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Alien Isolation: Hands On

During my coverage of E3 2014, I had a chance to check out Alien: Isolation and get some hands on time with the game. The visit opened with a gameplay video that documented some of the threats and weapons in the game.

I was struck by the amazing attention to detail in the game. The cluttered station looks like you could be walking through the Nostromo and there are numerous items that players can interact with and investigate ranging from computer terminals and lock boxes.

The demo quickly got into high gear when a pipe ruptured and produced a wall of flame which attracted the Alien. Taking cover in a nearby room, we saw the way the game allows players to hide, hold their breath, and even pull the doors shut when hiding from an enemy.

After emerging from hiding, we saw how the motion tracker is a vital piece of equipment and is vital to your survival as it detected the Alien moving off.

A quick survey of a room produced a pass code from a computer which was used to open a vault and obtain items. This was key as nearby was a flamethrower which would not doubt come in handy. We were told that there are weapons to be found but ammunition was in short supply so strategy as well as crafting would be key.

Upon coming to a medical area, the player was tasked with creating an evacuation so they could exit the level. I also noticed a corpse in a wheelchair with a hole in his chest which may help explain where the creature that stalks the station originated from.

On our way to a power generator, we came upon a survivor and were told that they are to be found throughout the game. It was noted that the survivor was holding a pistol so it was decided to hide and let them go on their way.

The power room required the activation of a system which was noisy and each time a new phase started up, I expected to get an unwelcome visitor. An android appeared and when attempting to hack start the system it attacked. Using the pistol Amada was able to produce a flow of milky fluid but little damage, same for the flamethrower and blunt object that was used. A nearby EMP mine stunned the attacker and allowed the player to finish it off and complete the evac startup. We also saw crafting take place as a medical kit was fashioned to deal with the damage taken in the attack.

The alarm sequence sounded and it reminded me of the self destruct sequence at the end of “Alien: with very familiar siren and announcements set against the emergency lighting. This attracted the creature and we saw Amanda pay a price for this in the form of a tail through her stomach.

The demo resumed prior to this and via hiding, Amanda was able to get away when the Alien encountered a survivor but this still required a stealthy move around a pillar as the Alien passed.

Just as we were about to evacuate, The creature appeared but thanks to an unexpected explosion the demo ended with various fates unknown.

Next up I got hands on time with a survival mode of the game. I was told the story mode is one form of the game and the other is a challenge/survivor mode where players need to evade the creature to survive the level. I was told that the game was playable on the Occulus Rift at another locale so the idea of playing this scary and atmospheric game in virtual reality was enticing.

The challenge mode said I could get a bonus for locating ids, and not using the motion tracker. This went out the window fast as I emerged from a room into a central chamber where I located a flamethrower and a few items. I literally took two steps out of the room when I came upon the creature. It rushed me and I was able to fend it off with a blast of fire from the flamethrower. I was happy to have survived but I used up all my limited flame gel in doing so.

The tracker showed that the creature was playing a cat and mouse style game with me and it does indeed learn from your actions. It would knock items over out of my site line in an effort to make me commit resources.

I spent a lot of time hiding in a locker with my motion tracker enabled,. I attempted to find an alternate route but there was only one area that I could use to exit the level.

I hid behind a stack of boxes and attempted to hide from the creature but this time it baited me to fire before rushing in to take the heat and dispatch me.

A second effort resulted in me being taken out when I attempted to ignite and throw a flare to distract the creature. It was attracted to the flare easy enough but it stayed over it like a guard daring me to make a run for it,.

I later used a flare to bait it to an empty area and slipped past it using boxes to hide from it. It was tense having it slip by so close and I almost flicked the tail as I passed. Sadly I must have made too much noise as when I was past it and two rooms away, it chased me and got me.

The creature is truly scary and it really does act like a real and thinking creature. I was told after playing that many developers struggle with it at times as it learns from your actions and plans accordingly and as a result the more you play, the smarter it becomes. What works once is not likely to work again so dying is a regular part of the game. When asked if the difficulty would hurt sales, the Dark Souls series was mentioned as games that sell well despite a high level of difficulty.

I was very impressed with the game as it looks like Alien fans will finally get a game worthy of the film series and one that does not rely on twitch reflexes to gun down wave after wave of creatures.

Instead we have a clever and great looking game where thought and strategy will take priority over firepower.

October 7th cannot get here soon enough.