Alien: Isolation

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Alien: Isolation
Alien Isolation.jpg
Cover art
Developer(s) The Creative Assembly
Publisher(s) Sega
Distributor(s) 20th Century Fox
Director(s) Alistair Hope
Producer(s) Jonathan Court
Oli Smith
Designer(s) Gary Napper
Clive Lindop
Programmer(s) Clive Gratton
Artist(s) Jude Bond
Writer(s) Dan Abnett
Dion Lay
Will Porter
Composer(s) Christian Henson
Joe Henson
Alexis Smith
Jeff van Dyck
Byron Bullock
Sam Cooper
Haydn Payne
Series Alien
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Xbox 360
Xbox One
Release date(s) 7 October 2014[1]
Genre(s) Survival horror, stealth
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution Optical disc, download

Alien: Isolation is a first-person survival horror stealth video game developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega. It was released on 7 October 2014 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.[2]

Part of the Alien series, the game is set in 2137, 15 years after the events of Alien and 42 years prior to Aliens. The game follows Amanda Ripley, who is investigating the disappearance of her mother. Amanda is transferred to the space station Sevastopol to find the flight recorder of the Nostromo only to discover an Alien has terrorised the station and killed the vast majority of the crew.

Alien: Isolation was very well received upon release. Many critics praised the environments, pacing, the nostalgic affection for Ridley Scott's Alien, stealth mechanics, and the artificial intelligence of the Alien. Some critics noted the long story campaign, the unoriginal narrative, and poor acting from the voice actors as flaws. The game won numerous awards and was a commercial success.

Gameplay[edit]

The Creative Assembly described Alien: Isolation as a survival horror game as opposed to an action shooter, designing the game more in line with Ridley Scott's Alien, as opposed to James Cameron's more action-oriented Aliens.[3] Unlike most other video game adaptations of the Alien franchise, Alien: Isolation features a single Alien for most of the title's duration that is immune to attack, requiring the player to use stealth tactics in order to survive.[3][4][5] Although the game features some weapons, they will be lethal only against the human occupants, android "Working Joes", and facehuggers.[6] The player can also finish the game by not killing any humans using non-lethal methods.

Instead of following a predetermined path, the artificial intelligence (AI) of the Alien has been programmed to actively hunt the player by sight, sound, and smell.[7]

The Alien AI was programmed with a complex set of behavioural designs that evolve as it encounters the player, creating the illusion that the Alien learns from each encounter with the player and appropriately adjusts its hunting strategy.[8] This includes the ability for the Alien to investigate "secondary sources" of disturbances. For instance, if it notices a locker or air lock is open, the Alien will search for whoever opened it.[8] The Alien emits specific vocalizations depending on its intent: a scream may indicate that it is about to attack, while other sounds may indicate that it is searching, that it has seen something, or that it lost the trail of its prey.[8]

The player has the ability to crouch to hide behind objects to break line of sight with the Alien, and the player can then covertly peek over or lean around to gain view.[4] The player can also run and possesses both a flashlight and a motion tracker to detect the Alien's movements. However, using any of these creates noise or light, which increases the chance of the Alien finding the player.[4] The player can go under tables[4] or inside lockers to hide from the Alien, and will sometimes have to press a button to make Amanda hold her breath to avoid making noise.[9] Levels are designed to be non-linear, with multiple entry and exit points for each room providing alternative routes for the Alien to attack or the player to escape.[10]

In-game screenshot showing the motion tracker which informs the player of any nearby movement. The player can either focus their vision on the tracker or the foreground.

The game has a minimal heads-up display, instead requiring the player to use their inventory to acquire information, such as bringing up the motion tracker to locate the Alien. Using the motion tracker triggers a depth of field effect so the player can focus on either the tracker or what is in front, but cannot focus on both at the same time.[11] The motion tracker is only capable of detecting the Alien's approximate location when it is moving; it can neither detect the Alien's specific location nor locate the Alien when it is not moving.[8] The game features a crafting system which allows the player to create weapons and tools to defend themselves. Crafting objects appear in randomised locations, forcing players to explore the level on each playthrough instead of memorizing the locations of previously found tools.[8] Players also encounter computers and other devices that they can hack to access information or trigger in-game actions, using a system similar to video tape tracking.[8]

The game features a minimal amount of music, relying more on ambient sound to make the player notice what may be happening and to also enhance the atmosphere. However, there are some scripted sequences of music, as well as rising noise whenever the Alien may be nearby.

