Alien: Isolation

A while back, I started playing Alien: Isolation. The only game in the franchise I’ve played before that was Aliens vs Predator. Now, I liked that game, but this would be a completely different experience, based on the thriller style of the first movie, focusing on stealth and ingenuity, rather than the more action oriented pace inspired by Aliens.

It not only satisfied, but exceeded my expectations with how exciting it was. It combined the weapon building of Alone in the Dark (2008), the immersion of Bioshock, the tense paranoia of Haunting Ground and the dystopian retro-futuristic setting of Alien.

(And if you haven’t played any of the games I just mentioned, go play them right now! And while you’re at it, go watch Alien, even if you’ve already seen it!)

But even if it’s a great game, it’s not without its flaws. As usual, I will not talk about glitches or bugs, or if the story is padded or not. Those are issues reserved for people who review games for a living.

I will just point out some issues I have with the plot, as a fan of the franchise. But please, don’t misinterpret this as an excuse for me to dislike the game. I only criticize these things because I hold the game to a higher standard than most games. It’s such a good game, problems like these stand out much more.

Now, before I start writing, I will do something slightly unusual. See, usually when I write about something, I assume that people reading my blog have seen the movies and played the games I talk about or, at the very least, have no plans to do so.

But here, the game in question is fairly new and pretty popular. As such, chances are people haven’t played it and may want to. If this applies to you, know this. This post contains major spoilers for the game. If you haven’t played it yet and plan to play it, STOP READING RIGHT NOW! I will take no responsibility for anyone reading past this point and having the story spoiled for them. You have been warned.

(Also, those who may have played the game, and don’t want some pedantic nitpicker on a blog to point out plotholes in it should probably not read any further either…)

With that out of the way, let’s begin.

The game takes place 15 years after the events of Alien. You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, traveling to the space station Sevastopol looking for a flight recorder that may tell you what became of the Nostromo. With you on the journey aboard the Torrens is a legal executive from Weyland-Yutani named Nina Taylor. She informs you she is going along to Sevastopol to retrieve the flight recorder of the Nostromo on account of it being Weyland-Yutani property. As it turns out, her real mission is to retrieve information about the Xenomorphs. Specifically the location of the planetoid where the ship with the eggs is located, as well as any information about the origins of the organism.

But here’s my question. Doesn’t Weyland-Yutani already know where the derelict is? In the first movie, the Nostromo picks up a distress signal, which they follow to the derelict. The crew member Kane is then attacked by a facehugger during the exploration of the ship, and the xenomorph is brought onto the Nostromo.

Weyland-Yutani must have known that was going to happen, since Ash was assigned as the science officer two days before the Nostromo left Thedus, having been given Special Order 937 to ensure the organism was retrieved successfully. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that Weyland-Yutani detected the emergency beacon and found its point of origin long before the events of Alien.

So what exactly was the point of Taylor’s mission? What could it possibly tell them that they didn’t know already? All it seems to accomplish is to try and make you go “Oh no! Nina is working for Weyland-Yutani, and they want to get the Alien!”

In other news, scientists have discovered that water is, indeed, wet.

Another problem I have with the game comes after you exit APOLLO, having been told that Special Order 939 (which is preventing you from communicating with the Torrens and escaping Sevastopol) cannot be lifted, even though the alien is no longer on the station. The reason for APOLLO’s refusal is that “Scheduled reactor scans are unverified”. To find the problem, you have to work your way to Sevastopol’s reactor and enter central reactor maintenance.

Once you get there, you find not a second alien, but an entire xenomorph nest, complete with eggs, set up by the drone that was brought to Sevastopol from the other ship to visit the derelict, the Anesidora.

Now, I have only one question with this plot development.

HOW THE FUCK IS THAT POSSIBLE?!

This series has been around since 1979! The xenomorph has been a part of popular culture for 35 years! We have had three and a half decades in which to flesh out the xenomorphs and establish how they function!

And one of the most fundamental facts about the xenomorph society throughout the series is the presence of the Queen!

The Queens main function (as with most hive societies) is to lay eggs! We’re shown in the movies how the Queen needs an egg sac in order to produce and lay eggs.

However, nowhere in Alien: Isolation do we see a Queen, hear of a Queen or even come across an area in the hive big enough to HOUSE a Queen.

This hive was established by a drone. Drones can’t lay eggs. It’s possible that the drone could BECOME a Queen (I’ve seen that in other games) but that was the same drone that was jettisoned along with part of the station into the planet beneath Sevastopol. So where the hell did the eggs come from?! THIS IS NEVER EXPLAINED!

