Joystiq Top 10 of 2014: Alien Isolation

Ludwig Kietzmann
L. Kietzmann|01.02.15

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Joystiq Top 10 of 2014: Alien Isolation
ATTENTION: The year 2014 has concluded its temporal self-destruct sequence. If you are among the escapees, please join us in salvaging and preserving the best games from the irradiated chrono-debris.

I'm suspicious of Alien: Isolation as I play it, waiting for the leather shoe to drop and seeing a meddling executive come chasing after it. It's just a cartoon in my head, sure, but these games are made or broken by how well they can bend to the needs of the creator, the desires of the publisher and the expectations of a varied audience. A low-action survival game with a persistent stalker isn't usually where video game aliens end up - not even THE alien.

You start questioning everything. There are too many jagged parts for a blockbuster game, too many harsh pitfalls for the easily frustrated player, too much smart enthusiasm for what is truthfully a tarnished property. And on top of that it's supposed to be an intimate horror game from Creative Assembly, the studio best known for giving you a god's view in the Total War strategy games.

And yet few studios could have been as suitable as Creative Assembly, for fanatically recreating not only the look of 1979's 'Alien', but instilling the same vulnerability and paranoia that must have clung to the film's lone human survivor, Ellen Ripley. Alien: Isolation puts her clever daughter in a similar predicament, inherits a horrible monster with a matryoshka doll of mouths, and proves that authenticity is key not only in historical fact. Whereas Total War unfurls the history books as best it can, Alien: Isolation is devoted to recreating the timeless truths of Ridley Scott's film: its look, its unpredictable killer and the sigh of relief we share with those who survive.

The incredible fidelity of Isolation's environment, a creaky space station deep in its decommissioning throes, is doubled when you see it so often from less exotic perspectives – beneath a table, peeking over a gurney, from inside a locker. As you crumple yourself up to avoid detection, minimizing the space you occupy, you realize Alien: Isolation is simply one of the best games about, well, being somewhere. Being someone else. You covet these moments of solitude in Alien: Isolation, having had your back pushed against the wall by a fanged agent – almost enough to feel it.

You do have to meet Alien: Isolation halfway, though. You have to be willing to project yourself into Amanda Ripley and stop disassembling the game for its various if-this-then-that rules. Creative Assembly has been subtle, almost meditative in its creation of the scenario. The environment has been cast in iron, the escape routes set, the alien as a cogent entity unleashed inside it with you. They lift their hands and slowly back away.

It's so good I almost don't notice the sound of a shoe dropping.
[Images: Sega]

Joystiq is highlighting its 10 favorite games of 2014 throughout the week. Keep reading for more top selections and every writer's personal picks in Best of the Rest roundups.

The list so far:​​
  1. Alien: Isolation
  2. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
  3. Mario Kart 8
  4. Far Cry 4
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Joystiq Top 10 of 2014: Alien Isolation