The plight of the film-to-video-game adaptation has been a difficult one. Historically, movie-licensed games have failed to live up to their source material due to a cavalcade of different reasons: clunky storytelling, bland gameplay, poor voice impersonations, the list goes on and on. But every once in a blue moon, a movie-based title comes along that completely turns this unfortunate stereotype on its head. Alien: Isolation is one of those games. Released in 2014 for Xbox 360/One, PS3/4, and Windows, Creative Assembly’s masterpiece showed us exactly how to create a beautiful film-to-game translation.
A key part of why this game is so successful is how astonishingly faithful it is to its source material. The world in which the game takes place feels straight out of the original 1979 Alien film. The retro-futuristic art design makes you feel that you are exploring a high-tech space station built in the 70s, complete with many flashing lights and overly complex control panels. Not only this, but the Alien itself was also given the same terrifying presence that it had in the films. This is not an enemy that can easily be dealt with; it provides a constant source of terror throughout the game’s extensive run time.
Not only is the game faithful to the source material, but a large part of what makes Alien: Isolation so successful is the amount of horror derived from the gameplay itself. Unlike other horror games that are content to throw cheap jump scares at you, Isolation finds fear in its core gameplay. Using your own wits and thinking on your toes in a first-person perspective as you make your desperate attempt to evade the alien is what this game is all about. Under-prepared and under-equipped, rarely will the player feel 100% safe as they traverse the halls of their spacecraft. At all times, there is a constant sense of dread knowing that something, somewhere, wants you dead.
The Alien’s AI is incredibly intelligent and will adapt to any situation that the player might find themselves in. The Alien is out for blood, in the same way, it was in the franchise. This requires the player to constantly be alert and think on their feet as the very unpredictable nature of the game unfolds before them. There are an innumerable amount of unique moments that the player will create for themselves as they desperately try to figure out their own process for outsmarting the Alien. The icing on the already-horrifying cake is that the Alien cannot be killed; it can only be briefly scared away with a flamethrower and various other contraptions that the player can create using different items obtained throughout their journey.
Alien: Isolation allows the player to jump right into the world of the 1979 film, and turns it into a game that somehow manages to capture that incredible atmosphere of the original. Of course, it’s not necessary for the player to have watched the original film before jumping into Isolation, but those who have seen it will definitely find a new level of appreciation for the sheer amount of effort that was obviously put into recreating the world and atmosphere of the original movie. The tense gameplay, tangible atmosphere, eerie soundtrack, and the remarkable sense of sheer style make it an incredibly immersive interactive experience. Isolation is a true gem of a game that will surely continue to find new ways to scare us for many years to come.