By Marshall Garvey
Hello all, and welcome to my second installation of my Alien: Isolation DLC reviews! With the game’s last package having come out this month, it’s high time I resumed this feature to provide recommendations to anyone interested in getting the complete experience of Creative Assembly and Sega’s 2014 survival horror triumph. Especially with the news of Neill Blomkamp’s official deal to make the next movie in the series, the likelihood we’ll see more games from the seminal sci-fi horror franchise is looking pretty strong. But for now, let’s focus on the bonuses of the most recent one.
Today, I focus on the second and last movie-based mode, Last Survivor. I tackled the first, Crew Expendable, in my kickoff piece for this review series a few weeks ago. That mode allows the player to roam around the Nostromo as either Ellen Ripley, Dallas Arthur, or Dennis Parker. Last Survivor, on the other hand, puts you firmly in the driver’s seat as Ripley alone.
The setup is simple and straight from the film. Ripley, Parker and Lambert are the remaining survivors of the Nostromo crew, and have decided to blow the ship up and make their escape in the shuttle Narcissus. As Ripley waits in the cockpit, Parker and Lambert prepare coolant in the lower levels to provide the shuttle’s necessary air supply. Parker, tough and flippant as ever, asks Ripley to come down and lend a hand in the process. As she makes her way down, however, the agonizing sounds of her last crew member’s deaths come over the intercom. When she arrives, Lambert and Parker are slumped against the wall, their bodies bearing the fatal wounds of the Nostromo’s slimy new passenger. It’s official: Of the seven members of the crew, Ellen Ripley is the last one standing. Now, she has to outsmart the alien, set the ship in self-destruct mode, and make her escape in the shuttle.
While I felt that Crew Expendable fell short of its potential by being frustratingly loyal to the film’s canon (even though it technically broke it at the same time), Last Survivor excels to the fullest because it’s so loyal to the movie. The ending sequence from the 1979 Ridley Scott classic is one of my favorites in film history, chiefly because it synthesizes so many intense feelings at once: fear, uncertainty, desperation, and grief. Even after you know the outcome, you still feel your heart race watching it. Ripley has yet to undergo her transformation into a warrior in Aliens, and in this scenario is simply a vulnerable survivor suddenly thrust into a desperate situation.
The success of Last Survivor is in managing to replicate all of that, which is no small feat. As you recreate Ripley’s nail-biting escape, the tension seamlessly mounts moment by moment. The mode’s best comes after you’ve initiated the ship’s self-destruct, triggering the familiar cacophony of yellow hazard lights, ear-piercing alarms, broken steam pipes relentlessly blasting your path, and of course, Mother’s chilling countdown. It’s all tied together by a superb voice performance by the one and only Sigourney Weaver, who puts you in the seminal heroine’s shoes with nervous utterances and reassurances. Even with the character familiar to audiences for over 35 years, you feel as if her story is unfolding for the first time while playing.
As always, gameplay and detail are outstanding as per the rest of the game. There’s nothing different about gameplay, with your usual combo of flamethrower and motion tracker to help you out. The bigger emphasis is on the setting here, providing another chance to explore the famed USCSS Nostromo. Like Crew Expendable, it’s wholly satisfying, from the archaic beeps of the computers to the grime and tear of every seat and engine. Most noteworthy is a cargo bay in the lower levels, whose wide open spaces and noisy doors make for some particularly heart-in-your-throat moments with the stalking Xenomorph. And of course, there are more audio logs from the crew members, from Parker bitching about salary to Ash detailing his sinister intentions. (One minor gripe: I would have loved the inclusion of Jonesy, although I’d imagine lugging around his cat cage would conflict with the minimalist, bare-bones survival the game emphasizes.)
The only potential deviation present here is one only diehard fans of Ridley Scott’s movie will care about, but it’s worth noting nonetheless. There has long been a debate about the potentially…well, sexual…way the interstellar beast killed poor Joan Lambert. (Hey, the damn alien itself is more phallic than half an adult store’s inventory, so this isn’t a weird train of thought on my part!) The mode does not serve as official canonical resolution of this mystery, but rather just a “what if?” take on this gruesome detail. It’s probably not worth dawdling on…but I’ll say, take a look at the crime scene yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Altogether, Last Survivor is an exceptional piece of DLC that, if you didn’t acquire it in the game’s Ripley Edition, is more than worth the few bucks for a download. It’s a spot-on homage to a white-knuckle sequence that not only ends one of the best movies of all-time, but also effectively created the original action movie heroine. Above all, it serves as further evidence of how movie licensed games can succeed by both honoring the source material and deepening it at the same time.