Xbox Game Pass

Play This Wildly Underrated Sci-Fi Thriller Before It Leaves Xbox Game Pass

Hide and seek.

Alien: Isolation key art

In space, no one can hear you scream. However, people can hear you scream in your apartment when playing a scary horror game. One such scream-inducing game is Alien: Isolation, a video game sequel to Ridley Scott’s iconic sci-fi film. While it is always hard to stretch movie scares out over the length of a AAA video game, Alien: Isolation manages to be an adrenaline-pumping experience that lives up to its predecessor and is absolutely worth playing before it leaves Xbox Game Pass on February 28.

1979’s Alien is one of the most critically acclaimed and influential horror films ever made. It even serves as inspiration for one of the best horror video games ever made — Dead Space. Both revolve around mysterious alien encounters on derelict spaceships and have a protagonist who isn’t traditionally suited for combat against the antagonist. Yet when it comes to video games in the Alien franchise, the track record isn’t that good. Except for Alien: Isolation.

Alien: Isolation makes the player the prey.


Released in 2014 and developed by Total Wår developer Creative Assembly, Players take on the role of Amanda Ripley, Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) daughter. 15 years after the events of the film Amanda is aboard Sevastopol Station in order to help retrieve the flight recorder of her mother’s ship the Nostromo. Eventually, a Xenomorph finds its way on board Sevastopol, and Ripley is thrust into the same situation as her mother, facing off against one ever-present horrifying creature.

The titular Alien is the most horrifying and impressive piece of game design in Alien: Isolation. While Amanda will face off with androids on her journey, the main enemy that is always present is the Xenomorph. Creative Assembly gave the Xenomorph AI that constantly hunts you throughout the game in an unscripted manner. You can never predict the movements of your enemy and it is always around the corner or crawling through the vents. Resident Evil 2 remake would do something similar with its reinterpretation of Mr. X, but it never feels as menacing as the Xenomorph.

By giving the player little in the form of protection beyond a short-range radar that can clue them into the location of the Xenomorph (more tools are collected over the course of the game), Alien: Isolation embodies the helplessness of horror by making the player understand they are being hunted. Even games like Dead Space give the player power in the form of multiple weapons to fight off hordes of zombie-like creatures, but Alien: Isolation wants you to feel helpless.

The game masterfully captures the look and feel of the original 1979 film.


Due to its dedication to this ever-present horror, Alien: Isolation is in many ways the most faithful sequel to Ridley Scott’s original film. The developers painstakingly replicated the sound, set, and aesthetic design of Alien in order to make the world feel believable as part of the larger universe, with massive help from Fox who provided access to extensive archival documents on the original film. This is most evident when players find themselves once again exploring the Nostromo. Entire rooms appear exactly as you remember them, down to the drinking bird toy.

In honoring the film, Creative Assembly also managed to win over much of the cast of 1979’s Alien. Sigourney Weaver agreed to reprise her role as Ellen Ripley, as well as the majority of the film’s cast lending their talents to subsequent DLC missions. Weaver has said in the past she declined offers to return as Ripley but agreed to Alien: Isolation because it was “faithful to the first film.”

All of this contributes to Alien: Isolation feeling uniquely equipped to instill terror in the player. Navigating the empty halls of the 70’s inspired vision of the future feels claustrophobic and menacing, which compounds with the feeling that no matter where you go in the game you are not safe from what is hunting you. It is a unique horror experience worth revisiting while you can on Game Pass, but maybe keep the lights on and try not to scream too loud.

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