Alien was a horror movie. It may not seem as scary in hindsight, but it was always a cerebral adventure about not knowing what lurks in the unknown. Alien: Isolation has that down pat.
It takes at least a half hour before the titular creature makes its appearance, maybe longer if a player takes his time cautiously exploring Sevastopol Station. In that time, there are constant hints that something is wrong. Messages are scrawled along walls. The station is in ruins. Power is off in most areas. Oh, and there’s also that dead body in the spare room.
Alien: Isolation lays it on thick. Something is out there. Multiple somethings, actually, because it’s clear the alien isn’t the only danger. However, there’s no immediate threat. No one is coming after Amanda Ripley during this initial mission. However, I was more frightened during these opening moments than I was through the rest of the game.
It’s all because I didn’t know what was coming. It was the same feeling we all experienced 35 years ago when Alien was released. Something was on the Nostromo, and it was worst when we had no idea what was going on. Once Ellen Ripley had a sense of purpose it was easier to bear. Because then, we knew what was out there and what needed to be done for her to survive.
Alien: Isolation parallels that with Amanda Ripley. Once I successfully made my way through what was essentially the “introduction” and saw the threats Ripley would face, I was no longer afraid. I was determined. Sure, there were jump scares, but it became a cerebral thriller, rather than a horrific game of hide and seek.
Which is part of why I believe Alien: Isolation feels successful. The Creative Assembly paid attention toAlien. They understood what it was about the movie that scared people, and implemented that in the game.