over there and patch up this other thing." for most of the time you were playing. Got a bit too repetitive for me.

Forum Posts: 3938
Comment #8 by littlejay
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:23:10 PM
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Sounds like a $20 digital only title. (xbla is no more on X1). If so, I am down with giving it a go. Not sure I'll risk $60 after the last time :p

Forum Posts: 46
Comment #9 by LeeBradley [STAFF]
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:24:29 PM
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@8 Nope. It's a full, retail thing. What gave you the impression it was digital-only?

Forum Posts: 3571
Comment #10 by LickableLemons7
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:32:01 PM
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@5 Wish I could. Can't throw $60 at every game's launch. Might have to wait for one of them to go down in price before picking it up. And there's plenty of other cool games out in 2014 like MGSV: Ground Zeroes, Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive, Super T.I.M.E. Force, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Broken Age. Still need to get an 8th Gen console too!

Taking the plunge this year. 2014 will be awesome.

Forum Posts: 3938
Comment #11 by littlejay
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:38:48 PM
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@9: I don't really know how to explain it. The "30 minutes to reach the airlock" sounds like it is gonna end up being short survival mode maps with a light story thrown in. It does sounds cool, but not really retail material. I guess we still don't know enough to judge it yet, but that's what I gathered from the preview.

Forum Posts: 169
Comment #12 by JohnnyBoosh
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:42:13 PM
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Great preview. I'm buying it. That's all there is to it. Sounds so promising.

Forum Posts: 2065
Comment #13 by Son of Kyuss
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:49:58 PM
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I don't want to get myself too hyped but good lord does this sound like the perfect Alien game. Just the fact that Creative Assembly is going back to the roots of the Alien franchise and making the Xenomorph an actual threat as opposed to cannon fodder.

I'm definitely looking forward to Isolation now.

Forum Posts: 300
Comment #14 by Saracin
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:51:50 PM
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My only issue is that it's from Creative Assembly and their track record away from the Total War series is not exactly great. Spartan Total Warrior, Viking (Which I enjoyed but was far from a great game), and even an RTS game like Stormrise ended up as garbage. I'm putting this on the wait and see list and gonna let the reviews come before making a call.

Forum Posts: 46
Comment #15 by LeeBradley [STAFF]
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:51:53 PM
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Oh I see! That's my shitty wording. I played one short section. I had to get to the airlock, but there wasn't a time limit. I took 30 mins, some people took an hour.

Creative Assembly doesn't know how long it's gonna be yet, but it'll be a full thing. 10 hours-ish at a guess.

Forum Posts: 2200
Comment #16 by cheevo360
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 04:57:22 PM
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Please don't f***ed it up again or winding us up like Aliens CM lol

If great I will either getting this game on PS4 or XB1

Forum Posts: 175
Comment #17 by Yourburntstar
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 05:02:29 PM
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So pumped to play this.

Forum Posts: 129
Comment #18 by Akinokaze
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 05:05:04 PM
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This definitely sounds like it will be a good game.

I also just saw the trailer and frankly it looks and feels like a first-person deadspace without weapons..... and that has me really excited.

All that said, after the debacle of A:CM I just hope they do the smart thing and release a demo first so that people who have given up on the franchise may be tempted to at least try it.

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #20 by BlackAtomsk
Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 04:47:11 AM
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Been waiting since 1993 for a good Alien game that isn't side scrolling. Thanks for the review!

Forum Posts: 42
Comment #21 by MajorMercyFlush
Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 06:09:20 AM
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"The ships feels like it belongs in Alien, like it was an unused set found somewhere on the 20th Century Fox lot in Hollywood, dusted off and relit."

Alien was shot in the UK, primarily at Shepperton Studios. It shot on 4 soundstages including Stage H which at the time was the largest soundstage in the world.

Down vote in 3, 2, 1...

Forum Posts: 846
Comment #22 by Hudson888
Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 08:39:41 AM
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Its sounds promising so far, and I will keep my eye on it.

The problem is, is Colonial Marines seriously damaged the Aliens franchise. And I think that will instantly put people off, or be wary of it, whether it is by the same people or not. Colonial Marines will always be associated with it.

Lets just hope it can live up to the early promise.

Forum Posts: 302
Comment #23 by Sonnenberg
Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 09:20:59 AM
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I love this movie series but the past few games have been bunk.

Really excited for this game but I'm not going to hold my breath. Maybe it will be a pleasant surprise.

Forum Posts: 46
Comment #24 by LeeBradley [STAFF]
Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 01:28:31 PM
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@21 Nah, you're right! You shouldn't get any downvotes. Still though, annoyed that I missed it and kinda tempted to stealth edit but can't. Gah!

Forum Posts: 555
Comment #26 by fresh fish 101
Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 10:48:56 PM
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this game will not be average... it will either be great, or suck horribly.

