Alien: Isolation is True Survival Horror
Survival horror hasn’t fared well in recent years. Many survival horror games opted to focus on action instead of vulnerability. Those that didn’t went in the opposite direction, creating helpless protagonists. The classic approach—a protagonist who can fight, but isn’t overpowered, with limited resources and puzzles to solve—became rare.
Alien: Isolation, however, takes traditional survival horror gameplay into the modern era.
You play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley from Alien. Amanda can fight with melee weapons and firearms, but the enemies she faces are dangerous and her resources are few. The Alien itself is too dangerous to fight, and must be tricked or avoided instead.
This creates a wonderful blend of fighting and hiding so rare in modern horror games. Any enemy is a credible threat, but none so much as the Alien. Not only can it kill you in a single hit, but it also learns from your behavior. The power and adaptability of your opponent means you can never fully relax, because you’ll never quite feel safe.
You’ll do much more than creep from plot point to plot point while the Alien stalks you through Sevastopol Station. You’ll find logs from the station’s final days, puzzles to solve, and doors you’ll need to backtrack to once you find the next tool or key. In short, Alien: Isolation has all of the gameplay elements that made classic survival horror games so great.
None of it feels clunky, either. The controls are smooth and natural, a helpful map keeps you from getting too lost, and everything fits neatly together to contribute to the game’s strong sense of dread.
Even the fixed save points, placed just far enough apart to make you anxious without undue frustration, add to the atmosphere—especially when you realize you aren’t safe even while saving.
The main plot isn’t particularly strong, though it has its moments, and the ending feels padded. It overstays its welcome just a little too long. These are minor concerns, however, compared to the overall experience.
Alien: Isolation is true survival horror. All the traditional gameplay mechanics are present, and while it isn’t the scariest game ever, it might be the tensest. Survival horror has had an identity crisis over the past few years, but this game has set down a blueprint to follow. Whether you’re a fan of survival horror, the Alien franchise, or both, Alien: Isolation is a must-play.