Sega and Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation was an outstanding first-person survival horror game when it originally launched in 2014, faithfully converting the terror of 1979’s Alien into a playable experience. Feral Interactive has now ported the game to Nintendo Switch, and it isn’t much worse for the wear. Save for minute visual hits and a handful of little bugs, this is largely the same game, and Switch owners have reason to be excited.
Alien: Isolated downgrades
Alien: Isolation on Switch only flounders in minor technical ways compared to the original release. Some textures and lighting take a slight visual hit, but it’s often barely noticeable and the game remains beautiful for a Switch title. Particularly, the monolithic space stations floating out in the blackness are breathtaking, and the overall game atmosphere is tense and foreboding at all times.
Frame rate is typically pretty consistent throughout the game, but during rare action-intensive moments, the game will noticeably struggle to keep up. I also experienced a few isolated bugs, including a funny one where an item of mine was suddenly floating right in front of me. There was a less funny bug where a clearly open tunnel entrance refused to let me through it from either side of the entrance. And the worst bug, which admittedly only occurred twice, prevented me from using any combat items except the basic melee attack. The bug would fix itself eventually but seemingly for no reason.
Lastly, interacting with objects in the game world can be finicky at times, but that was always an issue of Alien: Isolation. All in all, Feral Interactive did a terrific job here, and its small lingering issues can be patched out.
Notably, when playing handheld in a well-lit room, it is pretty difficult to see the game on default brightness settings. However, maxing out the screen brightness remedies this, and since Alien: Isolation uses different lighting settings according to whether you play docked or handheld, you won’t have to change your lighting options every time you switch between the two. It’s a perfect solution.
In space, no one can hear you die over and over again
The premise of the game is that you are Amanda Ripley, daughter of iconic series protagonist Ellen Ripley, and she goes to a space station called the Sevastopol because she hears they have answers about what happened to her missing mother following the events of the original Alien film. Unsurprisingly, the Sevastopol is in a state of disaster when Amanda Ripley arrives, with power supplies faltering, graffiti on the walls, and human survivors forming violent gangs. Alien: Isolation is about finding out how the space station descended into this chaotic state — and it’s also about surviving the alien Xenomorph on the station with you.
Ripley spends much more time sneaking than fighting because weapon ammo is limited and enemy attacks are quickly lethal. You will often be crawling along the ground or in vents to stay out of sight and make less noise (or hiding in a locker if things get desperate), and you have a motion detector to tell you when enemies are near and how close they are. In-between sneaking, you will be hacking devices by solving rudimentary puzzles to unlock new paths.
It is all but impossible to avoid the alien without using the motion detector, and even then, the alien’s whimsical, animal-like AI makes it extremely unpredictable. In short, the alien will find you, and it will kill you — often. Fortunately, load times to try again are excellent, so frustration likely won’t overwhelm you between save points.
Alien: Isolation gives you combat options, but use them sparingly
Alien: Isolation’s combat options include a melee attack, a handgun, a shotgun, and a flamethrower, among others. A crafting system also allows you to create things like medical kits, EMP grenades, and Molotov cocktails. On the Medium difficulty, I got through the game mostly just from sneaking around and there were items that I just never used. Still, for those who want the options, especially on higher difficulties, Creative Assembly doesn’t make you feel completely helpless.
Human survivors with guns end up the least intimidating enemies because a couple blows to the head will kill them. Rogue androids are probably the most dangerous enemies because they take so many hits to kill if they corner you. Comparatively, the alien doesn’t feel so bad because he’ll just kill you instantly if he sees you; there’s no time to struggle. However, once acquired, the flamethrower can actually force the alien to flee, making it extremely valuable and not to be squandered.
The full Alien: Isolation experience
The main campaign of Alien: Isolation will likely last 15-20 hours on a first playthrough, and there is replay value in playing again on harder difficulties. The game has some pacing issues, as the final areas drag on a little too long, but it’s still much better than a game that is too short.
Beyond the campaign, there are brief DLC campaigns “Crew Expendable” and “Last Survivor,” which let you play through events of the original Alien film and feature the likenesses of the original characters, including the voice of Sigourney Weaver herself. However, I beat both of these in around 20 minutes each, so they’re novelties more than anything.
Lastly, there is an assortment of challenge levels with scoreboards and different characters with different weapon loadouts to select, which will provide a lot of replay value for hardcore enthusiasts. Overall, it’s really hard to complain about the amount of content being offered here for the game’s relatively humble $34.99 price point on Switch.
A definite pick-up for horror enthusiasts on Switch
Alien: Isolation might be one of the best licensed games ever made, and Feral Interactive has succeeded in preserving its harrowing gameplay on Nintendo Switch. Rare bugs and frame rate drops aside, this is the same intensely atmospheric and frightful game it was in 2014. The difference is that now you can play it on the go — as long as you crank the screen brightness settings way up.
A review code was provided by the publisher.