Was playing Outlast 2 recently and it made me realize how much hide and seek horror games are becoming stale. Another thing that was worse than the original is how fast it shows you everything instead of building tension or setting the mood for your journey. No doubt that it was doing well for what it was created but industry is becoming so full of such games that even one of the better ones from similar genre often fail to grab your attention.
I think Alien: Isolation finds perfect balance between hide and seek gameplay and fighting back instead of just sticking to the former or the latter exclusively like most games. We all know how Alien looks like. We've played Alien games before, we have seen the movies, we have seen Promethius... yet Isolation successfully builds tension and slowly reveals (already quite popular and well known) threat. This threat is also quite intelligent. It is programmed well thanks to Creative Assembly's extremely talented team that released masterpiece after masterpiece over the years.
In the beginning you hide and feel underpowered, then you come across handful of tools to fight back or lure the threat to eliminate human rivals without engaging in gun fight directly (but you can do that too if you don't care about saving your supplies for later). For few moments you stay strong then go back to hiding and running once you're out of supplies. This struggle continues till 2/3rd of the game. Then just like the player who gets used to the threat, the protagonist 'Ripley Junior' also feels stronger as she comes across more powerful weapons and tools. Threat's fellow family members start appearing later in the game but then it doesn't even matter much as you have plenty to kick as* towards the end.
Then in this case the space station itself becomes a threat. You have to get out of it while things explode and break around you. You take 2 steps forward and it sends you 3 steps backward. This section often feels like a drag but it also serves its purpose. It makes you feel uncomfortable in a different way. While you overcome your fear against living beings, the surrounding itself becomes a challenge to navigate through. The game keeps things fresh by giving you mechanical tools to clear your path too.
Even the smallest of actions require player's complete input. Like right click to grab the door with right hand and left click to grab it with left hand. You hold both and then use movement keys to rotate mechanism and open the door. This makes every small action feel like an event in itself, which is necessary to create immersive and rewarding experience. Licensed products are hard to pull off. On top of being a great game on its own, the way Creative Assembly nailed each and everything in the game while staying faithful to source material deserves extra applause.
It's sad that the game underperformed, as it deserved to have a current gen exclusive sequel. It is shame to not have one so far. All in all, Alien: Isolation is a masterpiece. I'd say, gameplay wise it's better than Resident Evil 7 even. RE7 was really well executed game but Isolation offered more on gameplay front. It felt old school in a good way.