Alien: Isolation, billed as a Ridley Scott survival-horror game instead of a James Cameron first-person shooter, boasts over 15 hours of unblinking gameplay. Not being much of a gamer myself, to me half a day seems needlessly excessive. Especially since the original Alien that scared me shitless was just under two hours. How could anyone possibly sit in solitude for more than the length of all three Lord of the Rings films without eventually growing numb to the terror?
Well, being both an Aliens fan and a large child myself, I decided to power through this beast and give you tips on how to fully absorb the experience. But don't worry; there are no spoilers in this article.
6Get Into the Head of the Character
Packing for 15 hours worth of pants-shitting game horror, I decided to start at a brisk 8 a.m. on the Saturday after the release. That way I could theoretically finish before midnight. That meant buckets of morning grogginess to hone in, and so in the spirit of terror I opted to up my nerves with a series of 5-Hour Energy shots administered once every three hours. This overlap seemed both logical and economic, because buying bulk shots would give me the efficiency and stamina of 25 hours worth of energy compacted into the span of 15. And to sweeten the deal, it would cost less money for nearly a third more energy in my bloodstream. It's just good math.
Along with feeling like the ever-tense Amanda Ripley, daughter of the films' Ellen Ripley and the protagonist of the game, I wanted to experience her dread of death as well. But how does one simulate something so intangible and ultimate? For that, I used a 5-liter jug of garbage-cheap El Mezcalito that Robert Evans jokingly brought me from Mexico. In retaliation I had been slowly and systematically drinking the joke over several months to spite him.
Even looking at the image feels like seven deaths.
Despite being a weak 28 percent alcohol by volume, the vile liquid tastes like someone poured Everclear into a drug dealer's moist curb-kicked carpet and then wrung out the result. This would be my death analog: a swig for every time I lost Amanda to the alien. Finally, I needed props to get me in character. I figured it couldn't hurt to keep a semiautomatic AK-47 next to the desk so I would feel like a space soldier ...
... and I strapped on an LED headlamp similar to what Ripley's kid would be wearing in the game.
It was this prop that turned out to be way more useful than any gun, considering that I would be playing the game in absolute darkness.
5Don't Buy Cheap When Walling Yourself Away From the World
Being appended with "isolation," I figured the game would come with some kind of window-blackening kit right there in the box. This was not the case, so I headed out for supplies the night before. Here was my list:
A case of store-brand energy drinks
Astronaut ice cream
Foam board (not to be mistaken with a foam beard, which I already have)
Bed sheets (black)
7 headlamps (they're surprisingly fragile)
4 military-grade MREs
1 foam board (I realized I needed a backup)
Obviously, the first sore thumb you'll notice is that I chose store-brand energy shots instead of 5-Hour Energy drinks. I feel like this might be controversial among the 18-to-25, more brand-aware survival-horror gaming community. While my primary defense is financial, it would be a lie to say that I wasn't also seduced by the promise of a "zippy sip."
It's the Bill Cosby of energy shots.
I'm also aware that 12 jars are way too many for their intended purpose (more on that later), but being a noob I went for safe. The key items are the bed sheets, duct tape, and foam board. Because I have only one window in my bedroom, shutting my life out from the caring warmth of the sun would have been remarkably easy, had it not been for some unfortunate aesthetic choices I made while shopping:
This decorative pink duct tape was as joyous to the eye as it was not tape.
The pink duct tape wasn't fit to wipe a dead man's taint. If there were a tape Jesus, then this pink duct tape would be tape Judas. I can't stress enough how terrible this pink duct tape was despite being such a jazzy hue. When you're walling up your room and covering your desk with coal black, light-canceling sheets, don't be drawn in by novelty when it comes to your adhesives. Get real Gorilla Tape, or your gaming situation might end up looking like this:
Pathetic. But in my defense, my efforts did yield a passable fear containment chamber, into which I went the very next day ...