[ Introduction ]
Ellen Ripley is dead, but her demise left a lot of unanswered questions for her daughter Amanda. Ultimately that is what the core of this game is about. A daughter looking answers surrounding her mother’s death.
It just so happens that this journey of discovery takes place in deep space, onboard a failing space station that has become the hunting ground and private love den of one of the most vicious creatures in the known (and unknown) universe.
Already a fan favorite on PC and other consoles, let’s take a look at how Alien Isolation fares on the Nintendo Switch.
[ Gameplay ]
A first-person game that combines both the potential for action with the understanding that it is not always the best way to go about things. Stealth is your best friend and aggression should be reserved for those moments when there is no other alternative. Even backtracking is more often than not a better choice to a direct confrontation.
The game starts with a bang as what should have been a routine boarding goes amiss and sees you separated from the rest of your team. Thrown onto the space station Sevastopol you are dropped right into the action.
Sneaking around the ship, you will make allies, see those allies fall, and encounter countless enemies. The primary goal is to find the recently salvaged flight recorder from the Nostromo. However, that soon falls to the wayside as you explore the ship and meet both the Alien Queen that roams the halls, as well as the bureaucratic horror that is the mismanaged Seegson Corporation. At times it was a little too realistic how the company was run and how the employees were treated, but maybe that’s just me.
I really liked how the game didn’t tell its story through endless character interactions, but rather through accessing files on computer terminals. This worked well to two ends. One it kept the atmosphere of the game alive because if you had too many cut scenes or dialogue scenes, it would have ruined the tension and worked against the concept of the game. It also meant you could tailor the game to be as story-heavy as you want. Personally, I went out of my way to read everything on all of the terminals because I really love story. Now I am sure there were terminals I missed, but that just leaves me wondering and excited for a second playthrough.
One thing that should be noted is that this game is long. I put in around 32 hours and felt as if I was rushing through the last couple of levels to try and reach the end credits. Not because I wasn’t enjoying myself but because I had a review to write and more games to play. I do think that there were a few areas that could have been either removed or shortened. The two sequences where you are outside the space station and have to walk along several long straight walkways to hit a switch were two such instances. I liked them, but did the walk really have to be that far and that slow. There was no threat, and no combat, so essentially for those sections, I was playing a spaced based walking simulator.
I don’t recall encountering any performance problems during my playthrough of the game, which was a very nice treat given the size of the game.
It’s a large download, but I also mean the size of the space station. The game area was vast, and it takes quite a while to find your bearings. Luckily, you revisit floors and towers repeatedly through the game, and as you creep around you find map upload stations that help flesh out the map.
Having read around, I noticed several people criticised the map in this game but personally, I found it invaluable and perfectly adequate. It gave direction but didn’t hold your hand and delivery you to where you needed to be.
While I was initially a little thrown by the controls of the crafting mechanic in the game, I soon grew accustomed to it, and after having unlocked everything, I can see why the decision was made to control it the way they did. The inclusion of such a wide range of craftable items also lends itself nicely towards game replayability. There were several craftable items I only used towards the end just to see what they did. I could see useful moments for them in the game, but my style of play at the time didn’t warrant their use. The motion tracker is the real key item for you in the game, helping you look ahead and see the route ahead to make sure it is clear. It proved invaluable on multiple occasions, and while the solution was to take the long way around, it meant I didn’t die a horrible alien death, and I guess that is a good thing.
[ Visual and Perfomance ]
The game looked very impressive. Captured the look and feel of the original Alien movies perfectly. For as much as I found the level pointless, the flashback to exploring the Alien ship was a great example of how strong the game’s visuals were.
The derelict nature of the station, the graffiti from the disgruntled employees, left to fend for themselves. It all came together to paint a picture of deep space panic. You could feel the despair as you walked around, and that was a core component in what made the game so atmospheric.
The Alien looked great and moved with a very nice fluidity and the AI – which has already been praised across many different channels since the game’s launch – needs to be mentioned because it helped keep things interesting.
[ Sound ]
If we learned anything from the Alien movies, it’s that in space, nobody can hear you scream. The same cannot be said for when on a space station. The creaks and groans of a broken-down establishment falling apart around your ears. The hissing of vents and crackle of broken lights and outlets.
It’s not surprising that the audio in the game is so solid, give that audio cues are such an important component of your survival. Listening not just to know if the coast is clear but also to get an understanding of it the creature it above you in the vents or behind you in the shadows.
The voice work in the game was also high quality, with each character being distinct and identifiable. Even the voice recordings and the written accounts left by the different Sevastopol employees had character for days and really added to the overall immersion of the game.