The Creative Assembly announced two pieces of pre-order downloadable content (DLC). All pre-orders received a free upgrade to the Nostromo Edition, which includes the Crew Expendable mission featuring the original crew of the Nostromo. Additionally, by ordering the Ripley Edition from selected retailers, players received the Last Survivor mission, which features Ellen Ripley attempting to set the self-destruct system and escape aboard the Narcissus.[12]

Plot[edit]

In 2137, fifteen years after the events of Alien, Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, is approached by Weyland-Yutani synthetic Christopher Samuels, who informs her that the flight recorder of the Nostromo was recently located by a ship named the Anesidora and is being held aboard Sevastopol, a remote free port space station owned by the Seegson Corporation, in orbit around the gas giant KG348. Samuels offers Amanda a place on the Weyland-Yutani team sent to retrieve it, so that she can have closure regarding the fate of her missing mother.[13][14] Ripley, Samuels, and Weyland-Yutani executive Nina Taylor, travel to Sevastopol on board the courier ship known as the Torrens, owned by Captain Verlaine. The group arrive at Sevastopol to find the station damaged and its communications module damaged. Ripley, Samuels, and Taylor attempt to spacewalk over to the station to investigate, but their EVA line is severed by debris, and Ripley is separated from them and forced to enter the station on her own.

Ripley, attempting to find a way to contact the Torrens, finds that station-side civil order has broken down completely. Seegson has been trying to sell off Sevastopol for years and reduced the station's complement to a skeleton crew; as of now that crew has been reduced to small groups of frightened, paranoid looters who hoard scavenged resources and react with violence towards non-members. Ripley is confronted by a man named Axel, but convinces him to help her in exchange for a ride off the station aboard the Torrens. Axel explains that the current situation is due to a "killer" loose aboard the station, and soon after assisting Ripley, said monster—the Alien—appears and kills him. Ripley eventually finds the Nostromo's flight recorder, but to her dismay discovers that it contains no data. Ripley then attempts to contact the Torrens through Sevastopol's communications centre, but she soon discovers that the station's android workforce have turned hostile, killing anyone that attempts to send a distress call. Ripley manages to contact Samuels and Taylor, discovering that Taylor has been injured, forcing Ripley to retrieve medical supplies from the station's medical bay to treat her.

Ripley reaches the medical bay and is assisted by a Dr. Kuhlman (who is later killed by the Alien), before making her way to the dispensary. Recovering the supplies, she later reunites with Samuels and Taylor, who have been taken into custody by the station's Marshal, Waits, and his deputy, Ricardo. Waits explains that the Alien was brought on board the station by Henry Marlow, captain of the Anesidora, who is now in Waits' custody. Ripley speaks with Marlow and learns that the Anesidora crew discovered the flight recorder near the planetoid LV-426, where they also found a derelict ship previously found by the Nostromo crew and the nest of Alien eggs contained within. Marlow's wife was attacked by a facehugger, and seeking help, Marlow brought her aboard Sevastopol for emergency medical treatment. The Alien which hatched from her is the one terrorizing the station. Waits convinces Ripley to help him contain the Alien by luring it into a remote section of the station and sealing it inside. Ripley is successful, but Waits truly plotted to use Ripley as bait, and ejects the module with her still inside of it. As it careens into space, Ripley manages to find an EVA suit, eject from the airlock and space-jump back to Sevastopol. The Alien is left behind in the jettisoned module, and both are sucked into KG348's gravity well.

With the Alien disposed of, the situation aboard the station appears back under control until the station's androids abruptly starts slaughtering the remaining crew. The casualties include Waits and his men, though Ricardo survives. Ripley tries to find Samuels and discovers he is attempting to interface with the station's controlling artificial intelligence, APOLLO, in order to cease the slaughter. After Samuels attempts to stop APOLLO from killing off any more survivors, APOLLO's defensive countermeasures deactivate Samuels, but not before he manages to open a path for Ripley into APOLLO's control core. Upon reaching APOLLO, Ripley discovers that Seegson has finally found a buyer for Sevastopol: Weyland-Yutani, who, similar to their intentions in Alien, instructed APOLLO to protect the Alien regardless of any human casualties. When Ripley tells APOLLO that the creature is no longer aboard Sevastopol and demands to cease all activity, APOLLO refuses and turns its attention to the station's reactor. Determined to find out what's going on, Ripley traverses to the base of the reactor, which has been converted into a nest containing possibly hundreds of Aliens. Ripley then initiates a reactor purge to try and destroy the nest, but is unsuccessful as multiple Aliens escape and begin to overrun Sevastopol.

