Though it's not without its issues, Alien: Isolation builds nicely on the coveted film franchise to create an engaging, atmospheric, and challenging game. First, the not-so-good news: Once you load the game, you need to download an 840 MB file and wait for it to "patch" the game. Then, the first hour or so could be frustrating for players who aren't sure where to go and what to do. Even with instructions such as "go to the bridge to talk to so-and-so," you might find yourself lost or in a room with people who stare blindly ahead as if you weren't there (even old story-driven shooters such as Half-Life 2 had characters who would look at you and say hi or ask a question); characters who won't acknowledge your existence disrupt the all-important immersion factor. One other issue: If you die -- and it'll likely happen often -- you might load a save-game slot that requires you to repeat parts of the game. Frustrating.
Things improve greatly once you start fighting creepy aliens. The cat-and-mouse play is terrifying and exciting; in fact, the interactivity and the tension of Ripley being hunted under your command makes Isolation far scarier than the film. You'll need to figure out how to best approach the creatures, what to use, and where to position yourself. Being chased by aliens is equally exhilarating. The game supports an optional PlayStation camera for head tracking (you can peek around corners by leaning your head, and Ripley will do the same) as well as noise tracking (if you make any noise in your home, it might attract aliens). Along with the single-player campaign, which has varying levels of difficulty, there’s support for multiplayer modes, downloadable content, collectible items that add to the backstory, and other extras. Despite its issues, Alien: Isolation is a thrilling game that might not be as good as the hype but still serves up a thrilling experience -- if you play with the lights off and speakers cranked.