Alien: Isolation

There seems to be some unwritten law that when I review a First Person game I have to mention how much I generally dislike the view point and how rare it is for me to play such a title. I then go on to explain how this game is an exception to the rule and a welcome surprise.

Alien: Isolation is one of those games. And a very welcome surprise it was too. The draw is obviously the Alien franchise and the love of the first two Sigourney Weaver movies. I’m pleased to say Creative Assembly, the makers of this masterpiece, have treated this source material with nothing but the upmost respect.

The game is set upon a space station that has come in to possession of the flight recorder for Ripley’s ill-fated ship from the first movie. You play Riply’s daughter, Amanda, in search of answers to what happened to mum. You arrive on the space station only to discover a world in disarray and the possibility that more than the flight recorder has survived the Nostromo.

In moment to moment gameplay it is very, very reminiscent of Dead Space just with an Alien franchise skin applied and a switch in perspective. This of course is no bad thing.

The primary gameloop is built around stealth and crafting. Getting in to any kind of fight and/or running out of essential supplies is often very, very deadly. Each level gives you a series of puzzles to complete while you desperately avoid just about every other inhabitant of Sevastapol Station.


Die Hard Trilogy (Part One)

I actually still have a copy of a contract signed with my younger brother back in April 1997 whereby we agreed to fund the purchase of a brand spanking new Sony PlayStation along with five whole new 3D games. Tomb Raider was, obviously, the entire reason for the enterprise. But what of the other four titles? Well, yes, Die Hard Trilogy was there on the list!

As per the title Die Hard is a compilation, a trilogy, of games based around the three hit Bruce Willis Christmas movies. When the disc first loads you select which of the three games you want to play. This review is for the first, best, and most played of the Die Hards (much like the movies really).

Anyone unfamiliar with the films should disconnect from the Internet right now and go watch the first two (only the first two mind, they jumped the shark after that) before coming back. But, if you insist, you play NYPD cop John McClann (Bruce) on hols visiting estranged wife working in LAPD (way out of your jurisdiction). You roll up in front of her workplace in a limo hoping to rekindle the marriage. Unbeknown to you German thief (not terrorist) Hans Grubber (Alan Rickman) has other ideas with the company high rise.

Loosely based on the plot of the film you start exiting the limo in the garage (car park) beneath the building and have to shoot you way passed waves of mobsters, rescuing the odd hostage on the way, to get to the top of Nakatomi Plaza and rescue your darling wife. Each level of the game comprises of a single level of the skyscraper you need to clear of goons before rushing to a lift to disarm a bomb before the time goes off.

The game is a open area (non linear) third person 3D environment. The camera follows John from a fixed position behind and up in the ceiling somewhere. Being confined to a traditional D-pad movement is the traditional tank system but given the nature of the game and the positioning of the camera actually does work surprisingly well here. Character positioning is still often a pain but since you’re mostly running forward the tank controls don’t become cumbersome in the same it does in contemporary titles like Resident Evil.

In play it’s just your standard run and gun affair like Turrican or Gryzor just transposed into a 3D environment. The demands of 3D processing makes everything less detailed than contemporary 2D equivalents but the speed and fluidity of the 3D movement, and just having an open 3D space to explore, more than makes up for what’s lost in definition.

Where the game starts to full down is that it is a pure traditional arcade game. Arcades are designed to get you pumping coins in to the machine. Die Hard follows all the same design mechanics which leads to plenty of frustration on a home system. Shooting is a little difficult to line up with no crosshair and relying on positioning Johns body correctly using the tank controls. Getting through a level requires finding the power ups dotted around to replenish health. But worse is to come. With no game saves die at any point and it’s instant death. No lives, no second chances, no restart current level. And this includes not getting to the right lift with the bomb within the prerequisite 30 seconds at the end of each level.

Die and it’s back to the very beginning to do it all again from Level 1. Thankfully modern emulators allow us to bypass this flaw. The only way I was seeing Level 3 was hitting the emulator snapshot button on completing Level 1 so I didn’t have to constantly redo that level every time I failed Level 2.