SEGAbits at Comic Con Preview: Alien: Isolation

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I should preface this by saying that I’ve never been a huge Aliens fan. I’d seen Alien years ago, and while I thought it was a fun and creepy movie, it’s never been a series that I’d become overly familiar with. I was excited though when SEGA picked up the license, hoping to see what type of spin they’d put on an IP that offers a lot of opportunity.

On that note, I’d like to thank whatever deity exists out there that made me forget to place my preorder for that Colonial Marines game. But Alien: Isolation is from the start an entirely different beast. Planted firmly in the survival horror genre and not feeling, based on this demo, like a shooter of any kind, this game is scary. It’s a wonderfully, ridiculously scary bit of survival horror that has the potential to reinvigorate a genre that’s become so much less about scares in recent years than it ever should have been.

It’s the type of game that will have you diving for the light switch.

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First and foremost, I have to give SEGA credit for setting this demo up so well. Taking place inside a darkened, sealed off area of San Diego’s Petco Stadium across the street from Comic Con, a somewhat long wait eventually landed you in a seat in front of your own HDTV, with headphones placed over your ears and a PS4 controller in your hand. The demo, which lasted roughly 30 minutes, was then entirely yours to play.

First and foremost, I have to give SEGA credit for setting this demo up so well.

From the start I was on edge, as this is a game that features an incredibly intense atmosphere. The light dims to a dangerous level, making me quite thankful for my flashlight, which had to be used sparingly due to its limited battery life. Aliens creep through the shadows, and having one catch you means instant death, so my heart raced whenever my radar device indicated that one was in the area, making me then have to frantically search for a place to hide.

My heart raced whenever my radar device indicated that one was in the area.

The Aliens can be attracted to several things; among them the sound of your running if you choose to run, and of course the light from your flashlight. You’re given a radar device with a waypoint that lets you know where you should be heading, but this device is only on screen while you hold the R1 button, so it’s your choice whether to use it or not. When your character does pull the radar up, the rest of the environment beautifully blurs its focus, momentarily blinding you to your surroundings: a dangerous prospect in Alien: Isolation.

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Being the first PS4 game I’ve gotten to play, it’s hard for me to compare its visuals to other games of the eighth console generation, but here they really did the trick. The lighting engine’s incredible, the sound design equally so, and my journey through this ship featured no shortage of tension and scares.

The lighting engine’s incredible, the sound design equally so, and my journey through this ship featured no shortage of tension and scares.

It’s scarier than I remember even the first Dead Space being, and the reason for this, aside from the presentation, is that the enemies (at least, in this demo) are used incredibly sparingly. There’s an Alien creeping through the ship, its presence ramping up as the demo progressed, but the fact that you know it’s nearby, somewhere, makes it far scarier than if you were gunning down an onslaught of them in plain sight.

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I’m not sure how much of the final game will be like this, and I’d imagine weapons will come into play at some point. But I have high hopes that Creative Assembly won’t turn this into a mindless action game. Everything’s in place for Alien: Isolation to be a great and terrifying adventure. The graphics are nice, the sound’s top notch, the controls work well, the enemies are suitably terrifying, and the major emphasis on survival horror is nothing short of refreshing.

Should the game deliver, I hope people are able to forget about SEGA’s other recent missteps with the franchise and give it a go. Judging by this demo, they won’t be disappointed.

2 responses to “SEGAbits at Comic Con Preview: Alien: Isolation

  1. Centrale says:

    Nice write-up, but I was under the impression there is only one alien.

  2. Ben Burnham says:

    Could be right. The demo didn’t give the impression that there were many of them.

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