Now, that is not to say it’s not possible to explain it.

In a deleted scene of Ridley Scott’s Alien, later released as part of the Director’s Cut in 2003, we’re shown that Brett, a member of the crew of the Nostromo, is actually being turned into an egg in a nest set up by the alien in the Nostromo‘s hold.  If you saw the Director’s Cut you’d know this. If you’re one of the people who only saw the original version (like I did) you’re going to be very confused. Still, that explanation seems to settle thing neatly.

However…

I can give several reasons why that explanation doesn’t work.

First of all, despite it being called the Director’s Cut, Ridley Scott himself claimed the original version was “his perfect vision” of the movie. As such, the scene with Brett turning into an egg was not intended as part of the original movie, which may well mean that humans becoming eggs is not part of the Alien Canon.

Now, that is a very pedantic argument, I admit. So here’s something more definite.

Let’s assume that humans turning into eggs is indeed part of the Alien Canon and that a drone could theoretically establish a hive without a Queen to supply eggs. But the problem is, I walked around that entire hive and inspected every single body there. Not one of them showed the SLIGHTEST sign of turning into an egg, or any physical deformities, other than some of them having gaping holes in their chests, courtesy of the chestbursters. If the idea is that humans become eggs, surely some of the bodies should be in some stage of transformation.

Am I wrong?

Not only that, but later in the game, after you destroy the nest, you find a brand spanking new nest, filled with eggs, And yes, this nest is clearly newly formed, since there are still plenty of exposed interior of the station! An older nest would have completely covered the walls! Not to mention that Apollo said NOTHING about this nest, only mentioning the anomalies in the reactor.

So where the hell are the eggs coming from?! Remember, this can’t be more than three hours after the main nest was destroyed, forcing the surviving aliens to relocate! Even if I were to agree that humans can become eggs, I refuse to believe it would take such a short amount of time to round up that many people and turn them into finished eggs!

And finally, my last argument on the matter.

The DLC Crew Expendable has you, as Ripley, Dallas or Parker, trying to eject the Alien through the Nostromo’s main airlock.

During the mission, you go through part of the ship, sealing maintenance hatches while trying to avoid the Alien. Can you guess what you find in the Nostromo‘s landing claw bay?

YOU FIND BRETTS CORPSE, IN A DECIDEDLY UN-EGGLIKE STATE!

If we are to assume that the “humans turning into eggs” idea is sound, why the flying fuck would the game not include THE ONE PART OF THE FIRST MOVIE that justifies that theory?! Why is the nest in the Nostromo’s hold not included in the Last Survivor DLC?

You see, if that’s the explanation you’re going with, you have to ESTABLISH that as part of the story. If they did, that would explain the eggs in the reactor core, but they didn’t. In this story, Brett wasn’t turned into an egg, which most likely means that’s not something drones are capable of, meaning the eggs aboard Sevastopol are completely unexplained.

Now, my last issue with the game is just a matter of personal preference.

Once you discover the nest, you have to destroy it. To do that, you have to initiate a reactor purge, which will wipe out the nest and everything in it. You have to overload the two cores inside the nest, and then initiate the purge from the reactor mainframe.

You initiate the purge, and the nest is destroyed. Everything is dandy… apart from one problem.

Several Xenomorphs escape the nest before it’s destroyed.

Now, this is a bit annoying to me since now, there are multiple aliens running around. It’s not a big thing, but if only one Alien escaped the destruction of the nest, I would’ve been happy. You’d be back on square one, in a manner of speaking.

It’d also somewhat explain why the Alien is following you, and only you, throughout the station. You just blew up its home and its entire family. One alien, as the game makes very clear, is more than enough to all but wipe out an entire space station. With four or five of them running around, you start to wonder how you survive past the three-quarter mark of the game.

And the thing is, had only one alien survived, the game wouldn’t be all that different. You’re still seemingly stalked by a single alien. Really, the only difference would be that by the end, as you’re activating the explosive bolts of the Torrens, only one alien would’ve been there.

Somehow, I can believe Ripley surviving a close encounter with one alien more than I can believe her surviving five at once.

That’s all I’ve got when it comes to Alien: Isolation.

Despite all I’ve said, It’s still a brilliant game. If you, for some reason, haven’t played it yet and still decided to read this whole thing, I recommend you try it.

But if you do try it, well…

I can’t lie about your chances…. but you have my sympathies.

This is Travis Tee, signing off.

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