In space, no one can hear you scream. But everybody can hear you scream through the thin walls of your apartment when you are playing Alien: Isolation too late in the evening. That’s because the 2014 title, set in the same universe as Ridley Scott’s 1979 horror masterpiece, manages to capture the same tension of its inspiration while dialing the scares up to 11. For fans of the original film — or good horror games in general — its recent addition to PlayStation Plus makes Alien: Isolation a must-play title.
Alien: Isolation serves as (yet another) sequel to the original film, taking place 15 years after the movie, and follows Amanda Ripley, the daughter of film protagonist Ellen Ripley. As the Alien movies have shown, it's incredibly hard to make a sequel to something as good as Alien. The most successful successor, James Cameron’s Aliens, only works as well as it does because it transforms the outright horror of the original into a more action-forward film. Alien: Isolation attempts the lofty goal of being a truly horrific follow-up to the original film.
It’s a goal that Isolation succeeds at, almost surprisingly so, and that is mostly thanks to the central antagonist — the Xenomorph. In another parallel to the original film, Amanda and the surviving residents of the Sevastopol Station are all at the mercy of a single terrifying Xenomorph. With a singular opponent facing Amanda, it emphasizes to the player just how dangerous this one creature is.
Furthermore, Isolation never lets the player be free of the threat of the Xenomorph. Throughout the game, the Xenomorph’s AI hunts the player as they attempt to complete the objectives necessary to survive. At any point, the monster can jump down from a vent or surprise you from around a corner and attack you. The only defense the player has is to hide and hope for the best.
This constant dread is Alien: Isolation’s strongest feature, as it effectively instills a never-ending fear in the player. The real cost for the player having to restart a checkpoint gives everything higher stakes, setting Isolation on the same level as the original film in terms of how it terrifies the audience.
Sevastopol Station itself is another exceptional element of Alien: Isolation. It’s a gorgeously designed setting that evokes the same retro-futurism that helped define the original film — though most players may not notice how great the design is while they are trying not to get demolished by the Xenomorph.
Every inch of Alien: Isolation is dripping with that special sci-fi Iron Curtain-era aesthetic that Scott used in the 1979 film. In fact, many pieces of clothing and random items in Alien: Isolation are direct recreations of the movie, even reusing some sounds. That’s because the distributor of the film, Fox, gave developer Creative Assembly access to extensive archival documents that helped inform the design of Isolation.
By nailing two of the fundamental pieces that make fantastic horror — a good setting, and a terrifying villain — Alien: Isolation sets itself apart from a litany of other survival horror games. Even almost a decade after its release, it still holds up alongside amazing horror games in 2023. Its addition to PlayStation Plus only makes it more appealing to play. If you can stomach being hunted by the Xenomorph.