Alien Isolation: Not a Game to Play with the Dishwasher on and Kittens Running Around
Every so often I will receive a random message from a mate of mine letting me know that a game is either free or extremely cheap on Steam or GOG, which I extremely appreciate (thanks Chris!). Alien Isolation was one of these games, but the fact that I got it for free will not be taken into account in my review today. Admittedly I likely would never have purchased this game otherwise and at the very least I am glad that I was given the opportunity to play a game that I likely would have completely overlooked otherwise. I just thought I’d put that out there to start!
I like to think that video games can be a social activity, despite this odd stigma that games still have amongst some that it is mainly a solitary activity done by teenage boys (or men who do not want to go grow up). The video game industry has done a good job at changing this and over the past decade or so and it has become more… ‘acceptable’ to be a gamer and the variety of video games accessible to people now is quite amazing.
To me, Alien: Isolation was a game that could be experienced in two different ways. When I started the game, I invited a few friends over: one the aforementioned Chris, and a friend of mine who is very well-versed in the Alien universe, and who is instrumental in me being able to comment on various aspects of the games aesthetics and lore (thanks Pete!). It was an interesting experience and one that I had not really had since I was a kid and watched my friend play Ocarina of Time (which I found at the time incredibly dull. Unbelievable, I know) and one that I appreciated more than maybe I should have had to.
Four hours into the game and we hadn’t got that far, but the time went by quite quickly and playing the game on a big screen in the dark created a great atmosphere which we were able to enjoy together. We took turns in playing after one of died and during the downtime the others busied themselves with some backseat gaming.
Graphically the game is, in my opinion, quite impressive for a six-year-old game. I imagine at the time it must have been fairly highly regarded for its quality graphics and I was particular impressed with the atmosphere that they were able to exude.
What I really liked about it and what Peter mentioned on multiple occasions throughout, was that you could tell that the developers had gone to great lengths to recreate that 1980’s SF look, with fantastic results. Even from the moment you boot up the game you are met with a fuzzy 20th Century Fox opening that looks and sounds like it was being played straight off of a VHS cassette player.
While everything is very smooth and shiny, it definitely has the air of an old movie set with retro-looking monitor screens, lights blinking and beeping randomly for effect, devices that look like a Fisher Price toy, and many others. While you could argue that most video games are like that, you can see that they really tried hard to create a certain type of aesthetic that shines through.
The exception to this is the backdrops. While you are in space, there are nice big windows that show the outside of the ships and rest of the space station, which all look fantastic. More than once I would walk up to a window to have a good look outside, which I’m sure I would do on a real space station given the chance!
I read online that this game is best experienced with headphones, and while I have not tried it yet myself, I understand completely. It is generally a very quiet game and when you have a lot of things going on in the background, it can be make it very difficult to know what’s going on around you in-game, if anything. Make sure you’re alone when playing it if you want to feel the terror the game can instill and if you have good speakers, make sure you crank up the volume!
I suppose there isn’t really much more I can say about this, so for now I think I will just leave it there with the note that I would advise that anyone who likes jump scares and suspense plays this game, especially if it is on sale on Steam.