Alien: Isolation has officially been released for Linux, and continues our trend of great AAA games. I would recommend playing this from behind a pillow, with emergency pants nearby. Disclosure: My key was provided by Feral Interactive.
Note: It’s another game where Intel & AMD GPU’s aren’t supported.
Linux gameplay video, spoiler alert!
Please be aware SSR gave the game a performance hit while recording.
About the game (the official bit)
HOW WILL YOU SURVIVE?
Discover the true meaning of fear in Alien: Isolation, a survival horror set in an atmosphere of constant dread and mortal danger. Fifteen years after the events of Alien™, Ellen Ripley’s daughter, Amanda enters a desperate battle for survival, on a mission to unravel the truth behind her mother's disappearance.
As Amanda, you will navigate through an increasingly volatile world as you find yourself confronted on all sides by a panicked, desperate population and an unpredictable, ruthless Alien.
Underpowered and underprepared, you must scavenge resources, improvise solutions and use your wits, not just to succeed in your mission, but to simply stay alive.
Review, may contain spoilers - Port report further below!
I’ve played it before on my PS4 and never completed it, so to have it here is incredible. Feral sure do pick some amazing games to bring to our little platform.
As a long time fan of the Alien franchise this both excites and terrifies me, and continues my fandom of Feral Interactive. As usual though, we will give it an unbiased look.
I’m never, ever good with horror games, and Alien: Isolation is no different. I really need to invest in some brown trousers to play this game, as it terrifies me to the core.
The good thing is you don’t really need to be an Alien film buff like me to enjoy it, if you take it simply for what it is you will still have a great experience with it. It explains the story of Amanda Ripley, the only daughter of Ellen Ripley who is the star of the Alien films, so it’s really great to get to see what happened to her daughter. It’s quite sad really that both she and her mother had such a terrible experience with extraterrestrials.
I’ve played a few games set in the Alien universe in my time, from the original Alien vs Predator games, up to the newer Colonial Marines, all of which turned the Alien (or Aliens in their case) into bullet fodder and doesn’t make it feel scary. This is where Alien: Isolation is vastly different, as there’s one single alien, and you don’t have a lot in your arsenal to stay alive.
It depicts a very low-fi future with big levers and buttons to use, instead of fancy touchscreens and it looks simply incredible. You will see old CRT screens with effects placed on them to look like really old screens where you can gain some intel. This is all in keeping with the original films which weren’t overly futuristic. It also makes it feel a little bit more real, there’s more of a panic involved in pulling a lever down than quickly pressing a button on a screen.
It’s the type of game that I can play in broad daylight, and still feel completely overwhelmed with fear. Honestly, I lose all hope of being manly when I play this game. When a game can do this to you, then you know they have absolutely nailed the atmosphere of the game to really draw you in. Everything is stunning, and the lighting in particular is fantastic. With the creaking noises, lights exploding, things like hanging lights being moved around by something you can’t see, vents to keep an eye on or go through and more every moment is intense.
It won’t take you long to get that feeling of sheer dread playing the game, as early on you’re forced into crawling through small spaces with beautifully lighted sparks going off. There’s also a point where you hear something move and see some hanging lights around the corner swaying, so it really doesn’t ease you into it, and it shouldn’t.
It’s very much the type of game where you think you’re safe, you think you’ve got what you need and then it swiftly throws something in your face to make you feel like you jumped a mile away from your skin. Luckily, if you are detected there are plenty of places to hide, and lots of different ways to get away, but the Alien is reasonably smart. The Alien won’t always be in the same place if you die either, as the Alien does have some reasonably good AI involved, so it will scout around if it hears a noise, crawl along places you might overlook and generally be a real bastard.
Stay away from the vents
The Alien itself is a design masterpiece. H. R. Giger’s original design is still one of the creepiest things i’ve seen in my life and it’s great to see they kept to the original design. The alien has no emotions, no fear of you, and its sole purpose is to see you dead. It can come from anywhere, it might be around the next corner, or it might be in the vent directly above your head that you didn’t notice, and in an instant you’re dead.
The Alien isn’t the only nemesis you will come across though. To keep the Alien from feeling stale you also have to deal with psychotic androids that are going against their programming and the other terrified humans trying to survive as well. There are some parts where you try to stealthily avoid some androids to get across a room, and thanks to the atmosphere of the game it’s equally as terrifying as trying to avoid the Alien itself. Usually, in a game designed around the Alien threat I heavily dislike it when they lean on other enemies, but it just goes to show how well it’s designed that I enjoyed those parts of the game too. The Android's speech and design is also really quite well done, you really wouldn’t want to come across one of those in a dark alley.
