As a fan of the Alien universum I was thrilled when I read about a new Alien game being released this year. Also, the short video shared by Austin Wintory about his work with the game’s score looked very promising and presented some really interesting musical themes. Unfortunately, Aliens: Fireteam Elite turned out to be an annoying and repetitive shooter where we constantly shoot hordes of Xenomorphs. I quit bothering myself with this production to go back and refresh my experience with the best Alien game in my opinion – Alien: Isolation.

The main character is engineer Amanda Ripley.

The game was developed in 2014 by Creative Assembly and published by Sega. The action takes place on a gigantic space station called Sevastopol. The main character is engineer Amanda Ripley, daughter of (well known from the Alien movies and portrayed by Sigourney Weaver) Ellen. What is interesting, Amanda’s likeness was inspired by the look of Weaver’s mother. The young woman has been looking for her missing mother for years and now she has the chance to get some information about her since the flight recorder from the Nostromo, Ellen’s spaceship, was discovered to be kept on the aforementioned Sevastopol station.

Why is sound so important for horror games?

The station is in terrible shape: nearly falling apart, most of the systems are down, the androids became hostile and the people who remained alive are fighting for food, medicine and other supplies. They are all scared of some mysterious creature which appeared at the station along with the spaceship crew who retrieved the Nostromo flight recorder. It is a fierce, brutal killer which travels the vent shafts and cannot be shot. Amanda starts to realize she has to fight for survival just like the others if she still wants to live and go back on her ship.

It is the Xenomorph that is the key part of Alien: Isolation. It is well designed, gruesome and extremely agile. The most important thing is that it can appear anywhere and anytime and it is nearly impossible to predict where it shows up next. This makes Alien: Isolation still a scary game every playthrough. The means you can use against it are fire and smoke. Otherwise, your only tactics is hiding and staying quiet anytime you see it. I cannot count how many times I died in this game; the players can even earn an achievement when they die more than 100 times. If you want to take some advantage in dealing with the Alien, you need to listen to the sounds it makes to determine its position.

The sound design in Alien: Isolation is amazing.

The sound design in Alien: Isolation is amazing. The Xenomorph makes various creepy sounds depending on whether it sees someone, kills someone, crawls in the vent ducts or simply patrols the area. The metal hallways of Sevastopol emit many types of reverb, and hearing the Alien screaming from the distance gives you goosebumps. Among the machinery thumping and steam hissing there is a lot of retro computers and other devices sounds. The devs did a great tribute to the first Alien movie regarding the sound and environment design. They even invited the original Alien cast to record some of the audio logs the player can find in various parts of the station. This includes Sigourney Weaver re-recording her “Ripley’s final report” from the movie and the message for Amanda. You can even hear Jonesy the Nostromo crew’s cat in the game.

But the icing on the cake of the Alien: Isolation audio is the music. The Flight, teamed up with Christian Henson, brother of the duo’s member Joe, did their best to create a haunting, terrifying soundtrack as well as being respectful to the original movie score. They focused on the three iconic cues of the Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Alien and built their own OST on them. Their amazing blend of orchestra and synthesizers makes the perfect background for the cautious exploration of the Sevastopol corridors.

The passion and devotion the devs poured in this production is overwhelming.

Tracks like Transit Delay, Alien Reveal, Synthetic Solution, Desolation or Escape from Habitation Decks are the accurate examples of a good horror soundtrack. Whenever you anxiously wait for the upcoming transit, see the Xenomorph for the first time, hide from the deadly androids, or try to avoid the Alien hunting for you, you feel properly scared. Among the slightly calmer and atmospheric tracks is simple but powerful End Credits theme, containing excerpts of the “Ripley’s final report”. Considering the sad ending of the game, this cue leaves the player really moved. The amazing soundtrack nominated to BAFTA is what The Flight accomplished, and I am quite sure Jerry Goldsmith would approve of their work.

Alien: Isolation has several features that some players find annoying, like the permanent dying, staying in hideout for ages, unfriendly in-game menu or slowly paced story in some moments. To me this game is one of my favourites, the best game in the Alien universum, and one of the best games in terms of its audio. The passion and devotion the devs poured into this production is overwhelming. Too bad that Aliens: Fireteam Elite, despite the remarkable music and decent graphic design, did not fulfill the expectations of the Alien fans. Let us hope we will get a thoroughly made game soon, just like we got Alien: Isolation in 2014.

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Executive Editor

Izabela Besztocha

Independent games enthusiast, mainly horror games, paying close attention to sound design. Dreaming of becoming a sound designer. Dissonance, distortion and other unpleasant sounds is what she enjoys to listen to most.