By Marshall Garvey
Welcome to the third installment of my Alien: Isolation DLC review series! Having finished the two packages based on the original 1979 movie, it’s now time to explore the ones that expand the story of the game’s main campaign. First up is Lost Contact, a variation of the game’s Survivor Mode that puts you in the perspective of Axel. (If you don’t remember, he’s the bald Scottish fellow who assists Amanda Ripley early on before meeting a grisly fate. You can also play as Amanda on this mode too.)
I’ll admit to being a conservative (translation: scaredy pants) player when it comes to Isolation. While I think Survivor Mode makes perfect sense as an addition and brings a new challenge, I much prefer playing without any time limit. This is one of those games that you can’t rush, not just because of the strategy involved, but because it’s so atmospheric and dynamic that it’s worth spending large amounts of time immersed in it. Sure, spending seven minutes trapped in a locker out of sheer fright can be silly. But it’s precisely because of things like that that the game excels. Alien: Isolation has some of the most merciless, blood-curdling moments in horror gaming history, in part because of the vulnerability you feel no matter what scenario you’re in and what you do to survive for any length of time. Having a time limit, in my opinion, takes away from that incredible experience.
Fortunately, Lost Contact manages to strike a perfect balance between the timed point-based system of Survivor Mode and the more free-roaming hide-and-seek aesthetic of the main campaign. There is a time limit that docks more points the longer you take, but it’s a fairly lengthy time limit, and the tasks are very straightforward yet incrementally engaging. You start out with collecting various kits and restoring power, and then move up to rescuing civilians in peril, opening up other rooms, sending signals and data, and so forth. As always, a nailbiting permutation of Working Joes, paranoid civilians and H.R. Giger’s interstellar beast are doing everything they can to make those tasks as difficult as possible. As you progress through each task, you’ll also pick up more of the usual weapons, such as the bolt gun, revolver ammo, flamethrower, etc.
The catch, though, is that this map is tethered to one significant challenge. That is that you have only one life, period, while having to finish 10 tasks. If you die once, you have to start over right from the beginning. While the movie-based DLC maps eschewed the phone-save mechanism, it’s present one again here, albeit at a price of 2,500 points per save. Given the unpredictable path and A.I. of the Xenomorph, opting for the save when you can is highly advised. I understand wanting a high score for the leaderboard, but I can’t fathom making it to the 7th or 8th task, only to die suddenly and have to start right at the first.
As always, the setting is impeccably done. The player navigates alternately through private wards and a power plant in the Sevastopol Station, all of them bedecked with naked light bulbs, steam rising off the valves, broken down devices, and scattered items that give the place its uniquely lived-in feeling. The safe room you go back and forth from in particular is stunning, with the instruction terminal positioned right near a wide window that lets sunlight cover the room is a golden hue. Before you start your objectives, take a moment to stare out the window and take in the jaw-dropping space-gasm.
As far as flaws are concerned, there’s basically none in terms of gameplay. If I had to dig for one, though, it’d be a lack of cutscenes and character development. Granted, Survivor Mode is more about testing your skills than expanding story, but some setup when you play as Axel would’ve been nice. He’s clearly in a desperate situation to survive, and having a sense of his character’s stakes and fears would have given each task more emotional heft.
Altogether, Lost Contact is another impressive add-on to an already superb game. Whatever your style of play, it’s ideally structured and synthesizes 14-hours’ worth of challenges into a satisfying quick run. If you’re looking for a good test of your skills, pick it up immediately and dig in!