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Alien Isolation hands-on: In space no one can hear you get frustrated

Hayden Dingman | Aug. 14, 2014
Alien: Isolation has the potential to be the year's best horror game and the world's best Alien game, but only by brute force.

It also cheats. I'm pretty sure the Alien is pre-loaded into certain areas as you enter them, so even if you thought you outsmarted the Alien and left it behind in the last section of the level, walk into the next section and it somehow made it there ahead of you. This is particularly noticeable if you walk into a new region and then back into the old one. First you'll see the Alien in the new section, then it'll be back in the old section of the level before you even round the last corner.

That's cheap. It's an artificial constraint on player creativity, as if to make sure they can't really get away from the Alien.

Oh, and despite the discussion of dynamic shadows back during GDC, your character still doesn't have a shadow. It's also hard to tell what your "body" is in the game, which wouldn't be an issue except levels are full of large metal tubes and fire detectors and the like, which love to clatter to the floor and alert the Alien to your position. When you can't tell where your "arms" or "legs" are, it's like trying to navigate through a shop full of expensive vases, except you're the Wacky Inflatable Arm-Waving Tube-Man.

Bottom line
No more demos. I want to play Alien: Isolation all the way through, start to finish, from the comfort of my own darkened bedroom--alone, with headphones on, the way every horror game is intended to be experienced. I want to see the game's difficulty rise in a natural progression instead of being thrown into a random section. I want to see what it's like to actually learn from the Alien's behavior instead of blindly stumbling my way through levels--it's awkward trying to determine whether a game is "too hard" from a demo.

I just want to play it so I can tell whether my opinions in this preview are justified or not. A lot of people are really looking forward to this game, and as a horror fan I'm always up for creeping through dark hallways. I worry, though, that in trying to make the Alien feel lethal--and thus scary--the developers have instead made it too deadly. That's a fine line, and only the end product will really substantiate or dismiss my fears.

Alien: Isolation launches October 7 for PC, Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3. Stock up on spare pants. Or maybe spare controllers.


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