Preview: Alien: Isolation in Virtual Reality

The clue is in the name. You are alone. In a rare and daring twist on the established tradition of videogames, you are not the hunter. You are the prey. And at times, praying is perhaps the best asset in your arsenal.

Following VRFocusreveal of Alien: Isolation as a virtual reality (VR) experience this week, Oculus VR was keen to offer a first-hand experience of the highly anticipated stealth-horror title. Without VR Alien: Isolation is a dramatic, nerve wrecking  affair. With it, it becomes an experience unlike anything videogames have offered before.

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The unique selling-point of Alien: Isolation is the quality of the build. There are many horror experiences already available for the Oculus Rift and a number of those are designed with the intention of avoiding combat. Alien: Isolation however, is leagues ahead of the competition. The key to any immersive experience is suspension of disbelief, and Alien: Isolation in VR pulls no punches when it comes to taking the player out of their comfort zone and into a deadly new world.

The Creative Assembly have spared no effort in recreating the feeling of the first installment in the hugely popular motion-picture series. From the clickity-click of the retro-stylised computers to the soft clang on metal-on-metal as you apply pressure with your movements, Alien: Isolation is a convincing interactive representation of a world you will probably already be familiar with. Even the most ardent H.R. GIGER fan would have difficulty finding fault with this virtual reconstruction. A bold claim certainly, but one which is entirely valid.

The playable build of Alien: Isolation available in VR was unlike anything that SEGA has previously shown. Rather than being a tight and cautious trawl through man-made puzzles and avoidance of scripted enemy encounters, this demonstration was much more open. An elaborate tale of cat and mouse, the player was simply tasked with moving from one side of an area to another. Of course, all the while they must be aware of the impact their movement has on the environment; large or quick movements inevitably alerting the enemy. And when that happens it becomes a whole different challenge.

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Using an Xbox 360 controller, the player presses the RB button to bring their motion tracker into view. However, this being VR, the motion tracker use isn’t as restrictive as it is on a traditional proscenium arch presentation. How this will affect gameplay over a 10+ hour campaign remains to be seen, but even in this vertical slice is was certainly impactful. The player can move and look in two different directions without hesitation; just as VR in meant to be.

As you make your way through the area you’ll come across a locked door which needs to be opened. A text prompt suggests that you find a generator and as the motion tracker always denotes your waypoint, it’s not hard to find. It is hard, however, to get there in one piece.

The build playable on the E3 show floor is limited; either by player death or by timeout. However, VRFocus was able to secure much more than a simple four-minute taste and will bring you much more on Alien: Isolation as the show continues.

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