With three terabytes of Alien production material to mine for inspiration, Creative Assembly not only perfectly captured the stark, industrial aesthetic of Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie, but adapted it to create their own distinctive setting. Sevastopol is dripping with atmosphere and rich with detail, and feels like an authentic part of the Alien universe. Isolation isn’t just a great horror game, but an artistic triumph.
1. The Nostromo
The USCSS Nostromo is, of course, the ill-fated ship from the first Alien film, and two of Isolation’s DLC missions — Crew Expendable and Last Survivor — give you a chance to explore it. The attention to detail is remarkable, from the womb-like chamber of supercomputer MOTHER to Ash’s pristine medical bay. Creative Assembly even managed to reunite most of the original cast, including Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley.
The technology in Isolation echoes the chunky, industrial look of the film. Space travel in the Alien universe is about as exotic as taking the bus, and the hard-edged, functional computers and machinery of Sevastopol reflect this. While most science fiction games opt for over-designed holographic UIs and shiny curves to suggest advanced tech, Isolation’s world is cold, brutal, and practical, and more convincing because of it.
3. The creature
Isolation is the first game to really do H.R. Giger’s monstrous creation justice. The alien is utterly formidable, with dynamic, reactive AI that makes it terrifyingly unpredictable. And it’s just as scary when you can’t see it. The sound of it heaving itself through a vent above you, or the heavy thud of its footsteps down some distant corridor, is every bit as nerve-racking as actually seeing the beast emerge from the shadows.
Once a busy spaceport, Sevastopol is now in the process of being decommissioned. Ripley finds the place abandoned and falling to pieces, a shadow of its former self. And to make matters worse, the blank-eyed Working Joe androids have turned murderous and there’s an alien on the loose. The station feels like a real, lived-in place, with an understated logic to its design that paints a vivid picture of what life might have been like there.
Sevastopol is operated by megacorporation Seegson, a rival of Weyland-Yutani, and the station is covered in its corporate propaganda. There’s a particular irony in the posters singing the praises of the Working Joe androids, which spend much of the game trying to choke you to death. Advertisements for fictional products are also a reminder that, in the dark future of the Alien universe, even space has become commodified.
6. The derelict
In a flashback mission titled Beacon we get the chance to relive the derelict scene from Alien as the crew of the Anesidora. Venturing into Giger’s bizarre ship and seeing the ‘space jockey’ is a special moment for an Alien fan, even if it is just a straight retread of the movie. Although, admittedly, the revelations in Prometheus and Alien: Covenant have stripped away some of the fossilised pilot’s beguiling, otherworldly mystery.
Sevastopol’s automated workers aren’t as complex and lifelike as Weyland-Yutani androids, but they’re just as susceptible to disobeying Asimov’s three laws of robotics. A malfunctioning Working Joe marching towards you with those blank eyes is one of the scariest things in Isolation, and they can take a hell of a beating before they even think of slowing down. Luckily there are a few friendly ones still left on the station.
If you enjoyed this article, check out the companion pieces:
Author Andy Kelly, aka the Alien liker, is also behind the Alien Archive twitter account, which posts visual material from the series, and a gorgeous series of videos on the game's world, embedded below.