Alien Isolation: the essential survival guide

By John Robertson, Tuesday, 17 June 2014 12:59 GMT

It’s not just the Alien you need to worry about in Alien: Isolation. You need to master crafting, handle your firepower and deal with looters and the synthetics.

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Having now played Alien Isolation for a second time, it’s becoming increasingly clear which precautions and actions are essential to survival and progression. The first demo we played earlier in the year saw us face-off in a one vs. one encounter against the alien, doing our best to stay out of sight and avoid any direct contact within a tightly confined playing space. It was a tense, suspense-driven affair.

This second demo, on show at E3 2014, shares that same tone but delivers it in a much more varied and complicated manner. Many elements are included here that weren’t in our first demo – most notably the ability to craft items, use weapons and tackling non-alien life forms.

Armed with this extra experience, here’s our beginner guide to surviving Alien Isolation.

Scavenge, scavenge, scavenge

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A crafting system allows you to create a wide variety of items, including health supplements, molotov cocktails and EMP grenades to disrupt electronic equipment. Our most recent demo, located roughly two-thirds of the way through the game, saw base components scattered across and within office desks, storage lockers and the personal quarters of the game’s Sevastopol space station environment.

Complication is added from the fact that protagonist Amanda Ripley is limited in how much she can carry at any one time, forcing you to think about what to pick up and what to leave behind. As a general rule, it seems that materials used to create offensive items (such as the molotov cocktails) are in extremely short supply – making it next to impossible to rely on them as a means of progression.

Furthermore, the alien itself is immune to such weapons. Throwing at molotov in its direction will simply annoying it giving your position away.

Watch out for looters

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The alien isn’t the only threatening lifeform on Sevastopol. Human looters roam the corridors and decks, looking for their own way to survive and make it through the nightmare. Looters can be killed using the likes of the molotov, but their pack-mentality means it’s difficult to take them out without creating an alien-attracting commotion.

What you can do, however, it try to have them react to your presence and fire a few shots at you. Providing they miss and don’t kill you outright, the noise created can result in the alien attacking them. So long as you can stay out of sight while it consumes them, you’re then free to continue with the looters out of the picture.

Be careful with your flashlight

“Isolation is a lethal game of hide and seek. Hide successfully and you’ll survive. Be seen and you’ll die.”

Sevastopol is dying, its computer and electrical systems failing as the station crumbles and degrades. Resultantly, I came across areas cloaked in near total darkness – making it difficult to navigate, identify safe hiding places and scavenge for crafting materials.

You have a flashlight to illuminate areas, but switching it on is a good way of drawing attention to yourself; the alien can’t see around corners, but it can certainly tell the difference between light and dark. I found myself only willing to turn it on when inside a sealed off room, with no windows or connecting corridors for the light to shine through.

It’s possible to use the light to create a diversion by shining it in a given direction before quickly turning it off and moving to a new position, drawing the enemy in and then flanking it as it investigates. The corridor-heavy layout of the demo made such a tactic difficult to execute, but the potential is certainly there.

Avoid the synthetics

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In addition to the alien and looters, synthetics also inhabit Sevastopol – think Ian Holm’s ‘Ash’ from the original 1979 Alien movie. I’m told that it is possible to kill a synthetic, but it requires multiple shots to the head in addition to a few whacks from a wrench or other melee weapon. Reloading multiple times in an effort to try to kill one guarding a computer terminal resulted in death each time, the thing tirelessly following me with an unnerving calm to its lifeless facial features as soon as it became aware of my presence.

A crafted EMP grenade is capable of paralysing a synthetic for a short while, giving me enough time to access the terminal and get out of the area before it woke up. Unlike the looters, the alien shows no interest in synthetics due to the fact it can’t eat a robotic entity. Creating any noise trying to dispatch of a synthetic, then, simply leads to the alien joining the party to kill you.

Conserve your ammo

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I’ve now gotten my hands on a pistol and a flamethrower, both of which are next to useless against synthetics and the alien. You can comfortable use them to rid Sevastopol of looters, but I was consistently so short on ammo that I didn’t want to expend it and risk finding myself in greater trouble further down the line.

It’s unclear just how many different weapons are going to appear to the full game, but it’s becoming very clear that none of them are going to be especially well stocked. One tactic is to fire a single shot when close to the looters, drawing the alien to the area as you swiftly exit it. Using this tactic you can potentially eliminate a group of three or four looters with a single bullet… at the risk of being eaten.

Make use of your map

Amanda’s map automatically updates itself as you explore Sevastopol. As many of the space station’s corridors and rooms share the same retro-futuristic aesthetic of white walls and grey floors (often punctuated by dead bodies and smatterings of blood) it’s easy to become disorientated if relying on your eyes alone.

Frequently referring to your map, staying on top of where you need to go and where you’ve already been prevents you from backtracking and needlessly spending time out in the open. The more time you take up wandering the corridors, the more chance there is of bumping into the alien.

Learn to love the motion tracker

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Your motion tracker is your best friend. It’s the best way to avoid trouble, it’s the best way to get out of trouble, it’s the most essential tool in your arsenal.

Whenever a little dot appears on its simplistic green radar screen you should be hiding, identifying multiple escape routes and staying as quiet as possible until you’ve fully grasped what kind of danger you’re facing. The tracker doesn’t discriminate between movements, meaning that green dot could be the alien, a looter or a synthetic. It might even be an enemy type that has yet to be revealed.

To add further tension, it can’t distinguish between variations in height/altitude – giving you no indication of whether what it’s picking up is below you, above you or just around the corner. On more than one occasion I sat in frozen panic behind a desk or in a locker, only for that ominous green dot to pass right over me. It must have been the alien crawling around in the air vents.

Don’t get seen by the alien!

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At its most basic, Isolation is a lethal game of hide and seek. Hide successfully and you’ll survive. Be seen and you’ll die. It really is as simple as that. Noises, movement and changes in light all trigger Sevastopol’s sole and unflinchingly predatory alien to come searching for you, making even the opening of a door an exercise in bravery and risk assignment. Simply put: don’t open that door until you’ve listened for noises, thoroughly checked your motion tracker and made sure you’ve checked your map and know where you’re going.

The alien’s superior speed, size and strength means it’s futile to try and escape once seen. At one point I was seen by the alien and decided to run around the corner. Once out of sight I hid in a locker. Knowing that you’re in its vicinity, though, the alien goes into high alert mode and was able to locate me via my heavy breathing. It’s eyes stared at me with insect-like callousness through the grate. There’s only one route out of a locker…

Alien Isolation is released October 7 on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 and PC.

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