The Failings of a Gamer – sucking at Alien: Isolation

I haven’t done one of these in a while! Maybe it’s because I’ve been incredibly good at video-games lately… no… that’s definitely not it. I think it’s more because I haven’t played a game as hair-pullingly, teeth-gridingly, blood-boilingly, pick up your controller and fuzz it at the TV… ingly… annoying as Alien: Isolation. The game itself is pretty good, it’s just frustrating as hell! There are a good few aspects of the game which help to make it so frustrating. The oddly unpredictable A.I., the saving system, the lack of any clear objectives or guidance whatsoever and, finally, the homing missile that is the Xenomorph, all combine to make a shockingly annoying experience at times. I’m going to break these down into separate paragraphs, and hopefully explain why I suck so hard at a game that, in theory, should be rather simple.

The Oddly Unpredictable A.I.

It’s kind of self-explanatory, really. The A.I. (including the Alien) are incredibly unpredictable. What’s worse, it’s not a unpredictableness that can be solved with guns. You know, like in CoD when you’d get an enemy that pops out of nowhere and you can quickly spam the trigger in a fit of fear to, eventually, kill them. Nope, in Isolation, when an enemy pops out of a room that you weren’t expecting them in, or somehow guesses that you’re sneaking up behind them from across a hallway, it usually ends in death. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been walking through a room, crouching behind tables or even hiding in cupboards, and an A.I. has miraculously spotted me. The worse culprits are the Androids, that seem to have eyes in the back, sides, top and bottom of their heads. I’ve been choked to death by an Android on more occasions than I care to remember. They also seem to have lighting fast reactions (though I guess they are robots), because they constantly catch my swing whenever I try to bash their stupid robot brains in with my wrench tool.

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The Saving System

In theory, I really like the saving system. I think it has been utilised really well within the theme of the game, and using set stations dotted around the map, rather than having the conventional auto-save / save option in the pause menu, does keep well with the ethos of survival. Still, they’re incredibly inconsistently placed. Sometimes I’ll come cross three or four of them in half an hour, whilst exploring the ship, other times I might not see a single station for a good hour. It’s because the maps are very difficult to traverse, especially with the Alien constantly stalking you and Androids (and other survivors) prowling the corridors. I constantly seem to die just before reaching a save point and I’ve had to repeat certain sections of some missions so many times that I could probably do them with my eyes closed.

A Lack of Guidance

In Alien: Isolation, you’re really left to your own devices. Particularly in the first hour or so of the game, when you have no tracker to help you find your way. You quite literally get no guidance at the beginning, and I found myself aimlessly wandering around the ship, trying to work out what the hell I was supposed to be doing, or where the hell I was supposed to be going. When I finally did get the tracking tool, I found that I spend most of my time walking around with it out – bleeping away as the Alien crawls through the vents above, or hides around the corner in front of me. But it’s incredibly inconsistent, and I found that I ended up relying on it too much, constantly being caught out when I had assumed the Alien was above me rather than in front of me, or the other way around.

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The Homing-Missile Xenomorph

I get that the Alien (Xenomorph) is supposed to be a bit of a badass. I get that it’s supposed to be the ultimate killing machine. But it’s far beyond what I expected for the beast. It seems to hear you from miles and miles away and, not only that, but once it’s got you on its radar, that’s pretty much it for you. There really is no hope. It’s like a homing-missile coming straight for you, and you can’t get away. Plus, once it has caught you, you’re not getting out of its slimy grip. It’s an insta-kill machine. I’ve heard that you can use a flamethrower at some point in the game, whether or not that could stop the Alien, I’m not sure. Constantly being stalked by this insta-kill Alien is one thing, but the thing that makes it worse is that it’s completely unpredictable. Sometimes hiding behind boxes or underneath beds will fool it, other times it’ll seem to see right through them. Plus, it’s almost impossible to know whether the Alien is above, below or on the same level as you – so moving around the ship is a constant gamble. Combine that with the inconsistent save points and the fact that the Alien is faster, stronger and smarter than you creates one frustrating game.

So yeah. I’m not great at Alien: Isolation. When the going is good, it’s a very enjoyable game, but when all of these factors combine, it can be a real pain to play. It’s the inconsistency of the whole experience that puts me off, but I must admit that, on the whole, I quite enjoy playing it. Once I’ve completed it, I definitely won’t go back to it. I’m not a quitter, but I won’t put myself through it all again for a few little achievements!