Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Alien Isolation: Best Use of Positional Audio Ever?

Undoubtedly the biggest breakthrough for me in learning how to play Alien Isolation was to stop panicking and simply listen to my surroundings. The positional audio in the game is absolutely superb. All of the enemies make characteristic sounds and you can pinpoint their position by sound alone. Not only can you tell where they are you can usually also tell where they are going. The Alien itself is particularly noisy as it stomps about the place and many times I managed to evade an alien with very limited cover simply by moving myself about in response to sound prompts ensuring that I never fell into its line of sight. I cannot recall positional sound every having been as important to me in a game. Please note you don't need surround sound speakers to experience the positional audio I played with stereo headphones and stereo speakers. The headphones are better but the stereo speakers work just fine.

Learning to use sound was so important to my enjoyment and mastery of the game that I would fault the developers Creative Assembly for not making it more obvious during the training levels. To be honest I would fault training in the game in general. This is an unusual style of game that requires players to rethink their normal playing assumptions in order to survive. Like many others I struggled with the first few levels of the game until I eventually figured out how to play. To be honest I almost gave up out of frustration. It is not just that the game doesn't give you direction. Very often gives you misleading direction. Here are some glaring examples:

1) When faced with an unstoppable alien monster your natural instinct is to run and hide. The game reinforces this by liberally sprinkling every level with cabinets marked "Click to Hide Here". While these can sometimes be useful they are usually death traps and running to the nearest one to hide in is a death sentence. They make a racket getting in and out and the monster can hear you breathing inside. Worse still you have no where to run if the monster does come for you.

2) The motion tracker is surely the greatest con-job of all. As a novice player I clutched it deperately trying to figure out where the monster was,  not realising that the beeping of the device was actually giving away my position. Staring at the motion tracker distracts you from the much better information that be be obtained simply by listening and looking around. In my opinion the motion tracker should spend most of its time in your pocket only pulled out occasionally when you know you are safe in order to get an idea of where to go next. It still serves some use in your pocket because it gives an audible warning if an enemy appears nearby.

3) Directional sounds are an absolutely essential tool for tracking enemies in the game but the developers delight in adding plenty of misleading bumps, creaks and other scary noises. This certainly adds to the scary atmosphere but it does confuse novice players. You start jumping at every bump and it takes a while before you learn to pick out the important sounds from the background noise.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Alien Isolation Finished

A deeply flawed masterpiece in my opinion but a masterpiece none the lest. The best stealth horror in any game I have seen. I actually got a neck cramp from the tension of playing the game. The flaws? Well the game is too long and far too repetitive.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Alien Isolation: Enemies closer still

I still suck badly at Alien Isolation. But I am making a bit more progress. One lesson I have learned is that my natural inclination to get as far away from the alien as possible just doesn't work. The creature, it seems is attached to the player by an invisible rubber band. If you do try and sneak away to the far side of the map the Alien will pop  out of a nearby vent  and surprise you. The safest place in the game bizarre though it seems is to creep around behind the alien. If you can see the creature then it cannot surprise you.

I am also convinced that the conveniently placed lockers and boxes that appear all over the game with big "hide here" pop ups are death traps. In the first instance the make an almighty racket getting in and out. They also restrict your vision and restrict the motion tracker. The alien can and will attack you in there and you have no escape route.

If you must hide then sneaking under a take is a much better bet especially one you can exit from both sides. Even a dark corner can be safer than a death trap locker.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Alien Isolation: I suck at this game

I have slotted Alien Isolation into my gaming rotation and I am not enjoying it as much as I expected. This survival horror game has won tonnes of accolade and it is both true to the movies and also genuinely scary. The trouble is I suck at the game. I keep getting eaten by the Alien which is not a pleasant experience. In my defence I offer that part of my frustration stems from the fact that while the game is very atmospheric the developers (Creative Assembly) have prioritised game play over atmosphere in a number of areas. The stealth parts of the game are genuinely tricky in addition to being scary. Further more the monster is obviously scripted to always be "some where near you" so you cannot really hide from it. For me this means that instead of sneaking through an area and being scared I try to sneak through an area, get eaten and then try again. After a few more deaths deaths I slowly  learn the pattern of the monster and instead of a scary game it becomes a Simon Says pattern matching game. To be fair some levels are worse than others but I am currently wading my way through the hospital level and it is very repetitive. Search a bunch of identical rooms for keycard A while Alien wanders around. Then Search for keycard B while alien wanders around then search for .... and so on.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A surfeit of games

I am in a unusual position (for me) at the moment that I am actively juggling several games and not getting frustrated by it. I am playing a long campaign of Rome 2 Total War (Iceni start) which is true Total War fashion is sometimes very engrossing and sometimes tedious. It makes sense to intersperse my Total War sessions with a it more action so I have also been playing "Call of Duty Ghosts" single player. If you want a militaristic on rails interactive shooter movie then Call of Duty is probably still the best in the business and I do enjoy short bouts of shooty entertainment. However I do tire of the bizarre morality of modern shooters so when Call of Duty tires me I switch to "Blades of Time". This is a fantasy third person action adventure in which a scantily clad young heroine slaughters hundreds of assorted chaos monster who have taken over a mythical land of treasures. Blades got mediocre reviews but I am enjoying it a lot. It is very linear but the combat is fun and you get a huge array of upgrades to play with.

In the past when I have tried to juggle several games it has usually led to me losing interest and failing to finish some of them but I am still  juggling these three quite successfully. Last night I picked up scary game Alien Isolation and I am thinking about slotting that into the rotation. Would this perhaps be too much?