Welcome to the space station Sevastopol! It's a lovely place to die.
Alien: Isolation is a very cool game, but it can also be immensely difficult, stressful, and frustrating. It's possible to spend an hour or two stuck in the same place dying over and over, making zero progress.
To top it off, Isolation doesn't do a very good job of explaining itself, and doesn't even really give players a tutorial before throwing them into the alien-filled deep end. After completing the main campaign and replaying various levels on a few different difficulties, I thought I would share some of the tricks I've picked up to help you survive a bit longer than I did at first.
Ready? Let's get to it.
Alien: Isolation has been made with an uncommon amount of devotion to Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi classic Alien. If you really want to get into the spirit of the game, I suggest renting and watching the original film before you play. With the movie fresh in my mind, I noticed so many more small details that I would've missed otherwise. Plus, Alien is a cinematic masterpiece, and it's never a bad time to watch a masterpiece. Have some friends over, cook up some popcorn, and enjoy.
If you play Alien: Isolation, you're going to die. A lot. Get used to it. The first time you take on the alien, it can be helpful to simply walk out in front of it, make a loud noise, and let it kill you. Get that first one out of your system.
Amanda Ripley can run in Alien: Isolation, but it's generally a bad idea to do so. Your footsteps will attract the alien to your location almost immediately, and while you'll feel extremely exposed while slowly moving down an open hallway, you're generally in less danger moving slowly than you would be if you decided to run. Be patient. Plan for contingencies. Don't run.
There's no shame in playing Alien: Isolation on easy difficulty. In fact, in some instances it can be the most enjoyable way to play the game. If you find yourself feeling more frustrated than scared, kicking the difficulty down a notch can make a particularly tricky section less of a constant-kill-fest and more of a tense, freaky sneak-fest. It's certainly not easy—you'll still die if the alien sees you, but you'll have just a bit more wiggle room to successfully sneak away from a dangerous situation. In any other game, Alien: Isolation's easy difficulty would be considered "normal" difficulty. You can also change the difficulty as you play, so don't worry about dropping things down a notch. It won't ruin the game or anything.
Whenever possible, try to keep the alien in sight. Sometimes that will be impossible—it'll be up in the ducts above your head, or out of sight—but anytime you can see it, you should keep it in view. Obviously, you don't want to walk right out and gawk at it, but if you smartly use the lean function, you can usually keep it in the corner of your eye while maneuvering in the opposite direction.
Once you get better at the game, you'll find that you can quickly move behind the alien's back, provided you pay close attention to where it's heading. (And don't step on its tail!) Sure, sometimes it'll turn around when you didn't expect it and spot you, but by and large, a careful player can get away with more than he or she might expect.
When you can't see the alien, you can still hear it. Careful listening can be more useful than the motion tracker, as it turns out—if you hear some soft booms coming from above you, the alien is up in the ducts and isn't an immediate threat. If it's stalking around on ground level, it'll sound significantly different. Pay attention to doors, too—all doors automatically open when something moves in front of them, and the alien will open doors just like you will. Learn which doors in a level are where, and when you hear one open, you'll know where the alien is.
If you see drool trickling down from an air duct in the ceiling, don't go near it. If you pass underneath, the alien will reach down and kill you.
Try to train your brain to be constantly tracking hiding spaces as you move around the space station. It'll probably happen naturally as a result of the game's design, but it's good to do it consciously. When you walk into a new room, think: Where are the tables I can get under? Are there any lockers? In the hallway outside, are there any tables there? Thinking like that will help keep you from being caught flat-footed, should the alien drop out of a vent at an inopportune time.
There are humans and androids patrolling the Sevastopol. Generally speaking, it's better to sneak around these enemies than to fight them. Even if you don't think the alien is around, you generally don't have enough ammo to take on more than a single enemy at a time, and there's almost always a way to sneak around.
Your second encounter with hostile humans is really annoying. You have to get a decoder device to open doors, but when you enter the room you have to cross, there's this woman with a gun who sees you and starts shooting. It can be tricky to get past this section—I found it worked to let her spot me, then backtrack into the area nearer to the metro station and hide. Once she and her friends followed me, I'd pick a couple of them off by sneaking up on them with my wrench.
It was pretty much the only time in the game that I killed other humans, but it was easier to do that than try to get around them stealthily. Once the humans aren't in that big room anymore, it becomes a lot easier to get the device, find the data cell for it (check your map), and continue on.
It's not a bad idea to save your game, then test out your various pieces of equipment. See how they work, what it takes to get them ready, how quickly you can prepare and use them. It's definitely a better idea to do it in relative silence than to run into any surprises out in the field.
