'Alien Isolation' is $9 on PS+ Right Now
Creative Assembly’s terrifying, true-to-’Alien’ game is on deep discount at the Playstation Store.
All images courtesy Sega
Alien Isolation was my Game of the Year in 2014. It's a terrifying horror game that sets you in a falling-apart space station that has a little xenomorph problem, and it is an absolute steal right now, for $14.99 on the Playstation store, and only $8.99 with Playstation Plus.
The team at Creative Assembly made something very special here: their love of the first (and best) movie is clear in every texture, in every retro-future UI element, in every tiny story of a corporate dystopia gone even further to hell. It stars a capable woman hero—Amanda Ripley—a smart, reasonable engineer who does her mother proud. And it importantly understands what really works about Ridley Scott's Alien, a movie that plays with tension, sexuality, politics, biology and the messiness of an uncaring world, until everything just goes completely to shit.
It's the Alien AI that really stole the show, making for an experience that was always tense. Brendan Keogh's 2014 piece on the game is on point, I still haven't played anything that so convincingly made me feel hunted since:
So while humans and androids are learnable but still interesting, the alien is something else. It feels sentient and autonomous. It feels organic and unpredictable. It feels less like some strings of code reacting to other strings of code and more like an active and independent agent doing whatever it wants. Which is where the game's most wonderful emergent behaviour arises from: walking through this room might be fine, as the alien is all the way over there; but it might also be impossible as the alien is hanging out in an air vent right in the middle of it. The game doesn't know, and it can't help you. It's almost like a computer virus in the software. It does what it want. Within certain constraints, of course, but it ultimately feels like the designers made this digital beast then let it loose. This is what makes it so terrifying: that knowledge that it is unpredictable and not leashed to the designer. It really could be anywhere. Some sections will be more scripted than others, but you never really know which ones. At any time the alien might be autonomous. You, player, are not the only active, intentional agent in this game. That is terrifying.
It has flaws, yes: the game certainly overstays its welcome, and there are some cheap-as-hell encounters by the end. But it is absolutely one of the best-imagined and executed visions of a film universe in video game form, and well worth the $9-15 it's currently going for.