Alien: Isolation The Digital Series is a welcome addition to the Alien franchise, and although it isn’t perfect, I wouldn’t be surprised if it opens the door for more miniseries like it. Some of the animation is lacking and the story feels a little rushed, but the extra-terrestrial menace and moments of tension and fear are some of the best the series has seen in quite a while.
For those of you wondering what Alien: Isolation The Digital Series is, allow me to explain: It’s a collection of cinematics and bits of gameplay from the 2014 video game Alien: Isolation combined with newly added scenes that allow people who don’t play video games (or suck at stealth based video games, like me!) to experience a canon part of the Alien lore without having to play it. Instead of watching a playthrough that’s over eight hours long, you can “binge” all seven episodes of the miniseries within an hour and a half.
The story follows Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley, 15 years after the original film. Amanda is approached by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, told that the black box from the USCSS Nostromo (the ship that the first movie takes place on) was found, and offered the chance to join a group that’s heading to the space station that found it, which could possibly give Amanda answers or closure regarding her mother’s disappearance. Unsurprisingly, things go wrong, forcing Amanda to fight to survival against a Xenomorph just like the one that her mother barely managed to defeat, murderous androids, and a small time-frame for escape.
Alien: Isolation The Digital Series manages to capture an amount tension and unease that’s (at times) fairly close to Ridley Scott’s classic by using a similar setting and allowing the audience to view it through a first-person perspective. The tight corridors, malfunctioning lighting, and great sound effects all harken back to the Nostromo, but it all feels fresh thanks to the “camera” switching back and forth between more the traditional shots that you’d see on a TV series or movie, and the first-person gameplay. Watching a Xenomorph searching for someone is always scary, but it’s even scarier when seen through the eyes of the person it’s looking for.
Speaking of the Xenomorph, oh man it is still terrifying. H.R. Giger’s creation is a truly ingenious monster, as it’s able to instill fear no matter the medium. Almost every time it appeared in Alien: Isolation The Digital Series, I was on the edge of my seat. There’s even one particular sequence involving the alien that echoes the first death in the original film, but it’s almost scarier thanks to the new perspective it’s seen from this time.
However, as I said earlier, Alien: Isolation The Digital Series isn’t perfect. It’s short runtime made it hard to really care about anyone other than Amanda, and the newer scenes that were added have some pretty weak, sloppy animation. They’re not completely terrible (aside from the characters’ mouths), but the dip in quality is jarring when going back and forth between them and the scenes from the video game, and that game is almost five years old now. I wish we could’ve seen even more of the first-person aspect instead, but if a few extra scenes with relatively poor animation are necessary to get more video games made into a something like Alien: Isolation The Digital Series, I’ll gladly accept them.
Alien: Isolation The Digital Series is a must-see for fans of the Alien films, and one of my favorite new shows this year so far. It’s a fantastic concept (I sincerely hope we get more horror survival games like Outlast or Amnesia made into a series like this) that’s genuinely frightening, and if that wasn’t enough, it’s available to watch right now, for free.