What Happened to ALIEN: ISOLATION? (Video Game Review)
Alien: Isolation is so impressive it’s almost infuriating. It’s been four years since its release and we still haven’t had a successor. This was a game worthy of the Alien franchise, but it accomplished much more than being a video game about a movie. It had a strong formula: you play as a survivor onboard a derelict space station while trying to avoid a terrifying monster. So why, given the way the industry is, are there no copycats?
The Dead Space franchise has a similar feel to Isolation, but instead of having to cower inside a locker I can decimate the monsters with the giant gun the game gives me. Another horror game called Amnesia has clearly inspired the developers of Alien, but its sound design doesn’t have me turning my head at every creak and footstep I hear. Nothing combines a strong atmosphere and engaging gameplay like Alien: Isolation.
Unfortunately, no modding support exists for this game, so there’s no way to extend its lifespan once the main content has been played through. But it’s good enough to replay several times anyway. However, by design, stealth games lend themselves to a certain level of tedium. I’m a player who likes to do everything perfectly, and when it doesn’t work, reload the save. This is where the game often becomes a habitual process. I often catch myself in repetitive loops of trying to take the “perfect” route through each level, and each time I die it’s more of a nuisance, and any tension or suspense starts to fall away. This is not a problem unique to Isolation though.
PC Gamer called it “the most visually striking game world since Deus Ex: Human Revolution”, and praised the moment-to-moment experiences the game throws your way, which I love because it forces me to come up with creative solutions. Alien: Isolation may be a critically good game, but it was not the commercial success its publisher Sega had hoped for. Some people say that Sega simply held too high expectations. Gamers were buying Fallout 4 at the time, and horror games generally don’t do as well as other triple-A releases. There were rumours spreading that another Alien game was in the works, but nothing came of them, except for a mobile game, Alien: Blackout.
Alien: Isolation might be the best horror game I’ve ever played. It’s a masterpiece of immersive environment design, sound design, and AI programming. The atmosphere created in this game is incredible, replicating the 1979 retro look perfectly. The game also lets you explore computer terminals that tell the story of the station through messages left by the people who lived there. You can see the potential that lies here not just for other games, but movies too, and it’s a shame nothing else has spawned from its existence. I hope somehow, somewhere, the right team will assemble to create something at least sort-of resembling this game’s precise aesthetic and gameplay formula.
It wouldn’t even have to be based on the Alien franchise. This isn’t like a Star Wars game, where the big name behind it is driving its success. I believe the formula itself is something people would play. Somebody Kickstart something. Where are my aliens? You could do so many things with this concept: change the presentation in any way you like, or have it be an online game where you compete with player-controlled survivors. The point I’m trying to get across in this retrospective review of Alien: Isolation is that I don’t merely see a fantastic horror game; like many fans, I see the untapped potential here where the industry did not.