- Developer: Creative Assembly/Feral Interactive
- Publisher: Sega
- Platforms: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, macOS, Linux
- Release Date: December 5th, 2019 (Nintendo Switch)
- Date reviewed: December 12th, 2019
- Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
- Review copy provided: Yes
It is very difficult to convey in words on how effective Alien Isolation is. There is no accurate way to describe how it makes you feel in certain moments. What we have here is an extremely unique game that sort of fell under the radar in 2014. While it most certainly had exposure from streamers and the like, it did not meet the sales number Sega was hoping for. Fans have been asking for a sequel since then but have been met with silence. It wasn’t until Nintendo’s E3 presentation this year where we got a blip on the radar. Alien Isolation was making its way to the Switch. This absolutely shocked me as I felt that I would never see the game make a return in any form. I was more than willing to jump back into it to see how it has held up over the past 5 years, but also to see how well it runs on Switch. To put it short, it’s remarkable.
First things first, there is no physical copy of the game available. This is something fans really want to add to their collection but as of now there are no plans for a physical release which may deter some players. The game sits at hefty 17 gigs which could sit on your Switch’s internal memory just fine, but you may want to get a MicroSD just in case. The game also includes all of the DLC that has been released. This is the feature complete experience through and through.
Now regarding performance, I’m sure some of you have seen how the game runs after watching several comparison videos. It’s the real deal, this is quite possibly the best Switch port I have experienced. While there are very small compromises to some shadow effects, everything else is retained and even improved. The game uses a dynamic resolution but tries to stay at 1080p which is a rarity for many Switch ports. Anti-aliasing is applied here and gives the game a much cleaner look. The shimmering effect that was rampant in the previous console versions is gone completely. It almost doesn’t feel like it’s a port at all. In a way, it could pass as an exclusive Switch title with how much care went into it. Audio quality is also very important for a game like this. The rusty clanking sounds that fill Sevastopol station and other locations add so much to the atmosphere. Luckily the audio quality is on par with the other consoles. No compression seems to be employed there which might explain the large file size. It’s best that you play the game with headphones if you can. The framerate is very stable, with some minor stuttering in crowded sections. These are very rare though and won’t interrupt the flow of actual play. Loading times are a bit longer than previous console iterations, by about 10 seconds. This is to be expected as is the case with most Switch ports. Of course we have to discuss handheld mode. It’s very surreal to even see the game run on a handheld machine. There are barely any downgrades from docked and the framerate to me seemed to have held up even better in handheld as well. The port also adds Gyro support for the radar and gun controls. I thought the option was neat but I didn’t really prefer using it. The only real noticeable downgrade are the video cutscenes. Unlike the audio, they seemed to be compressed a bit and are not as clear as the other versions. Overall though the port itself is incredibly polished, I’m still impressed with it every time I start it up and I have to give Feral Interactive a lot of credit for accomplishing this.
So you may be impressed by the port but what about the game itself? Has it aged well enough to dive back in or even play for the first time? This was the question on my mind before I jumped back in. I’ve already finished the game on PS4 but never went back for another playthrough. Five years of time can age a game quite easily given advancements in overall game design but Alien Isolation manages to still feel modern enough to exist with other games from this year. The Alien’s AI is still amazing, managing to react to certain situations in multiple ways. The game still looks beautiful due to the strong art direction. Admittedly I was not too interested in the story itself but it serves the purpose. I do feel like the game drags on a bit too much at the beginning and near the end. I think if they cut a chapter or two then it may have been a bit more consistent. I also find Working Joes, the helper-turned-evil androids that attack you, are much more annoying than the Alien, rather than being scary. While I said the Alien AI is amazing, sometimes it can be frustrating when it does a 180 on you for whatever reason. You have different difficulty options to choose from such as Novice or Nightmare if you don’t like yourself.
I think it says a lot when the port and the game itself hold up so well that my feelings on it are the same as they were in 2014. I probably won’t go back to the game for awhile just like before, but if you’re a Switch owner and looking for something radically different to play, this is it. It’s an incredible port and the game itself is something you need to experience at least once. While I do think it has pacing issues along with some annoying elements, I think it’s still worth a look. If you’re nervous, use the Novice difficulty to start with. You will have a much more peaceful time so you can take in the atmosphere and not get face hugged every few minutes.