Happy Alien: Isolation Day, folks! Our review went live earlier today, and here's what I had to say about Creative Assembly's fright-fest:
Alien: Isolation is the most terrifying game I've ever played. It has several flaws (the Alien glitching through your hiding place is a surefire way of ruining immersion), it can legitimately be accused of padding its mid-section, and piling up of Android towards the end can get a bit silly, but I didn't care about any of that, I was simply too busy giving myself heart attacks. Alien: Isolation succeeds in doing something no other game has: doing justice to the Alien itself.
Are you getting stuck into Amanda Ripley's story today? Well, here are a bunch of tips to bear in mind when it comes surviving Sevastopol Station.
Don't be fooled when you get a weapon
This is not an action game. It looks like it would be, right? You even get a shiny little revolver in the first couple of hours. But every game to feature Xenomorphs has lied to you. This thing is unstoppable and relentless and you can't kill it. This is not a first-person shooter, so don't get cocky, kid. Run. Run like the wind. And then slow down, crouch and sneak, and find yourself a hiding place. The Alien is also faster and smarter than you.
Take it slowly, be quiet, and try not to attract attention
The Alien can hear you run. Disconnect any camera peripheral that you might have plugged in, because it can hear you swear and scream too. Alien: Isolation is really more of a psychologically terrifying stealth game than survival horror, really. Keep low, be quiet, and make the darkness work for you. Be decisive -- dithering will only get you killed. It's also worth using your torch super-sparingly. Batteries are scarce for one thing, but that flashlight can also act like a supply beacon for the Alien, shouting Fresh Meat Here with its beam of light.
Use your ears
If you don't have a good sound setup, invest in a half-decent (at least) pair of headphones. The sound design in Alien: Isolation is some of the best around, and if you want the full experience, you're going to need to hear everything. Not only is it incredibly atmospheric, but you're far more likely to hear the Alien before you see it. In fact, if you can see it, you're likely to be dead within a matter of seconds.
Don't get too fixated on the Motion Tracker
The Motion Tracker is super useful for getting vague information on the location of the Alien. But you don't want to be using it all of the time as Ripley has to shift her perspective to stare at it, losing focus on her surroundings. Quick glances are the way forward, combining the retro readout with what you can see and hear. It only works for mobile hostiles, so be aware that it's certainly possible to run head-first into a room of stationary synthetics that suddenly spring to life and kill Ripley while you have a minor cardiac arrest. It's also useless in vents. Oh, and don't whip it out when there's an enemy right next to that locker you're hiding in -- they will hear you.
Peek in moderation
God bless leaning mechanisms. Peeking around the side of that object you're cowering behind is a great way of getting you're bearings, but don't spend too long sticking your head out from behind cover. It doesn't matter if the majority of you is hidden by an overturned hospital gurney, if you're waving your noggin about the place, enemies will find you. Snaffle a cheeky peek by all means, but be quick about it
Comb the area
You can't win against the Alien, but you can annoy it, and occasionally make it shoo. However, all of the items you can craft share a resource pool, meaning that it's essential that you gather as many raw materials as you can. Comb areas for scrap and swag and be as thorough as your shredded nerves will allow you to be. Weapons and their ammunition can't hurt the Alien, but they can be useful against humans and synthetics, and terminals will sometimes give you access codes to resource-filled lockboxes and storage units.
Synthetics are bait... for you
Speaking of the androids, avoid them wherever possible. They can be terminated, but it'll take an awful lot of effort, spunk most of your inventory up the wall, and attract a hell of a load of unwanted attention. The Alien won't attack them because they're not food, but it'll happily investigate a ruckus if it thinks it can snack on you. EMPs can buy you time, but if you simply run away, the synthetics will actually lose interest fairly quickly. They do talk to one another, mind, so if you wake one up, chances are it'll broadcast your position to its other android friends in the area, and you'll soon have a creepy party on your hands. They can't run, though, and they prefer melee combat to ranged weapons, so running away is a totally legit response.
But you can use other humans as a tasty distraction
Humans are perhaps the most beady-eyed enemies in the game. They can spot you at long distances, after which they'll either shoot you on site, or tell you to stay back and then shoot you anyway. They're easy to put down, mind -- a couple of raps with a wrench, a shot to the head, and you can dance on their graves (better not, though; dancing makes noise). They're also quite stupid, making far too much noise, and highly prone to panicking. This makes them great Alien bait to suit your purposes. Chuck a flashbang their way, and laugh as the Alien descends upon their disoriented forms. Laugh while making your escape, of course. Don't hang about you fool!
Remember to save your game
It seems obvious, right? Well take nothing for granted in this game, especially if you're playing on hard. Save points will bleep comfortingly when you're near, but the distances between them increase as the game progresses (or at least it feels like they do) and sometimes it might be worth backtracking to the last one if you've just hit an objective. You could try your luck, of course, but oh wait there's tail sticking out of your chest and now you have to do all of that again.
This might just be for scaredy-cats like me, but break up your play time with this one. Suffered a particularly gruelling death? Take five. Alein: Isolation is a game best played on maximum difficulty a little bit at a time. That way it never loses that magic, the terror never turns into frustration, and your sanity might just survive long enough to make it through to the end.