The Alien: Isolation Digital Series Lets The Game Down

The Alien franchise has had a long history in gaming.  Almost every major console has had a game in the franchise, in a variety of genres with varying degrees of quality. From platformer to first-person shooter to side-scrolling shoot ’em ups, the Alien franchise has had a fair representation but the instalments haven’t come close to capturing the terror and fear of being stalked by the terrifying Xenomorph.  Then came Alien: Isolation.

Alien: Isolation nailed the whole “cat and mouse” feel of the first Alien film. You were never safe; fear and terror lurked around every corner. One wrong move would send that relentless, giant alien your way and it would stop at nothing until you were dead. It was exhilarating, scary, stressful and made for a really great survival horror experience.

Sadly, the Alien Isolation the Digital Series captures absolutely none of that, resulting in a mostly dull and unnecessary experience with barely enough new footage to justify its existence.

Alien: Isolation Digital Series follows the exact plot of the game. The story follows Amanda Ripley, daughter of the films protagonist Ellen Ripley, 15 years after her mother’s disappearance. When discovering that the flight records of her mothers lost ship, the Nostromo, have been discovered on the Sevastapol Space Station she sets out to finally find out what happened to her. Of course, once she arrives at Sevastapol there is a big bad Alien waiting there for her.

Those who have played the game know that the story was mostly told through gameplay and not so much through cutscenes.  With this in mind, I was very interested to see how the Digital Series would work around that. Having watched it, I’m sad to report that it does little more than rehash what little cut scenes there were along with various moments of gameplay, all awkwardly stitched together resulting in an unfulfilling and at times downright ugly experience.

When characters interact with one another, it is laughable at best. The lip syncing is essentially non-existent, causing every interaction to look more robotic than the mouthless synths that lurk around the ship. Its also very ugly to look at.

The Alien: Isolation game had beautiful graphics and lighting but the Digital Series has almost none of that, with almost every scene looking super muddy and bland in the aim of feeling more cinematic.  Instead, it feels lifeless.

What’s also baffling is that when the Digital Series uses the actual cut scenes from the game they did nothing to fix the stuttering and lag that the game originally had. On the plus side, new footage was added to the series, resulting in a slightly meatier ending.  There is a pretty cool sequence right at the end that sheds some light on Amanda’s fate but that’s about as substantial as it gets.

The game did a pretty poor job fleshing out the characters and didn’t really make Amanda into the strong heroine her mother was, so I was really hoping this series would at least change that, even in the smallest of ways.  Unfortunately, it did no such thing. Everything about these characters, including Amanda, is exactly the same as before, with no new motivations or exposition making them feel even more paper thin than before.  Those hoping that the Digital Series would add to the game in any meaningful way will be sorely disappointed.

The biggest problem is that it the Digital Series is simply not tense at all. I wasn’t expecting a truly horrifying experience, but when you have an Alien series with barely any alien in it, there is a huge problem. The horror that felt while playing the game is absent. The tension felt while hiding in a vent as the Xenomorph hisses and screeches above you is completely eradicated. In its place are awkward scenes filled with nonsensical dialogue and characters that feel less interesting than before.

The one good thing about all of this is the hope that with the release of Alien: Blackout on mobile phones and this Digital Series, Sega (the game’s publisher) may be prepping a sequel to Alien: Isolation. While this is by no means confirmed, I just can’t imagine any other reason for the existence of this Digital Series, if not to prep players for a follow-up entry.  Something bigger has got to be in the works – why else would this game exist?

Alien: Isolation the Digital Series can be seen on IGN.com for free and won’t demand much of your time.  However, even as a huge fan of the Alien franchise, it is very hard to recommend. There is not enough here for returning fans and newcomers should just play the game.

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