Two of the years most anticipated horror games are now available to get your scare on. I’ve spent quite a bit of time sucked into both of these horrifying worlds and while they’re both unique in their own ways, there’s that one burning question. Which one really reigns supreme over the other? Old and new school horror fans will enjoy both of these gaming experiences equally, but pit the two against each other in the ring and let’s see who comes out on top.
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Story & Campaign
Both games have decent stories. Alien: Isolation takes place in 2037, 15 years after the events from Ridley Scott’s Alien movie. To recall, the movie followed a group of explorers that end up all getting annihilated on a space trip by an extraterrestrial creature. Our main protagonist, Amanda is investigating the disappearance of her mother (Ellen, the main character of the film) at the Sevastopol space center where the events took place at. Onboard she finds that androids have killed the remaining crew. And most importantly, an invincible alien specie called the Xenomorph stalks the station. The players main challenge through the game is to make their way off the station, all while dealing with a bunch of missions that will extend the campaign well beyond just a couple of hours.
The Evil Within had teased us horror fans since day one when it was announced to be the baby from mastermind Shinji Mikami and Tango Gameworks. We were promised from the Resident Evil director that we’re going back to the root of horror survival and this was a promise fulfilled. In TEW at the center of the chaos, we have the main character, Sebastian Castillanos, a detective called to investigate a vicious spree of murders at Beacon Mental Hospital. While here he’s able to catch a glimpse into what happened here on security camera, a strange supernatural phenomenon that needs to be cracked down into. Then soon is wacked out cold and wakes in a hanging sack where a nightmarish fate awaits him. He constantly fights for survival for the truth amongst fighting the inhumans and gruesome monsters to find out what happened.
Alien Isolation wins this category with an invigorating story. TEW had some moment of bore and non excitement throughout the campaign. The main character was as interesting as watching paint dry and the story was just nothing completely new. While that’s not to say that the story was complete junk, it just was not as compelling as AI. Myself being an Alien fan had always wondered what it would be like after the events, and now we’re living it out. Even besides, the story keeps you wanting to find out more.
The gameplay in the Evil Within relies heavily on stealth and setting traps to outsmart your enemies. You’re given the freedom to determine if you want to play stealthy or analyze your enemy into forming new tactics to obliterate them. My favorite weapon that you’ll get in your hands is the Agony Crossbow which uses multiple arrows that can freeze, blind, electricute, explode and alter the enemies way of thinking. Combat is more prevalent here but you will be very limited to ammo and need to strategically plan your attack before perusing. Every resource feels previous and the game makes you get creative with every decision you make. There’s a full 15 chapters to get into. Exploration really drives this game to the point where it needs to be with it’s lack of story. Just trying to traverse from Point A to Point B always had my heart pounding in fear. As the game continues you’re pitted against stronger enemies, each more grotesque than the last. Caution and patience are going to be the best tools that you need to get through this game alive.
Alien Isolation really forces the players to use their smarts during every move in the game. There is a unique crafting system which allows our main hero, Amanda to build custom weapons. You do not have many weapons, so the added feature of putting weapon creation into our hands increases her chances for survival. Aliens are not always visible by eye. Your best tool will always be your tracker which tells you the relative location of the enemy. This constant sense of knowing you’re not alone instantly invokes fear. The aliens almost seem too unfair at times since their playstyle can be really unpredictable. I’ve had aliens camp out at the end of vents while I was crawling through them, and even seem some aliens magically appear behind me when the radar clearly showed them much further away and in an opposite direction. The alien’s playstyle is the most unpredictable I’d experienced in a game. You never fully can tell if the alien is going to leave you alone, or if they are going to come back and instakill you. Sometimes the slightest movement can set them off in a fury.
The Evil Within takes this point. Combat is always fun in a game, but TEW does not over-do it and you still have the fear of running out of sources which makes it feel realistic. Both require a lot of stealth skill, but I feel that you really have a slim chance in A:I. Upon being spotted by the Alien predator, 95% of the time, it will end in death with little fighting chance.
Design & Sound
Alien Isolation is an okay game to look at but not impressive. The aliens look FANTASTIC, but everything else around them just looks plain. Everything looks so stiff. If this is what 2037 looks like, I’m not impressed. From emotionless human faces to object design almost everything is just subpar. What it does great is looking and feeling like this game really came from the Alien film. The game tries its best to keep that sci-fi atmosphere and it definitely succeeds. One of my favorite things was definitely the use of fog throughout the game. It looks so realistic that you can just grab it. Although, the graphic design still leaves a bit more desired. I will say that the voice acting is on point and the music score is also pretty amazing.
Blood and Gore are not the only two things to keep your attention with TEW. The atmosphere really grabs you by the neck at some times. This game makes brilliant use of light and shadow and chilling vibes around every corner. While we look at monster design, it’s bloody brilliant! I’ve always been intrigued with the different creatures of the Silent Hill and Resident Evil world that the one thing that really draws me into loving a game a little bit more is great monster design. It makes you wonder, how did they get that scar? Or how can they walk on those things? Details to the little things like the festering skin are awesome. Most importantly the environments look unique. The sound design is extremely flourishing in this department as well.
