Alien: Isolation is just about the best game I can recommend for fans of survival classic horror who want something modern.
If you’re tired of action games masquerading as survival horror, games where your protagonist is too helpless to fight back against anything, and tributes to the classics that FEEL like you’ve stepped back into the early days of Resident Evil, you should check out Alien: Isolation.
On one hand, it’s clearly a modern game. It has polished graphics, smooth controls, and an intuitive interface.
On the other hand, it embraces all the mechanics of traditional survival horror. Locked doors fill the early levels, and you’ll need a variety of tools to open them. Some people criticized Isolation for the inclusion of backtracking, but this sort of gradual unlocking is one of the things I love about the genre. Puzzles are mainly the locked-door variety, but a few others present themselves, as well. Computer logs and entries act as traditional memos, whether they give you clues or just recount the last days of Sevastopol Station.
And, in a rarity these days, your protagonist is neither overpowered nor helpless.
The Alien itself is a foe to be reckoned with. It’s too dangerous to fight, so you’ll spend most of your time hiding and avoiding it, with the help of your motion tracker. However, you will find some items that let you distract it or temporarily force it back.
You’ll encounter other enemies as well, both hostile survivors and creepily polite AI. Both can be killed, though with difficulty. And as a deliberately-uncanny-valley “Working Joe” AI advances toward you while advising you not to run in case you hurt yourself, I think you’ll find they fit the horror atmosphere just fine.
Resources are scarce, so you’ll need to take care with your health items, ammo, and crafting materials. You don’t want to run out, especially when the Alien is so terrifyingly powerful.
Not only will the Alien kill you in a single blow, outrun you, and stalk you around the station, it also LEARNS from your behaviors. Like to hide from it in lockers? It’ll eventually make a beeline for the lockers to listen for your breathing. Thrilled to finally have a flamethrower? Enough blasts will make it grow more comfortable with fire.
Isolation is filled with scares, and more importantly, an unrelentingly tense atmosphere. No game has made me as tense as this one. Alien: Isolation masterfully crafts a sense of dread. (Near the end, the pacing flags, due to what feels like filler content, but that’s only one small piece of an otherwise-great game.)
Finally, it holds true to the first Alien movie in both tone and aesthetics. You play Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley. I re-watched the movie right before I started to play, and the attention to detail was astounding. The developers wanted to pay homage to the original movie, and they succeeded.
If you like Alien and/or classic survival horror games, you really need to check out Alien: Isolation. To me, this is the model new survival horror games should follow.