Shit! It sees me.
Or I think it does, based on the way it stops to grunt. Taking no risks, I double-back to the other room, frantically feeling along the wall to find a locker to hide in. I close the locker door and peek through the vent to see what’s going on.
The thudding footsteps get louder until the xenomorph practically stares at me. My lungs already pump air out like bellows, and I’m forced to suck my breath and stand at the far back, hoping it doesn’t realize I’m here. The seconds feel like hours, but it turns away. I let go of the wind, pushing my lips apart and peer through the vent until it leaves the room. Life has been granted to me for maybe another minute.
Moments like these are all too common in Alien: Isolation, the space-based survival horror game fans hope will restore honor to the Alien brand. Honestly, this game seems like the smart and creative solution The Creative Assembly has to the embarrassing Aliens: Colonial Marines. Out with the generic and uninspired man-shooter and in with an IP that reinforces the scarier aspects of the original movie. After all, there were a lot of tense scenes before Ripley was able to take care of business.
Events may play out similarly for her daughter, Amanda, who is the star of this narrative. Similar to the protagonists of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Outlast, Amanda is powerless to face her enemies. Instead she must sneak around using cover and quiet footsteps to out-maneuver the xenomorph(s) lurking in the halls. They are formidable foes, and being snagged by one results in instant failure, so the key is using timing and the environment wisely.
In the demo I played, my first goal was to get to and lock down a set of stairs, but accomplishing this feat was anything but simple. Xenomorphs can crawl through vents just like Amanda can, so I had to take care not to be seen coming out of one. She comes equipped with a motion tracker, but one of my subtasks, which I stupidly committed to, was not to use it. This meant carefully listening to the footsteps and keeping an eye on what was around before making any moves. Of course, even at my best, pipes would loudly vent air from the ceiling, or doors would take a while to slide open, so thinking quickly when I caught the alien’s attention was also paramount.
Sadly, I was not able to finish my simple mission. Although the final game will feature difficulty settings, this demo had to have been set on Hard. Regardless, I came away feeling quite delighted about the final product. I’m not an avid Alien fan, but from a pure gaming perspective, the tension of tip-toeing around a singular and agile foe kept that feeling of dread pounding through my brain every minute. I didn’t get to witness much story, but I hope it is as good as the gameplay. Alien: Isolation will be out on October 7th for Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.