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Alien: Isolation - Initial Thoughts (SPOILER-FREE)

Having had a chance to play a bit of Alien: Isolation, here are some early thoughts. This isn't a full review, because truth is this game is hard, so I'm not even halfway through it yet.

Most importantly, is this game a scary, thrilling Alien experience?

Yes. Good God, yes. Even before the Alien shows up, it's terrifying. The lighting and sound design is perfect. One of the best bits is when you first wake up on the Torrens at the very beginning and have a look around, and each time you enter a new corridor all the lights in the walls flicker on exactly as they did in Alien. They've nailed the aesthetic.

What about the Alien itself?

One scary mofo. He is a terrifying presence, simply because if he sees you, he ends you. It's as simple as that. In fact, sometimes you won't even see it coming. There is no fighting back. I've heard the flamethrower is just barely effective at making him retreat, but I haven't got far enough to find one yet. I'm not sure I'll have the courage to test it out even when I have one. Cowering in a locker while the Alien stalks the room looking for you gets my pulse pounding every time.

I'll be honest, as scary as it is at first, the Alien isn't quite so terrifying once you've experienced him a few times; he's still a formidable presence and you will freak out when he shows up, but the first few encounters are the best, because you're absolutely terrified of what might happen if and when he finds you. I guess that's a side-effect of the game design and the inherently repetitive gameplay, but while the creature's impact is definitely lessened, it's by no means destroyed entirely.

Anything else?

The design of the rudimentary androids you encounter is great. Pale, rubbery skin, glowing red eyes and a monotone, emotionless voice, even when they're brutally bushing your head in. They're slow, but they just keep on coming. They're a great counter-balance to the lighting-fast Alien, and I'm looking forward to/dreading a scenario involving both at the same time.

As well as the more obvious references, there are some nice little nods to the films too. I love how the tracker screen goes all fuzzy and stuttery inside vents, presumably from interference. One of the best things I've found so far was an audio log recorded by Dallas from before the events of Alien, talking about Ash replacing his previous Science Officer. That was a nice touch.

In summary?

If you're a fan of Alien, buy this game. It's totally different to every Alien game I've played before, and in a very good way. It is hard, but personally I think it's refreshing to play a game so difficult when most current games can be beaten with no real effort. The fact that some reviewers are criticising this level of challenge kinda annoys me, because it harks back to the days when completing a game was by no means guaranteed, and you felt a real sense of accomplishment from doing so.

I won't give it a score because I simply haven't completed enough of it, but what an experience so far.

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