Ripley learns from Ricardo that the reactor purge has reset all systems across Sevastopol, including communications. Ripley also learns that Taylor was sent by Weyland-Yutani to retrieve the Alien, and that she freed Marlow in exchange for the location of LV-426. However, Marlow double-crosses her and takes her hostage aboard the Anesidora. Ripley and Ricardo pursue them in hopes of using the ship to escape. Upon exploring the Anesidora, Ripley discovers an additional message from her mother after her initial report of the events on the Nostromo thus finally giving her closure. Shortly after hearing the message, Marlow appears with Taylor and tells Ripley that he plans to overload the Anesidora's fusion reactor and destroy the station, thus ensuring that no Aliens survive. Taylor knocks out Marlow while he is ranting at Ripley, and the two together attempt to prevent the detonation. They are successful, but it are too late as Marlow forced the ship's reactor to explode. Taylor is then killed by an electric discharge and Ripley is forced to escape the Anesidora without her.

After escaping back into Sevastopol, Ricardo tells Ripley that the ship's explosion destroyed the station's orbital stabilizer array, causing the entire station to slowly drift into KG348's atmosphere. Ripley and Ricardo manage to contact the Torrens for extraction, but Ricardo is attacked and paralyzed by a facehugger; Ripley is thus forced to leave him behind. After letting the ship dock, Ripley prepares to space-jump to the Torrens, but she is attacked by an Alien and taken to another nest, which she escapes. She then makes her way outside to help the Torrens detach from the station via a controlled explosion, but is soon surrounded by Aliens and then thrown into the ship due to the blast. Sevastopol then begins to plummet towards KG348 and explodes in its atmosphere.

Aboard the Torrens, Ripley contacts Captain Verlaine and tells her that she made it aboard, but receives no response. Ripley then makes her way to the bridge to find Verlaine, but is confronted by another Alien. Still in her EVA suit, Ripley is cornered into the airlock and is forced to open it, jettisoning both herself and the Alien into space.

The final shot of the game depicts Ripley, adrift and unconscious in her EVA suit, suddenly awakened by a searchlight that crosses her face.

Development[edit]

The Creative Assembly, best known for their work on the Total War game series,[15] began work on the game after completion of Viking: Battle For Asgard.[16] A six-person team developed a small multiplayer game to pitch the idea to Sega, a "hide and seek" game where the Alien role had to be controlled by one of the players. The game "went a bit viral within Sega", and the project was approved. The developers were frustrated at being unable to talk about their own game during Aliens: Colonial Marines‍ '​s troubled release.[17] The game features limited gunplay as the studio felt that action-oriented games such as Dead Space have "marginalised real horror" games.[8] A substantial number of former Crytek staff also worked on Alien: Isolation.[9]

We had this rule: If a prop couldn't have been made in '79 with the things that they had around, then we wouldn't make it either.

—Jon McKellan, lead art design[18]

Though it is set in the future, the technology of the game is modelled after the first Alien film.[9] To accomplish this, the studio emulated the creative processes used in the actual movie, and what was available at that time.[19] The game's artists studied Ron Cobb's original concept art and used tablet computer versions of his drawing implements.[20] In-game objects must be derived from items available to the film's production,[21][22] while computers have monochrome displays and simple graphics.[23] To create period authentic distortion on in-game monitors, the developers recorded their in game animations onto VHS and Betamax video recorders, then filmed those sequences playing on an "old curvy portable TV" while adjusting the tracking settings.[8] The Alien itself was designed to look similar to H. R. Giger's original design for the creature from the first film, including the semitransparent head with visible skull underneath, as opposed to the designs that were used for the film's sequels.[4] However the developers did alter the Alien's design to feature recurved legs as opposed to the more humanoid legs the monster had in the original film, in order to provide the Alien a walk cycle that would hold up to scrutiny during longer encounters with the player.[24] The Creative Assembly created between 70 and 80 different sets of animation for the Alien.[8] 20th Century Fox provided The Creative Assembly with three terabytes of archived data related to the original Alien film, including notes on prop and set design, behind the scenes photos, videos, and the film's original sound effect recordings, to help Creative Assembly authentically recreate the atmosphere of the film.[4][8] Among the source material provided by 20th Century Fox, was the film's original musical soundtrack, to which the developers re-recorded several of the original cues with a full orchestra, including some of the musicians who worked on the first film’s soundtrack.[8] Alien: Isolation features a dynamic sound engine which causes the music and sound effects to appropriately change based on the players actions, such as whether they are hiding or fleeing from the Alien.[25]