The point goes to the Evil Within on this one guys! With better looking graphics, dynamic environment elements, disgusting monster design and great audio, it’s hard to not say no.
Creative Assembly did a brilliant job with making Alien Isolation truly horrifying. There’s always a constant fear. You don’t have a good fighting chance like you do in TEI so you really have to play smart about it. Stay in one spot for too long, and you’ll get snatched up. There’s this constant fear of not visually seeing your enemy all the time that really gets to me. The game really shines when you see the alien and are instantly shocked into flight or fight mode. Once it sees you, it’s on! There’s not much escape after being spotted so you either fight or run and may the odds be ever in your favor. Once you hear those Xenomorph footsteps, you need to escape NOW! These things are bloody fast! You’ll probably die. Your best bet is to hide and sneak around. As you hide you need to hold your breath, or the Xeno will grab you out of your position and kill you. The Android enemies are also scary as they will hunt you, and find you, and hunt you some more, until you’re dead. And they don’t die easily! You’ve got to shoot them about 4 times. Precious bullets, gone. If you try to melee attack them, they will grab your arm and kill you with a straight evil face.
The Evil Within surprisingly does not rely on jump scares to get the job done. While I can say that this game is truly disturbing in so many aspects, it definitely is a step to the revival of true horror survival. The pace of scare can be slow but absolutely terrifying. I can’t think of one moment where I felt safe in either game, but I can tell you that I was constantly on edge with this game. For one, being chased by something that could be human yet can’t still makes it feel realistic. Aliens just have that unfair advantage with being well, celestial beings but Boxhead can literally be someone! The moans, groans and unidentifiable orgasms from the zombies really gets under my skin! Everything scary is a win in this game. You must be smart about your moves, but the fast paced action can really give a person the creeps. The enemy variations really frightened me the most. Being physically chased and actually having a fighting chance in most cases really pulls the weight in other areas of this game.
Both games equally gain a point in this category.
And the undesirable…
Let’s keep it real. These games are not perfect and there’s within everything, flaws. In The Evil Within, although it’s an option combat is not always the best way to get out of your situation. I find that this could be extremely difficult for the casual gamer or those newer to horror games. It’s very difficult to be successful at this game. A couple of my gripes include silly puzzles (though which horror games have yet to master this?), annoying AI Partners and frustrating boss fights. I’m all for a huge endgame battle, but it felt like every fight even in the beginning had me putting way too much effort and tactic into them. The auto save system could have been better while I found random spurts of saves and yet struggled to get through some areas with really long auto save moments. And of course, I wanted a little bit more from the story.
Now my problem with Alien Isolation is that the game drags on after a good…. 7 hours. Yes it’s a long playthrough, (15-20 hrs) much longer than TEW but some of the work gradually becomes tedious. The difficulty level is extremely high and you will die a lot. A lot! And one you die, you have to replay a huge chunk of that part over from that beginning of your save point. Almost to the point of not wanting to continue sometimes. Throughout the game you do a lot of door opening, hitting your radar button, and walking, tons of walking. Exploration tends to go flat real quick during your downtime as you spend quite a bit of time backtracking. The synthetic androids often drive you nuts and they’re one of the most common foe that you’ll encounter. It feels like you’re playing a constant game of tag with them and there’s no real winner. I also was not fond of the ending either.
And the winner is…
The Evil Within!
Not by a lot, but I just had an overall better experience with this game. It didn’t drag on for as long as AI and gave me the insatiable craving for good horror survival and combat that I had been dying for. Plus it was dang fun, instead of uber frustrating!
Alien Isolation with *** 1/2 stars
The Evil Within with **** stars
Alien Isolation was not that creative. Halfway through the game it falls short in the horror department and you just feel overwhelmed at everything the game throws at you. I did enjoy playing as Amanda. We want to play a strong character and want to make sure she’s okay and genuinely develop a little attachment to her as the game progresses. This game is a beautiful tribute to any Alien fan out there. But this game is so hard that you‘ll find yourself switching the difficulty level down to easy at some point. Unless you’re really that hardcore. The gameplay is so much like Ridley Scott’s original alien game which is another highlight to it. So either-way, you’ll end up taking some good and bad.
Both games are equally scary, frustrating, and rewarding. I would say pick which one has the story that most intrigues you. Alien Isolation has a 1st person sci-fi constant threat horror feel to it while The Evil Within has more of a combat driven, fight lots of enemies, have fun creating traps feel, with the added traditional RE feel. Both will fill your need for survival horror, are equally scary and yet rely heavily on stealth. I recommend that if you are not into stealth, try these out first before you buy. You will be getting frustrated more than usual.