Alien: Isolation has no autosave system, and if you die, you'll get kicked back to your last manual save. It takes a little while to get used to this system, and the more you save, the less your first hard lesson will sting. Save spots are located in every metro station and in at least one or two places on each floor—upon entering a new area, your first priority should be finding the save phone. (Learn the beeping sound that each save station emits and prioritize reaching that save station as soon as you hear it.)
Be a degenerate about saves, and go out of your way to go back and save again after making the slightest progress. It'll save you time in the long run, and make you feel much less worried about dying.
The save telephones will let you know when hostiles are nearby; in general, you don't need to sweat saving in these circumstances. Wait a few moments to see if there's really a monster in the same room with you, then go ahead and save. In a worst-case scenario, you can always reload your next most recent save which, if you've been really aggressive about saving, won't be that long ago.
Your motion tracker will become your best friend over the course of Alien: Isolation. However, it comes with a built-in weakness: The alien can hear it. If you're standing in a locker and get ripped apart by the alien, it's probably because the beast could hear the soft beeps of your motion tracker. As a general rule, if you can see the alien, you don't need to have your motion tracker out.
The map in Isolation is godawful, possibly on purpose, possibly on accident. Use it, but don't trust it. You'll probably find yourself stuck in a deadly cul-de-sac at least a few times in this game, probably because you followed the map to a location and found a dead-end.
Sometimes the map won't tell you where you're supposed to go next, and other times it will. The best thing I can say is, keep an eye out for when there's a bright green dot on the map—that means you have a goal right at that spot. However, remember that sometimes the objective is on another floor; if you reach the dot and don't find what you're looking for, try changing your floor view in the map and see if it's actually up or down a floor.
If you see a faint dotted circle surrounding an area that you haven't explored, you have to head in that direction to find your next objective. Sometimes it'll look like there's no way to get there, so you'll have to go and explore every corner of the areas adjacent to it to see where to go. Don't worry—no matter how stuck you may feel, eventually you'll find a hallway or duct that you hadn't seen before.
As she makes her way through the Sevastopol, Ripley is going to need to update her map. To do so, she'll have to activate map terminals like the one in the image above. They look like 1980s overhead projector printouts, and they're pretty easy to miss at first. Train yourself to spot those and make grabbing them a priority—they'll make your awful map slightly less awful, and can give you crucial information when you need it.
Oh, you thought you'd just keep reading these tips, did you? Go save your game. It's already been too long since you last saved. It's okay, I'll wait.
Did you save your game? Okay, let's carry on.
I found the rewire system to be of limited use, but Stephen points out that you can use it to fog up some rooms and make it easier to sneak through them. You can also almost always use a rewire tool to turn off nearby cameras, which is a lifesaver if you're trying to play stealthy. It's worth experimenting with the rewire boxes you find around the station just to see what effect they have.
If you're anything like me, you probably won't use your gadgets in the game very often. However, it's never a good idea to leave crafting materials lying around just because you didn't have any more space to carry them. If you're leaving crafting materials lying around—particularly more useful items like SCJ Injectors and Charge Packs—craft whatever items use them to make more room, so that you can carry as many spares as possible.
If you've reloaded a save point multiple times after getting killed by the alien, you've got nothing to lose by trying the direct route. Simply walk (don't run) straight out the door, directly to your objective, and directly back to the phone. Don't pass go, don't cower anywhere, just go for it. Because the alien isn't scripted—and therefore isn't walking the same path each time—this works more often than you'd think it would. That strategy won't get you through the game unscathed, but it can be a lifesaver if you're stuck.
The PS4 and Xbox One both offer options to turn on positional head-tracking and audio-detection, which use the PlayStation Camera and Kinect to enhance the game. Or, "enhance," as the case may be. Head tracking is cool and works well enough, but noise detection is a deal-breaker. You'll be stressed out enough in this game without having the alien kill you because your roommate sneezed in the other room.
If the alien spots you, you're screwed. Or, well… you're screwed unless you very quickly manage to get some flame between you and it. The easiest way to do that is to douse the fucker with your flamethrower, which you pick up about a third of the way into the game. The flamethrower doesn't work all that consistently, but it can be a way to buy yourself an extra life after being spotted. (Don't waste your time trying to shoot the alien with a gun, of course. This is not Aliens.)
The two most useful things you can craft are probably EMP mines and noisemakers. The former are useful for taking out Working Joe androids, and the latter work well to distract the alien. A noisemaker won't keep the alien at bay for long, but if you're at the very end of a level and desperate to get to some elevator door or another, a carefully thrown noisemaker can be the difference between life and death.
You made it to the end of the tips article! Congratulations. Now go save your game.