The first press coverage came in on 12 May 2011, when Ed Vaizey visited the studio and revealed on his Twitter account that they were hiring for an Alien game.[26][27] Neither the studio or publisher would be drawn on confirming a genre for the game, and wouldn't say if it was a strategy title - the category The Creative Assembly is best known for. However, The Creative Assembly did confirm to CVG that the game would be making its way to "console", but didn't specify formats. Creative director Mike Simpson said that he'd been given the directive to win awards by Sega, but wasn't overly pressured because "we like winning awards". "This is very much a triple-A project", Sega West boss Mike Hayes added. "We want this to be a peer to the likes of Dead Space 2."[28] The game's name was anticipated following a trademark registration,[29] and the game was formally confirmed with the release of a trailer on 7 January 2014.[citation needed] The game went gold on 9 September 2014.[30]

During Game Developers Conference 2015, a third-person build of the game was revealed. Lead game designer Alistair Hope revealed that the game was once designed as a third person game during development. However, it was shifted back to first-person after experimentation.[31]

The game is dedicated to Simon Franco, a programmer on the game, who died during development.

Cast[edit]

The actors from the original Alien reprised their roles in several recordings found in-game as well as the characters themselves in additional playable content missions.[12] Most of the main characters were animated using motion capture of the actors playing them, and in most cases, their faces were captured digitally using high definition cameras

The performances were directed by Kate Saxon.

Ian Holm was unavailable to reprise his role as Ash, although he did allow his physical likeness to be used for the character model. Dave B. Mitchell provided the voice. John Hurt's character Kane is the only member of the Nostromo not to make an appearance. He is only mentioned in the game, and the events of the Crew Expendable mission happen after his character's death.

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (PC) 82.69%[32]
(PS4) 79.72%[33]
(XONE) 79.40%[34]
Metacritic (PC) 81/100[35]
(PS4) 79/100[36]
(XONE) 78/100[37]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 8.5/10[38]
Electronic Gaming Monthly 8/10[39]
Eurogamer 8/10[40]
Game Informer 7.75/10[41]
Game Revolution 4.5/5 stars[43]
GameSpot 6/10[44]
GamesRadar 4.5/5 stars[42]
GameTrailers 7.4/10[45]
Giant Bomb 4/5 stars[46]
IGN 5.9/10[47]
Joystiq 4/5 stars[48]
Official Xbox Magazine (UK) 9/10[49]
PC Gamer (US) 93/100[50]
Polygon 6.5/10[51]
VideoGamer.com 9/10[52]

Alien: Isolation received positive reviews. Many critics praised the environments, pacing, the nostalgic affection for Ridley Scott's Alien, stealth mechanics, and the artificial intelligence of the Alien, whilst some critics noted the long story campaign, the unoriginal narrative, and poor acting from the voice actors. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Microsoft Windows version 82.69% based on 16 reviews and 81/100 based on 41 reviews,[32][35] the PlayStation 4 version 79.72% based on 44 reviews and 79/100 based on 50 reviews[33][36] and the Xbox One version 79.40% based on 20 reviews and 78/100 based on 24 reviews.[34][37]

David Houghton from GamesRadar awarded the game 4.5/5, praising the graphics and intelligent A.I. which keeps the game unpredictable. He described the game as "thrilling, engrossing, profoundly fulfilling" and he stated that the game will probably make players feel more alive than a video game has in years.[42] Alex Dale from Official Xbox Magazine gave the game 9/10, describing it as a "unique stealth-horror thriller that combines great pacing and smart design with razor-sharp AI that's unpredictable in all the right ways". However, he criticized the game's difficulty, saying players will suffer harsh punishment for small failures.[49]

Andy Kelly from PC Gamer gave it 93/100, stating that the game is the one the Alien series has always deserved. He praised the audio design, as well as the reactive A.I. of the Alien. He also stated that the pacing was perfect, even though it took him about 25 hours to finish the game. While he criticized the disappointing story as well as the flat voice acting and insubstantial characters, he summarized the game as a "deep, fun stealth game set in an evocatively realised sci-fi world."[50]

