ByTim Horton, writer at
Business Development Manager at Universally Speaking. @TimHortonGame | Email: [email protected]
Tim Horton

"There's no noticeable change in graphics" between Alien Isolation Xbox One and PS4 -

Be of good heart, pixel-counters. When you are having your head bitten off by a slimy, eyeless space-dinosaur this October, you will not be taken "out of the moment" by the sight of a texture that differs conspicuously from a texture you may have glimpsed in your best friend's version of the same experience. Creative Assembly's Gary Napper has assured OXM that Alien: Isolation looks pretty much the same on all platforms. Well, on PS4 and Xbox One at least.

The game will run at 1080p on both consoles. "That's actually not something I get that into, because we build it on one central engine and then kick it out to different versions," Napper told me, when I asked for specifics. "So when I think about working on the game it's almost platform agnostic because I only think about the differences between platforms and the different mechanics we can use like the light on the PS4 pad and the stuff with Kinect 2.0."

"So I think with frame rate it's pretty comparable. There's no noticeable drop or change in graphics between them. Obviously there are a lot more options to tweak and scale up on the PC." Presumably, the gamewill look noticeably inferior on Xbox 360 and PS3 - Napper didn't state as much outright, but this sort of goes without saying when you've got a fraction of the RAM to work with.

The developer has yet to reveal exactly what Isolation's Kinect features are. One possibility presents itself, off the top of my head: the Alien can hear you breathing through the sensor's microphone. Ergh.

Hands On session thoughts! Eeeeeeeeeek....

I'd say I'm caught between a rock and a hard place, but that would be selling Alien: Isolation short. Rocks don't have slavering, crystalline jaws that are large enough to squelch a human head in one bite, and as far as I'm aware, they don't hang around in air ducts waiting for something pink and terrified to wander through the area. And hard places? They're seldom manifest as chalk-white men with glowing blue eyes, who whisper sweet, bureaucratic nothings as they choke the life from you.

I'm about midway through an area you'll encounter a few hours into Creative Assembly's much-anticipated horror effort, in which various items, enemy types and assorted somethings have been unlocked for the purposes of the demo. To be specific, I'm hiding behind a cluster of pipes while alarms scream everywhere and emergency lights spin their beams across frightfully organic-looking clumps of technology. Ahead of me, attracted to the area by all the noise and confusion, there is an Alien. Sorry, the Alien. The one you used to be afraid of, before James Cameron upped the bodycount and pumped the script full of testosterone.

If I'm lucky, the creature will see or hear one of the human NPCs who've elected to hole up at the other end of the corridor, the ones who are even now patrolling their little territories, muttering to their own private demons. If I'm lucky - and they aren't - I'll have a few seconds to run up the corridor, dive into a sideroom and take up residence in a locker, while I plot my next move. That may be too much to ask, though - the Alien is an unpredictable, fickle beast. Even if it does head off in search of NPC prey, it might overhear my hurrying feet and return in search of dessert.

Perhaps I'd be better off retreating to the chamber behind me, with its reassuring floor vent and escape tunnel. Hmm. Maybe I could lure the Alien in there using a noise-maker or simply by striking a pipe, then use the tunnel to get behind it while it searches for prey. A sound strategy. Except there's an android in the chamber behind me.

While many of Isolation's human characters are violently paranoid - the reasons for this have yet to be explained, but doubtless have something to do with being stuck in a vacuum-sealed hamster run with a next-gen velociraptor - androids won't bother you at first. They'll trundle around like bald albino butlers as you explore the vicinity, pausing occasionally to rattle off a public safety announcement, or the Seegson corporate motto. Until you start to fiddle with any technology that falls under their jurisdiction, like a door terminal. Then they'll get annoyed with you, and when an android is annoyed with something, its only recourse is to plod remorselessly after that something and either throttle it or punch it to death.

It's possible to kill an android using either Amanda Ripley's highly inaccurate flamethrower or her squat revolver pistol, but this soaks up precious seconds and moments that might be better spent running for the nearest hidey-hole. To say nothing of ammunition: androids don't feel pain and are extremely resilient.

The Alien is presumably more than a match for them, but it's also oblivious to their presence. This raises the horrifying thought of a scenario where you're using carefully timed bursts of fire to keep the Alien at a distance, only for an unexpected android to grab you by the arm. Humans, at least, can be slain with a couple of bullets, but Amanda isn't exactly a crack shot, and you may only have a couple to spare. Non-lethal devices may be more effective in the long run, though the sight of a fat, finely sculpted weapon in the player's hands is comforting.

Which brings us to how Isolation's various gadgets can be used to thwart the Alien's Halloween-labyrinth of AI routines. Flame-throwers are for deterrence, mostly, but they won't work forever: the Alien might learn to fear the sight of the pilot light, allowing you to menace it without wasting ammo, but it'll also eventually work out that fire can't hurt it. When that happens, you'd better hope you're halfway through a speedily closing automatic door.

There are also EMPs that can be used to disable tech, medical kits for patching up android-inflicted bruises and gunshot wounds (Alien bites are fatal), and flares that can be thrown to create a diversion - though again, your adversary will eventually cease to be diverted by them.

These items are either found in areas or assembled using components that are to an extent randomly distributed, and to an extent generated to suit what's in your inventory at the time and what your objectives are, the Devil being very much in the detail. And in the game. Coupled with the Alien's learning AI - which develops new sets of behaviours at intervals as the campaign unfolds - this creates scope for replay that's totally at odds with the scripted scares of other recent horror games.

Believe it or not, the game Alien: Isolation may have most in common with isn't Amnesia or, say, the upcoming The Evil Within, but Alien for the C64 - a game in which fear arises organically and insidiously from a pool of variables, rather than igniting where the corridor design creates opportunities.

I'd like to say my little introductory dilemma ends in spectacular, protracted fashion, but death in Isolation is frequently ignoble. Placing a noise-maker on the floor, I retreat to a corner and wait, hoping against hope, for the Alien to arrive and inspect it while I slink past along the wall. Unfortunately, the android hears it too. We wrestle for a few seconds till I manage to shove it away with frenzied taps of A button, then a curtain of oily darkness falls, and all I can see are teeth!

Much, much more to come in the up coming weeks from Alien Isolation. Click here for our (above) Alien bio - Know your enemy.

Below is a video made by IGN that will give you a direct gameplay insight from their experience at E3.

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