“Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.” – David Cronenberg’s 1986 film “The Fly.”
One thing about being a teacher is that the older you get, the fewer cultural references your students recognize or understand, because a lot of the material my brain has stored away was created way before my students were even born. Some of it might have been created before their parents were…old enough to watch it, let’s stick with that. This old lady is a huge movie fan, just huge, and there were some incredible movies released in the late 70s and throughout the 80s. Many of the movies you see in remakes today were originals when I was growing up, the age my students are now. Classics like Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, oh man, it was a good time to be a fiction fan, especially science fiction.
The movie Alien came out in theaters in 1979 when I was a mere nine years old. I didn’t hear the name “Alien” until I was in 8th grade, five years later. Had I been smart, I would have waited another five years to sit down and view it with the lights on, but I watched it at a slumber party. There was popcorn and chocolate cake aplenty but no lights. Let’s not ask who let 8th grade girls watch a rated R movie.
Alien. Most of my current teenage students had never heard of it.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a darkly-lit commercial space ship called “Nostromo” receives a distress call from this unexplored planet. After searching for survivors, the crew heads home only to realize that a deadly “bioform” has joined them. SciFi geeks call them “face huggers,” but in an effort probably not to scare their underage readers, all four of them, IMDB.com calls them ‘bioforms.” They attach themselves to your face, impregnate your stomach, and what end-games you then kills all your friends. If you’ve heard of actress Sigorney Weaver, it’s probably because she portrayed the now-iconic Ellen Ripley, so cool they just call her by one name, Ripley. A terrifying alien with acid for blood kills everybody except the heroine; that’s prime slumber party fun right there.
I made it through the movie, hands covering my eyes, emerging with a life altering fascination with Xenomorphs (fancy Alien terminology for the alien) and nightmares for the last 30 years. And just when you thought it was safe to go back into the space ship, along comes a video based on the original Alien story line.
“In space, no one can hear you scream.” – tagline from the film Alien.
15 years after Alien and 42 years prior to Aliens, a much less scary part deux I can quote by heart, Alien: Isolation follows Amanda Ripley as she investigates the disappearance of her mother, the aforementioned Ripley. Amanda is transferred to the space station Sevastopol to find the flight recorder of Nostromo, where crap, an Alien has terrorized the station and killed nearly all the crew.
Wikipedia, that site your English teacher hates but I personally love, relates how Creative Assembly, the company that made the game, does not describe Alien: Isolation as an action shooter game, the kind Call of Duty lovin’, shoot ’em up teens binge on. They created more of a survival horror game. Well, Alien was a survival horror movie where mostly (“They come at night. Mostly.”) they don’t survive. Whereas other Alien franchise games had a ton of creatures to blast, this game only has a single Alien, and oh man, you are so dead.
You can’t kill it. The somewhat puny weapons you find only anger it, so you die faster. CoD fans rejoice; there are some humans and malfunctioning android “working Joes” robots to shoot, but hearing shots fired brings the Alien back faster. It’s coming back anyway, and it’s going to find you and shred you.
Unlike the bad guys in other video games, which generally have typical evil characters/monsters that follow predictable paths and can be second guessed, they gave this Isolation Alien a fancy artificial intelligence. It’s going to actively hunt you down by sight, sound, and smell.
How do I know this game is so good and so crazy scary? Let me assure you, it’s certainly not because I’ve played it. I haven’t and I won’t. Ever. Because I am a huge chicken, and I can’t even watch five minutes of the Youtube video recaps. (My son says, “Mom, they’re called ‘walk-throughs.’ Duh, I knew that.) I can barely watch the movie Alien all the way through, and I’ve seen it probably 40 times. But no way am I playing the game.
So, this old English teacher reviewed the reviews.
Not surprisingly, there are official reviewers and fans who didn’t like it, stating they were going back to playing Deadspace, Evil Within, and all that other scary stuff. If the reviewers and commentors didn’t like it, it was mostly because they thought the game was too long or annoying, or for no reason at all except haters are gonna hate.
Ryan McCaffrey with IGN.com ripped it with a 5.9 out of 10 stars; he said he wished he had stopped playing half way through. “It is a great idea that, in practice, not only wears out its welcome, but drags on so long that it almost completely erases any trace of the fun I once had. Which is a whole different form of horror than I was expecting.”
I’m going to agree here that it was too long. It’s taken a lot of these guys, let me call them guys because I didn’t find a single woman’s comment on the game, I swear not one, forever to completely finish, as in 25-35 hours of playing time. That means it would take me like 50 hours, and I am far too lazy for that. I’m also way too skerred. That’s like moving in with the alien. But that doesn’t mean you won’t love it because of the length, because some gamers enjoy long games.
Andy Kelly from PC Gamer.com scored it a 93 out of 100. “The story is disappointing, retelling a familiar yarn we’ve already heard countless times in the Alien universe: sinister corporations, murderous androids, rogue AI, and others I can’t talk about because of spoilers.” He had a lot of good things to say about the game, but concluded, ” I just wish they’d been braver with the story.” I liked the original story, given that it scared the crap out of me and scarred me for life. So I think if I’d actually been able to play the game for more than an hour, I would have loved that part, feeling like I was back with the original alien.
Michael Rundle, reviewer for Huffington Post United Kingdom, pointed out, “It’s also true that the sheer amount of confrontations with the Alien eventually dulls its impact. It’s not that scary when you’re hiding from the Alien under a table for the 400th time, it’s just sort of annoying.” He also said he loved the game, “It’s terrifying. Tense, stressful and horrible. It gave me literal nightmares,” then pointing out his life was happier and less stressed when he wasn’t playing it.
But some of the best review comments were from fans who posted their thoughts on the official Facebook Page for Alien: Isolation.
Scottie: “Now after ‘something’ has shown up, I’m finding it incredibly stressful to get out from under this bed, and I’ve got a serious cramp.”
Stephen: “It surpassed my expectations, which were high given the hype. You guys owe me 42 pairs of underpants (so far), 12 pairs of trousers and a huge dry cleaning bill for my couch. Best game ever!”
Andy: “I think I stay under this table for now while I change my undies lol.”
Matthew: “I had to hide under a table and change my undies on several occasions. And I don’t mean in-game either :S”
The Gadget Show said in part, “It’s no exaggeration to say that this is the most formidable and downright terrifying nemesis you’ll encounter in any video game. Game developers are going to have to try very hard to top this bad guy when it comes to pure, unadulterated horror.”
With all these men talking about pooping their pants while they played this game, let me just say no way, I’m out. To quote Hudson from Aliens, “That’s it! Game over, man! Game over!” Just looking at the photos for this game scared me, but it sure was fun reading the reviews. No way, absolutely no way, am I brave enough to play that game. I’m going back to playing Pac-Man, in the daylight.
“I say we take off and nuke the sight from orbit….it’s the only way to be sure.” – Ellen Ripley, Aliens.
Turns out I’m too chicken to play it or watch anyone else play it. I’m staying off any virtual space ships, and I’m going to go turn on another light. If you were braver than me and actually played Alien: Isolation, let me know what you thought. But for now, turn off your video game and go read a book.
Amanda Major is a freshman Leadership and English teacher at Foley High School, plus the Foley Lion’s Roar faculty sponsor. When she is not reading scary Stephen King books by candle light on dark stormy nights, she takes long walks with her kids and pretends to clean her house. She also writes Disney World travel articles on her website Cheapskate Princess; in Space Mountain, everyone can hear you scream.