Despite thrills, too much repetition in latest Sega videogame ensures it comes frustratingly close to being great
Ridley Scott's world of Alien has proved fertile ground for sci-fi imaginations. Not only a series of sequels (including James Cameron's superlative Aliens and David Fincher's directorial debut Alien 3) but a plethora of comics, videogames and merchandise. Unfortunately the most recent Alien: Colonial Marines left a nasty taste in most gamers mouth's, a scrappy glitchy rushed effort that failed on nearly every level.
Now Sega and developers Creative Assembly are back and desperate to redress the balance. Alien: Isolation couldn't be more different from Colonial Marines. This is survival horror in sci-fi clothing; out go the guns and shoot 'em up bravado, in comes stealth and evasion. It also links nicely into the films, taking place 15 years after the events of Scott's 1979 movie and 42 years before Cameron's Aliens, as you play Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who finds herself stranded aboard the Sevastopol space station. A hulking piece of cosmic junk that appears to be abandoned.
Regrettably you are not alone. Other human survivors are your first enemy as the inhabitants of the Sevastopol have seemingly turned on one another; then there's the murderous malfunctioning androids the Working Joes. And of course there's a xenomorph on board, an apex predator stalking the corridors and ventilation shafts.
In theory Isolation aims for Alien but actually plays more like Alien 3 as you soon realise the other humans and robots are your main enemy. You won't actually encounter the titular star beast until a good hour into the game. That's one of the main problems, as the Alien itself is almost a guest star you'll spend the majority of the time evading Working Joes and traipsing down corridors looking for key cards to unlock the next section. Admittedly there are some thrilling, tense encounters with the extra-terrestrial as you monitor its movements on your scanner, ducking and crawling in the opposite direction, cowering in cupboards or under desks to avoid detection and instant death, but they are too few and far between.
The sets are deliberately styled to resemble Alien and there's some wonderful retro-futurism on display. However this also applies to the game mechanics, making Isolation feel generic. The Ripley name and the lead monster are just window dressing; this could be almost any first person stealth title as you trudge down corridor after corridor.
Alien: Isolation seriously needs some editing; there's too much repetitive gameplay. Cut a few hours and you'd have a slim line, taught, tight gaming experience. Alien: Isolation is so almost great it's frustrating.
Alien: Isolation out now.