In Alien Isolation you can walk, sprint, hide in cupboards and crouch behind objects to not be seen. It’s very much a stealth and survival game, and any amount of sprinting can cost you your life pretty quickly. If you take away anything from this review—don’t sprint. Every time I get too scared and think “screw it” I’m going to run, I end up dead somehow. I could run into a bunch of androids and have the life choked out of me, or I could turn into an Alien’s dinner.
I think the single most terrifying thing in the entire game is the motion tracker, that ridiculous eerie noise it makes when it detects something, that single sound alone makes my skin absolutely crawl and I begin to sweat and panic. It’s a beautifully designed noise, and I hate it so much (I actually love it, but you get the idea).
Where the game is not so good
The first letdown for the game is the save system: you only get to save when you reach specific save points mounted on the walls. There are no checkpoints, and you’re armed with only your single save slot to keep you going, which is pretty old-school. In games like this I like to have multiple saved games ready to pick and choose as I see fit. It can be quite annoying going back in your game, but it doesn’t ruin it. Even the save points are using some cool mechanics, with you slotting in a card and waiting for it to finish.
The second letdown for the game is that it doesn’t have an online mode, I can imagine it being quite fun being the alien and chomping down on an unsuspecting human trying to escape. Although this could have taken some fear away from it, so I’m not sure how well it would have gone down.
Another point is the crafting system. While in certain games it’s nice to have one it doesn’t really feel like it has a point in Alien: Isolation. You never really get a lot, so it may as well have just given you the items you wanted spread out throughout the game as the story progresses. The different items you can get are very limited as it is, so it didn’t really need a crafting system at all. Honestly, I feel like a crafting system was just jumping on the crafting bandwagon for this title.
Final thoughts: Overall, it is the single most terrifying game I’ve ever played. After the complete failure of Colonial Marines, Alien: Isolation succeeds in almost every aspect of what it’s trying to achieve in my eyes. It’s not perfect, no game is, but it is a very good horror game. Oh, and yes, the picture at the very top of this article was taken at the point of my own demise.
You might hear me have a heart attack while streaming it soon. I may livestream it tonight, if not tonight then tomorrow for sure. Keep an eye on our twitter for that.
I am pleased to say that gamepads work absolutely fine in the game, I’m not sure why this still surprises me, but it does. I was able to relax just that tiny bit more sat back all comfy in my chair with my Logitech F310.
As always, your mileage will vary, and these are just what happened for me.
Testing the game at 1920x1080 on my Intel i5 4670K, Nvidia 970 with:
- Level of detail: Ultra
- Shadows: 1024
- Shadow mapping: High
- Particles: Ultra
- Motion Blur: Off (because eww)
- Chromatic Aberration: Off (because also eww)
- Planar Reflections: On
- Texture Filtering: 16x AF
- Volumetric Lighting: On
- SSAO: Off
- Anti-aliasing: SMAA T2x (the highest option)
The framerate is pretty inconsistent on my NVIDIA GTX 970, with drops down to around 60FPS. Although, for me it is generally hovering between 70 and 90 for the majority of what I have played through. There are spikes to the 100’s in different areas, and it can max out at around 150 FPS, but that’s when crawling through small tunnels so it’s not really doing much.
It’s still a little way off the average Windows scores, which I’ve seen hitting an average of 110FPS for my card, but what people forget is that on Windows there will be driver specific optimizations that AMD/NVIDIA just don’t do on Linux. That won’t account for such a high gap though, but so far only Valve have actually managed to get right next to Windows scores.
Trying my ageing NVIDIA 560 Ti on the lowest settings gave me 30FPS with lots of drops below (1080p), so that will give you some sort of idea of what power is needed for the Linux port. It wasn’t smooth enough to be playable on that old card. It’s below the min requirements which should be noted, but still fun to test. I will eventually get a newer lower-end (but slightly higher than the 560ti) NVIDIA card to test.
Performance wise overall I’m damn happy with it. It’s ultra smooth with no stutters, it looks fantastic and I’m able to play it properly on my favourite operating system.
Check out Alien: Isolation on Steam now. It’s also on sale, so it’s a great time to pick it up.
Please do let us know in the comments how it runs for you and what CPU/GPU you’re using.