Andy Kelly is flying the nest. He has been in games journalism since I was a little kid, but as Lead Features Editor it still feels like one of my chicks leaving me behind forever. It’s been almost two years since he submitted his first fawning article about Alien: Isolation, mixed in with creative ways to enjoy Skyrim and old PC games nobody has ever heard of before.
Seeing an individual constantly stan a single video game and make it an unmistakable part of their identity is normally quite obnoxious, but you can tell Andy’s love for Alien: Isolation comes from a place of authentic admiration, an interest that began with the original film and has somehow endured until this day. He even likes Prometheus, so you know he’s for real.
Creative Assembly’s survival horror received polarising reviews upon its release, mainly because some thought it was too hard and a bit too long, but it has long become a cult classic worthy of its lofty reputation. It is arguably the best licensed game of all time, showing a love for the source material that few are able to match. You can tell that every sound, every texture, and every scare came from a place of love and knowledge, and the team had a blast making it happen. The fact we haven’t seen a sequel yet is a crime against gaming.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder though, and given I haven’t played Isolation since I was in university halls, I think it’s time to jump back in. For Andy Kelly, may he rest in peace. My first time with the game was not ideal. It took place on a crummy little monitor on a PS4 without an internet connection, meaning I couldn’t patch the game and was stuck with a less than optimum experience.
I still adored it, and this imperfection only made it all the more effective. I had to lean in extra close to make out the intimate details, peering around every corner and into every vent to make sure the Xenomorph wasn’t moments away from eating my ass, and not in a good way. The omnipresent film grain and sluggish controls would normally be a nuisance, but here they only heightened a first-person outing designed to feel and look archaic. This came from a studio known for strategy games, and here it was creating one of the best survival horror titles ever seen.
Amanda Ripley is an engineer used to repairing broken spaceships and radios, so when you pick up a pistol for the first time of course she doesn’t know how to handle it, shotguns and flamethrowers only furthering this idea that the player is just as lost as she is. Every tool is a means of survival from an unknown threat, and few horror games have been able to match Isolation’s permanent sense of unease, or a need to run away and never look back. It can be so hard to make a game consistently terrifying, since we grow used to the threats and how to deal with them. The Xenomorph changes that through unpredictability alone, and how there is nothing that can stop its onslaught, only deter it from eventual annihilation. Even average footsteps can spell your doom, turning each level into a gradual crawl forward to hell.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m friends with Andy Kelly, and he never shuts out about it, or Alien: Isolation is enough of a classic to command our conversation even a decade later, wrongfully overlooked and rightfully praised for everything it achieved. The truth is likely both, so it's finally time to jump back in and lose myself on the Sevastopol all over again. It runs at 60fps on Xbox Series X now too, so I can be scared at twice the framerate.
Farewell Andy Kelly, and if they ever announce Alien: Isolation 2 you need to make a fancy YouTube video showing off all the cool environments set to a Radiohead song or whatever it is you do. Don’t forget us, and you will always be the Ridley Scott of games journalism. He’s even writing a book on Alien: Isolation you should totally support, because his obsession totally hasn’t gotten out of control.
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