For Alien fans, it has been a hell of a dry spell between the last truly good game in the franchise. Creative Assembly's upcoming Alien: Isolation is the first game in a long time that has a genuine chance to break that streak, and at E3 2014, we got some hands-on time with the game. In Isolation, the Alien is not a foe that can be slain but is one that must be avoided and hidden from. This provides some fantastic moments of tension and dread, and it feels like a continuation of Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece.
In the game, you play as Amanda Ripley, Ellen Ripley's daughter. Isolation takes place between the first and second movies, with Amanda trying to find out what happened to her mom. This search leads her to a space station, which is unfortunately also the new hunting grounds of the same Xenomorph from the first film. As one would expect, the situation about the space station deteriorates rapidly, with the Alien murdering inhabitants left and right while the younger Ripley tries to find answers and survive.
With the scarcity of firearms in the game and their ineffectual nature against the Alien, this isn't a title that you can simply shoot your way through. Players must make careful use of their eyes and ears to perceive threats and react to them accordingly. Using the motion tracker can be key to this, though while you're using it, you can't focus on it and the game world at the same time. Even its information isn't necessarily reliable. It might pick up anything else that is moving in the environment, and it can be picking up something below the floor panels, above the ceiling, or something in the corridor ahead.
The Alien is constantly hunting and using its senses to track down prey. Obviously, being seen by the creature is close to a death knell, but the creature can also hear you from a decent distance. This means that movement speed factors in, as does any other sources of noise. This can be used to your detriment and your benefit, since you can also use noise sources to distract the alien away from you.
There will be times when you duck into a room only to find the Alien bearing down on you, and you must hide to survive. Hiding behind objects or under desks works in a pinch, but the best hiding spots are the ones that are also smartly marked with a green light on their handles or access panels. Hiding in these places breaks line of sight completely, but you still make a minor amount of sound from breathing. Amanda can hold her breath for a short time if necessary, but not forever. This leads to some tense situations where you're leaning against the back wall of a locker and holding your breath, praying that the curious Alien goes away before it discovers your hiding place.
That's not to say that hiding from and evading the Alien is an easy feat. In my hands-on time, the game was holding a clinic on how many different ways the Alien is capable of killing me. The creature generally prowls slowly, but there are also times when it darts into new rooms or travels in the air ducts. This makes it incredibly unpredictable, and you have to constantly juggle your options when moving through the environment.
Unfortunately for Amanda, the Alien isn't the only threat on the station. Surviving humans may or may not be friendly, and some are willing to shoot her on sight. They can be dispatched with a revolver, but doing so also makes enough noise to attract the Alien. Likewise, synthetic humanoids roam the station and must be taken down with other means. The Alien attacks everything equally and is indifferent to whether or not it's the player character, so it is possible to see the Alien attack another human and vice versa. This ends poorly for the human, but you can use it as an opportunity to sneak away.
Amanda is also capable of crafting her own equipment by scavenging the parts from the environment. Items such as med kits and noisemakers have obvious benefits, so you can support yourself in what is otherwise an incredibly hostile environment. Amanda can also hack terminals to gain access to them via what appears to be a symbol matching system, but that was only seen in a prerecorded gameplay segment; it's not something I saw during my hands-on time.
If nothing else, Alien: Isolation feels like a successful marriage of the Alien source material with gameplay that's similar to the original Amnesia. My limited experience with the game wasn't enough to know if the game will live up to its own promises, but from what I saw, it certainly played well. Isolation fits the universe, and it seems to genuinely understand and respect the source material. Check out more information on the game as it nears its ship date.
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