Chris Carter from Destructoid gave the game 8.5/10, praising the unscripted and dynamic Alien A.I. He also praised the Survivor mode, describing it as the best part of the game because it offered players different feelings and experiences each time they played it.[38] Dan Whitehead from Eurogamer gave the game 8/10. He praised the lighting and unusually compelling environment design. He stated that the game has created some of the most tense and memorable horror gaming moments ever. He described the Alien's free-roaming A.I. creation as "a stroke of genius". However, he criticized the crafting system as too simple to the point of being shallow, and he described the game as too long.[40]

Jeff Marchiafava from Game Informer gave the game 7.75/10. He too stated that it is the closest game to capture the promise of the Alien franchise. However, he compared the game to Dead Space and believed that the environments and actions failed to instill the sense of dread that the movies or other horror games had delivered. He criticized the "wooden" animation of the characters, as well as the unhelpful map, and unimpressive voice acting and dialogue.[41]

Arthur Gies from Polygon gave the game 6.5/10. He stated that the fear of the Alien soon became an irritation due to the game's repetitiveness. He also criticized the frustrating save system, as the game doesn't feature a checkpoint system, forcing players to play the same section over and over again.[51] Kevin VanOrd from GameSpot gave the game 6/10. He thought that the game made good use of the motion-tracking system, and the cat-and-mouse encounters with the Alien could be tense and frightening. He praised the retro-futuristic atmosphere in the game but criticized the inconsistent gameplay and frustrating distances between save points.[44] Ryan McCaffrey from IGN gave the game a 5.9/10. He found it disappointing, despite being a perfect Alien game on paper. He believed that the genuine scares of being hunted by an unstoppable Alien were diluted by repetition, and criticized the game's pacing and 'unpredictable' A.I.[47]

Accolades[edit]

Alien Isolation won 2014 PC Gamer Game of the Year 2014,[53] The game won Official Xbox Magazine's Game of the Year award, beating Dragon Age Inquisition and Sunset Overdrive. GameFront‍ '​s Game of The Year 2014,[54] Kotaku Australia's Best Console Game of The Year 2014, and Best Overall Game of The Year 2014,[55][56] GamesRadar‍ '​s Best Horror Game of 2014 (and was also considered the 3rd best overall game of 2014),[57] was considered The Best Game Of 2014 by New Statesman‍ '​s,[58] and the game also appeared on several year-end lists of the best games of 2014: was ranked 1st in The Daily Telegraph‍ '​s Top 25 Games of 2014,[59] 2nd in Empire‍ '​s Top 10 Games Of 2014,[60] 2nd in Time‍ '​s Top 10 Games Of 2014,[61] 2nd the Associated Press‍ '​s Top 10 Games Of 2014,[62] 4th in The Guardian‍ '​s Top 25 Games Of 2014,[63] was in The 10 Best Games Of 2014 list by Daily Mirror (not ranked),[64] runner-up for Giant Bomb's Best Horror Game in 2014,[65] 3rd in reader's top 50 games of 2014 by Eurogamer.[66]

Sales[edit]

As of 21 January 2015, the game has sold over one million copies.[67][68]

References[edit]

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  5. ^ "Isolation". Edge (Future Publishing): p. 70. February 2014. The working spaces are built as loops crossed with alternate pathways to give the massive alien room to hunt and players space to hide. 
  6. ^ "Isolation". Edge (Future Publishing): p. 64. February 2014. Yes, Alien: Isolation has a fire button, so yes, there are guns in the game, but you won't be shooting often. Ammunition is limited to a handful of rounds at a time and while gunfire might be useful against the inevitably homicidal humans or those Working Joes, the Alien shrugs off anything you throw at it. 
  7. ^ "Isolation". Edge (Future Publishing): p. 64. February 2014. The alien is systematic across the board," [Gary] Napper says. "We can just drop the alien into an area and see how it behaves. It knows when it sees something and it knows when it just suspects something. It doesn't have to be the player 
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  21. ^ "Isolation". Edge (Future Publishing): p. 63. February 2014. Props such as the game's hacking device and motion tracker were built they way they would have been built on the set of the movie, with virtual black paint and stencils and duct tape wrapped around handheld televisions or old war radios. 
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