As South Africa enters its 21-day lockdown in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, it has left many civilians in the isolation of their homes. Many see this as a great opportunity to spend quality time with some family and loved ones, while others cherish diving into forms of entertainment to occupy their time and pass the weeks (when not working remotely, in that case). To cushion some of the tedium, Nexus has decided to create a daily feature in which we recommend games of varying lengths and content that could pass the time. Our seventh recommendation in Lockdown Gaming is not without some irony, but it is one of the most intense survival horror experiences in gaming; the wonderful Alien: Isolation.
In 2014, developer Creative Assembly made an incredible survival horror game that sadly may have flown under the radar of many gamers at the time. Since then, it has gained a cult following, and rightfully earned its place in the halls of gaming's horror greats. I'm of course talking about Aliens: Colonial Marines- Sorry, I stuttered, I mean Alien: Isolation.
Alien: Isolation is basically the 1979 Ridley Scott classic morphed into a video game, down to the tense, palpable atmosphere and strong emphasis on - you guessed it - the overwhelming feeling of isolation. Instead of playing as Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley, you instead play as her daughter, Amanda Ripley. Set 15 years after the events of that original film, Amanda comes across the Nostromo's flight recorder. Desperate to track down her mother's location, Amanda stumbles upon a gigantic space station. She soon learns that it's mostly abandoned, and a familiar foe now stalks its vents.
Alien: Isolation felt like a godsend when only the previous year, the Alien gaming series had been violently tainted with Aliens: Colonial Marines, one of the worst video games of the last decade. Isolation came along and breathed life back into not just the survival horror genre - which had been on a tragic downward spiral ever since Resident Evil 6 abandoned the genre to make a generic action shooter - but breathed a newfound confidence into the Alien series that felt remarkably faithful to the lore and tone of the universe. Isolation was one of the few video games to keep the horror genre afloat in 2014, which had a short supply of some effective genre standouts, joined by The Evil Within and P.T. on the better end.
Isolation works because it strips away all the action set piece fluff and hones in on creating an atmospheric horror experience. To that extent, it succeeds well beyond expectations. The game's highly intelligent A.I. is one of its highlights, and probably the biggest critical praise thrown its way by fans and critics. The xenomorph's ability to learn and adapt to your movement and paths meant that it never repeated a path of its own and always changed positioning, meaning no two playthroughs would ever be the same. Amanda roaming the empty hallways of the space station is eerie enough, but with a clever xenomorph mercilessly hunting you down by turning your own tactics against you, it made for a memorable and unique gaming experience that we rarely see done, even today.
Alien: Isolation's atmosphere is one of my favourite aspects of the game. The long stretches of hallways, the gloomy bedrooms, the dark vents, the barely functional electricity, it all culminates to create a haunting, terrifying feeling of helplessness that hasn't been successfully done to this extent since 1999's Silent Hill. Armed with, well, not many gadgets except for a radar device to track the alien's movements, and occasionally thrown a weapon to fend yourself with, Amanda's smarts became your smarts as you were suddenly playing a game of outwitting and outrunning the xenomorph.
Finally, Alien: Isolation is actually bloody scary. I know that's something that's thrown around a lot and hardly has any weight to it when talking about video games or films, but Isolation really deserves (and earns) that title more than any horror game I've played recently. Thanks to a terrific feeling of dread, some iconic soundtrack choices, brooding tension, and cleverly implemented A.I., Isolation rises above expectations and delivers the quintessential Alien survival experience that we've been waiting for in gaming.
So why should you play Alien: Isolation during lockdown? Considering that the title is fairly aged now, it should be affordable on store fronts for a relatively cheap price. On top of that, it's also surprisingly one of the longer horror games in recent memory. The main story should clock you around 20 hours to beat, which is quite lengthy in an age where horror games rarely breached the 10-12 hour mark. The weather is looking dreary, so why not snuggle up to one of the finest horror games of the last decade?
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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