Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Taking another break from 'Alien: Isolation' as it's just too much sometimes. After finally getting nailed by the bastard in the main campaign a couple of days ago, I've not been able to play this game right since. I'm playing well as far as stealth games go, but I'm just not playing right for this game. He's completely random in his movement patterns and spawning points (per game designers choice) and a few levels in he either moves in your favor, or he doesn't. He's not been moving in mine for awhile now.

Save points are scarce, and checkpoints are non-existent, making each save point worth a sigh of relief and a "Thanks for that one, mate." to your higher power. But they can also work against you. Each save point requires inserting a key card and waiting 3 seconds for a computer system to recognize it. An audible countdown begins, one light comes to life, then another, then another, and then you can save. And you are stuck facing this wall mounted device (an emergency telephone) the entire time, standing tall, totally exposed. It's the perfect opportunity for someone or something to catch you from behind. Which happened to me after playing cat and mouse for an hour earlier tonight. I'd done well at hiding under desks, keeping a slow pace behind him when he drops from a vent and walks in the direction I need to go, and really becoming one with my motion tracker (as you have to). I felt confident enough to explore the full level, gathering every map and blueprint and scrap item I could. He never found me once. It was flawless.

Then I got greedy and decided to save my game when I passed the phone on my way out the door. That's when (I think) he dropped out of a vent behind me and got me. I say I think because I didn't actually see it happen. I was stuck facing the phone. Then I was stuck looking at his spear tipped tail protruding through my chest. As frustrating as it was, I still loved it. It's the old "Risk vs. Reward" cliché, and in this game you will constantly weigh the two on a scale. Every reward is worth it though. You need  those items. You need  that blueprint for a new distractive device, and you absolutely NEED to save your game whenever you can.

Back in the old days of gaming, if you had only certain save points and played 3/4 of a level and then died, you had to re-play that 3/4 again. This was a staple for years as there was technologically no other way to do it. Then the X-Box and PlayStation 2 came out, and the technology was there to have save points. Dying no longer meant re-playing 3/4 of a level, now it was just a specific 1/16 of a level you had to do over. And like all technological advancements some people complained about it. Some felt games became too easy and had a diminished value in caring about your character and keeping them alive. "Why bother worrying? It's not like I'll have to start all over again.". To those people I say: "Welcome to your gaming fantasy. May you never complain about checkpoints again"

One thing I really love about this game the most are the Working Joes. Working Joes are androids, but nothing fancy like you've seen in movies (the "Alien" series including) and TV. These are androids for companies who pinch pennies on their "why-pay-a-human-when-the-doll-will-do-it-better-and-not-complain?" labor. They have a basic rubber skin texture, and expressionless face, no hair, and glowing red eyes and a voice that is absolutely chilling. Of the goosebumps this game has given me, it's the first time I encountered the Working Joes that so far stands out most.

                                      ...................SPOILER BELOW......................

Early in the game you are trying to reach the communications deck of the space station to hail your ship and call for help. On the way to the deck you meet a Working Joe working reception who tells you to "Please take a seat and someone will be with you shortly." in an obviously synthetic emotionless voice that is just threatening enough to throw up a red flag, but also probably just the way these droids on the cheap sound (You get what you pay for, and sometimes we pay for what we get.). You inform him it's an emergency, and you don't have time for this, then storm past reception down a corridor, where you encounter another Working Joe doing... something. He tells you you the coms deck is a restricted area and the ships main computer has shut down all access. Then he asks that you please turn around and go back to reception. "Fine, I'll find my own way there" you say. And as you walk past him down the corridor, the exact instant he's behind you he says: "I wouldn't advise that..." in that now 100% menacing voice. I can't do it justice in text, it's one of those "You have to be there to get it" things. But it's blood chilling. And it's amazing. And I'm sure you can guess what the rest of your encounters with Working Joes will be like...

And it's the things such as that which make 'Alien: Isolation' great. It's not just the Alien, it's the whole package. Every leaking steam vent, every automatic door that takes too damn long to open 'cos it's so old and damnit it's coming up behind me HURRY UP! It's the game that fans of the "Alien" series (and survival horror fans in general) have deserved for years. And what took game developers so long to recognize that?

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