Forum Posts: 42
Comment #27 by MajorMercyFlush
Thursday, January 09, 2014 @ 04:55:45 AM
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#24 - Stealthy ;)

Forum Posts: 8
Comment #28 by Mr Richard Head
Saturday, January 11, 2014 @ 06:48:03 AM
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A potential win for survival horror here then! Trailer looked good aswell.
Dont undertand why eveyone brings up CM?! This is being made by a different developer

Forum Posts: 116
Comment #29 by Knomadic
Sunday, January 12, 2014 @ 11:57:17 PM
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Hope this isn't a flop like Aliens: CM....Although I did enjoy CM just for the Nostalgia of the franchise but I was semi pissed the game was $20 two weeks after launch. **Fingers Crossed**

Forum Posts: 4853
Comment #30 by Evo Kazz
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 @ 03:35:19 PM
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I've barely touched an Alien game since Alien Vs Predator in the 90s, now those games were amazin

Forum Posts: 11
Comment #31 by PSYCHOxCHIBI
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 @ 05:22:13 PM
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I've heard so much nostalgia about that first movie in this series (Alien) so being a horror and sci-fi flick fan I finally decided to watch the movie about 3 years ago. I was very disappointed. It made a good sci-fi movie, but the whole single alien creeping around only appearing like once about every 20 minutes and only for a quick, cheap POP-OUT scare was what made it well kinda boring imo.

People tend to let their nostalgia run wild when in fact they thing they are remembering isn't as great as they remember whether the loss of 'Wow' is due to seeing things like that are bigger and better or simply because when they originally encountered whatever it was they were at a younger age where just about anything would be considered 'Wow' material.

I'll keep my reservations on this game to a minimum especially since previews just like this were made of Aliens: Colonial Marines and we all know how bad that piece of trash turned out to be. This time i'll not take a chance on anything related to the Alien franchise till I've been able to give it ago. Not trusting anyone's judgment, not this time.

Forum Posts: 302
Comment #32 by Sonnenberg
Wednesday, January 15, 2014 @ 01:07:31 AM
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Did you even play DS lol It doesn't sound like it.

Forum Posts: 1801
Comment #33 by Midnight Malice
Wednesday, January 15, 2014 @ 11:04:08 AM
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@28 It really doesn't matter which developer gets their hands on an IP, if the previous releases using anything that has to do with the license suck, most people are going to be skeptical and reserve about it, as they should be. This will be one of the games I wait until it has been released a while before I decide, no matter how good it looks beforehand. I have read quite a bit more about it than what was written here, and I am optimistic, but still not sold.

Forum Posts: 244
Comment #34 by Aeternox
Thursday, January 16, 2014 @ 06:31:46 PM
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My only concern with this game is I hope it's not a flop like last years alien game was with how bad 2k RUINED that for me with great looking visuals for a whole year almost and then the end product being a glitch ridden pile of manure, but this game looks very promising and I look foward to playing it down the road!

Forum Posts: 394
Comment #36 by Ned King
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 06:14:28 PM
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Love the Aliens films but the games have not matched up to them,this looks good but we have all been given hope before only to be disappointed big time.
Fingers crossed.

Forum Posts: 87
Comment #37 by Darth Taral
Thursday, January 23, 2014 @ 04:30:39 PM
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Are there going to be any weapons in this game at all? I understand that it is a long way away, but even in the first alien movie the crew of the Nostromo were able to fashion a flame thrower to try and fight the alien with. Although it did not due Tom Skerritts character any good at least they had something. Even Ripley had that what looked like a grappling hook gun that she shoot the alien with in the chest when she blew it out of the airlock.

As far as the comment in the article "For example, although the alien responds to noise and movement, it can’t hear your motion tracker bleeping away, something the developers say was deliberately overlooked for the sake of the gameplay." that can easily be explained the aliens are predators they are not going to react to the sound of a machine or computer because that is not the sound of there prey. The aliens are not stupid they are very smart, capable of problem solving predators.

I have very high hopes for this game the survival horror genre has been lacking for a very long time. I have to agree with a few of the others who have posted before me. This IP has been damaged for a very long time, if CA wants any chance I believe they are going to have to do some kind of beta or have some kind of playable product for all of the major gaming conventions. Otherwise the general public is for the most part continue to be very wary of this IP. Until they can get there hands on it and play it for themselves.

Forum Posts: 7
Comment #38 by SuckMeZombie001
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 @ 05:13:29 PM
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Please be good. hope the graphics will be better then colonial, and even the gameplay.

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #39 by Chaoslightning
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 @ 09:45:42 PM
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I for one would like to know if there is going to be a collector's edition of the game

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #41 by Quinton83
Sunday, March 30, 2014 @ 11:00:24 AM
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just watched a trailer for this and the graphics wasnt really up to par, however it was probably pre alpha. And before any one says graphics doesnt make games great ill say this. graphics dont make games great but they really do make a difference. if the graphics are insane on this it will only make for a more terrifying experience. and since the last time and only time i remember being scare much less terrified was with Dead Space 1 and also in dead space 2 but only when returning to the ishumora. that is a scary fuckin ship lol... please let this really terrify me. if it does its a muct have for my collection.

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Game Info


US October 07, 2014
Europe October 07, 2014

No screenshots available
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