So here we go again. It has been a little over a year since I had the foul taste of my favorite movie being ruined for me in my mouth by Gearbox when they released the much hyped and horrifyingly executed disaster that was Aliens: Colonial Marines. Now, here we are again with Sega taking a crack at one of my favorite franchises, this time aiming for the tight paranoid horror of the first film instead of the shoot ’em up action of the second film in Alien: Isolation. While I am not exactly one who is going to shower this video game in praise like some other critics out there, I will say that with the bar set as low as it was from Colonial Marines, this thing had to have been absolutely unplayable for it to fail in my eyes so take that for what you will.
Alien: Isolation takes place 42 years prior to the events of Aliens and 15 years after the events of Alien. Our protagonist is the young and spunky Amanda Ripley, daughter of professional xenomorph asskicker Ellen Ripley. After the disappearance of her mother, naturally Amanda gets all angsty and in true video game fashion shows that the only appropriate way to handle the death/disappearance of a loved one is to obsess about it your entire life, obtain a job based around your obsession over your family member, and then go off on a wild goose chase at the drop of a hat just for some semblance of closure. Having a life, moving on, all that fun stuff… Nah forget that, we have a plot to deal with.
In either case after finding the flight recorder of the Nostromo, a Weyland-Yutani executive named Christopher Samuels shows up and invites Amanda to join them on a trip to Sevastopol, an android making facility who is holding the recorder so that she can finally get closure on her mother. Naturally she goes and of course when they reach the station all hell has broken loose as people have resorted to paranoid tribes as this ‘one’ alien is wreaking untold havoc on the denizens of this facility. Seriously, these aliens get around. The story then goes in survival horror fashion as Amanda sneaks her way through the facility and has to deal with xenomorphs and a few surprises along the way.
It has been quite sometime since I played a solid survival horror game. Considering how the market of video games today is flooded with action shooters and just about action everything it is good to see a game that at least attempts to put some horror into its narrative… Granted this doesn’t always hold true and we will get to that later but still the effort is commendable.
The stealth through corridors and the first person view in such enclosed spaces, truly captures the essence of Ridley Scott’s first movie with a feeling of tight claustrophobia as you are being hunted by this horrific beast. It takes a couple of pages from the source material as well as games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent to generate its horror which I think is a good sign of the correct way to generate horror in a video game. Less jump scares and more genuine terror.
The Game Looks Next Gen
Granted I played this on the Playstation 3 instead of the newer consoles, but I have since looked at videos online for next-gen graphics and technology and it is one of the first games that I have seen that looks and feels like the next wave of gaming. There are good features in it and the graphics and design look modern, crisp, and clean. This is one of the first games where I have legitimately been impressed by what it is I’m looking at on the screen. Kudos to them for that.
Just as I made the argument from Aliens Colonial Marines that when we play an Alien game we want to fight xenomorphs, even in this movie we are still facing two enemies in the Xenomorphs and the evil corporation for the sake of evil deeds that was doing it way before Umbrella Inc. was even dreamed of, Weyland-Yutani. It isn’t to the level that the Gearbox monstrosity was where you could practically call it Call of Duty: Weyland-Yutani. But the game does feature Weyland-Yutani controlling androids and murdering people for the sake of salvaging one alien. You would think all these people would have to do is say, capture an alien and bring it to us and people would do that instead of all this secret genocide stuff, but whatever.
After the alien is cast out into space, we have to deal with these bozos doing the third act human purge that most survival horror games do and we learn that there is a legion of these fuckers that Amanda needs to dispose of. All I want is one game, ONE GAME where we don’t have to fight Weyland-Yutani, where we don’t have to deal with action for the sake of action, where we can just fight xenomorphs and not have to deal with all the other bullshit! I don’t think I’m asking for too much.
The Need to Use Ripley’s Daughter as the Protagonist
Why is it when a video game is tied into a movie, but does not follow the movie’s storyline that the developers feel the need to attach a character from the movie to the game or the character’s offspring. For those of you who have seen Aliens, you will remember a very tragic scene when Burke tells Ripley that her daughter passed away after living a rich and fulfilling life without her mother. It is tragic and it breaks Ripley’s heart to know that her daughter has passed, thus spawning her motherly affection towards Newt, but you know for a fact that Amanda Ripley did eventually move on from her mother’s disappearance and went on to lead a life away from Weyland-Yutani and a xenomorph free existence.
This game, seeing as how it was terrified by the mere idea of having a game that did not feature either a character from the movies or the relative of a character, decides to make Amanda Ripley an obsessed woman who is not over her mother’s disappearance/death… So in a sense she is Batman or at least on the same line of thought. Her life is dedicated to finding her mother, instead of leading a fulfilling life, she is working for Weyland-Yutani just to gain closure on her mother’s disappearance. Her job and her life revolves around something that is out of her control. Now I understand that people handle death in different ways, but I think it is a much better story for Ripley’s daughter to merely move on from her mother’s disappearance, have a nice life, and not have to become some sort of hero.
I just feel that this was not a good decision. It was a cheap tactic to attempt to make characters feel instant investment in the story by having a character that isn’t Ripley… But is related to her. Instead of having a new character for us to follow and they are in the same universe, we just get angsty, early 20’s, Ripley baby who is not over her mother’s disappearance. Lazy and stupid.
Alien: Isolation is not going to win any popularity contests but at the same time is not going to be at the bottom of the shit heap like its predecessor. Overall as much as I complain with using Amanda Ripley and the continued use of making Weyland-Yutani out to be the most evil of evil for the sake of evil, the game did hold true to the source material that it was given, and I can’t fault it for that.
In my eyes, Alien: Isolation is what I would like to call the bare minimum of success. It succeeded enough to not be an abject failure but did not do anything else to really wow the community or fans of the series. It will be a game that will receive positive marks and then be forgotten as newer and better games come piling through.
Final Score 3/5
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