Having only experienced two hours of Alien: Isolation with no plans to rush through it, I feel that now is the opportune time to give my early opinions on it while they’re still relevant.
Alien: Isolation does something that no other horror game does, making you feel both safe and completely exposed simultaneously. The feeling of safety comes from the rock solid controls and overall mechanics of the game, making you feel secure in your movements and actions. On the other hand, the nerve-wracking exposed-feeling is almost always around because there’s a Xenomorph on your trail for a good chunk of the game. But you’ve heard this all in the pre-release press blurbs and advertising stuff, so I’m here to say a few things that haven’t already been hammered to death via gaming website propaganda.
One moment early on in the game (forty minutes in or so), you’re traveling with a companion, who, during a cut-scene, gets impaled by the Alien’s tail. This is pretty standard fair, as in horror games almost always the protagonist’s companion gets killed at some point. So, after that boring intro-to-the-alien cut-scene, you are then tasked with running to a shuttle transport. Obviously, now that you know the Alien is lurking around things are more tense, especially with the added dramatic piano tremors. But what made me nearly piss myself is the fact that if, when the train pulls into the station, you wait more than five seconds to move to the next area, the Alien will come charging towards you (and you have nowhere to run at that point so…). That is an optional scare, the scariest kind of all. Most will go through the game and never experience that, being all the happier for it. The fact that during the cliche hunter introduction sequence you actually run the risk of being hunted against all video game norms makes Alien: Isolation a bundle of surprises. Even standard encounters with the Alien are near-piss inducing, as when you see him carving up humans on the other side of the room and you realize the only way to advance is by going over there and accessing an elevator out in the open, it’s one of the most heart-thump inducing experiences in gaming. Overall, if I wrack up the courage to play more than the two-plus hours of Alien: Isolation that I soldiered through, I have no doubt that the game will give me more memorable moments to shit myself over. And in that respect, I can already name it the best horror game I’ve ever played. No cliches, no safe assumptions, just one intimidating AI Alien with no rules.