There are human enemies in Alien: Isolation. There are androids. There are also guns and Molotov cocktails. Surely this is the point when we all become disappointed, and the smug, “It’ll be just like Colonial Marines” contingent cracks a misanthropic grin? Well sorry guys, but no. Alien Isolation is resolutely not turning into a shadowy man-shooter. The inclusion of humans, synthetics and fire-arms does not detract one iota from the sickeningly tense, improvisational, horrifying stealth survival I’ve already experienced. I’ve gone hands-on again, so I know this. I can tell you without one hint of a doubt that this new stuff actually makes the game more scary, upsetting, and intelligently panic-fuelled than it already was.
When the humans arrive--looters, in my case, populating a siren-blaring medical bay stalked by the Xenomorph--they don’t behave anything like normal video game grunts. Like the Alien, they’re entirely driven by AI, motivated by their senses, emotional responses, and the stimuli of the immediate situation. If they have other priorities (be they profit or escape), they might well ignore you and go about their business. And if they perceive you as a threat, anything can happen. They might pull a gun, before backing off if you behave diplomatically. They might attack on sight, killing you with one shot. They might run away. They might run away and come back with friends. The only thing that’s certain is uncertainty.
Every encounter can be tackled, initiated or avoided depending on your chosen approach to the evolving situation. Every evolving situation is the product of controlled chaos theory, interactions, responses and outcomes expanding and playing out like causal ripples in a pond. No scripting, no pre-set results, all emergent chaos. Even the very appearance of NPCs is a randomised, dynamic event. And don’t even think about blindly shooting your way out. Even if you’re lucky enough to get the first shot off, there’s every chance the sound will just bring a 9ft, spiny nightmare down upon you like a ton of bricks. Same goes for your selfish, unthinking human brethren. Any reckless shout, gunshot, light or explosion can end it all. Better start thinking fast.
Click through the slides above for a few more tasty fact-nuggets from my latest playthrough.