After the absolute abomination that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, fans would be wise to be at least skeptical about another Alien game. Fortunately, this one seems to have a stronger foundation than the most recent effort, which fell far short of even the OUYA-released AvP: Evolution game. Like Marines, this has a first-person view, but differs in that it focuses on exploration that freaks you out. Everything is bathed in darkness beyond ambient lighting, which looks gorgeous. You’ll see light beam into a room from the shutters, while cracks in them allow the world to feel lived in. Creative Assembly is out to suck you into the world, and what’s been shown of the game so far makes it easy to do that. Everything is either just a bit destroyed, or mangled — and it’s unnerving. You can see that the environments were just recently occupied, with things like desk ornaments and food left out — and then the gravity of its immediate abandonment sinks in. They were people until they became victims, then everything changed for them and for Amanda Ripley.
It’s up to Ellen Ripley’s daughter to fix the problem and get rid of the devastating xenomorphs while also finding out what happened to her mother. Set between the first and second movies, this game looks to bridge that gap with a compelling narrative and soak the experience with an emphasis on atmospheric scares. Like the original Dead Space, there’s a lot of scary stuff in the game, but it’s largely due to the setting and the mood. Much like a classic horror flick, the key to the monster genre is to not see the monster too much. Here, the scares come from just the idea of an alien being near you and that being the driving force behind the scary tone and not just relying on graphic violence for a shock or jump scare. When you’re around a xenomorph, it becomes a cat and mouse game where you have to use stealth in order to separate yourself from them and survive. Seeing a survival-horror game actually try to nail the whole “survival” thing and make the world you’re in be terrifying is refreshing, and a welcome change from the more action-oriented entries the genre has seen over the past few years.
Alien: Isolation looks to live up to the franchise’s original high standards and its own name with a creepy experience. It’s due out in the fall of 2014 for the 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Sega knows they need to get this license back on track, and after the unmitigated disaster of Colonial Marines, Isolation looks to go for a completely different motif that could very well save the franchise. If all goes well and this game manages to live up to what we’ve seen so far, it could wind up being one of the finest survival-horror games that actually lives up to that moniker.