Playing Alien: Isolation on an iPad Mini has become a nightly ritual for me over the past few weeks, and it’s been a miraculous experience with the occasional annoyance that has only underscored the superb porting job that Feral Interactive has done. .
Originally released in 2014 for PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC, the game has become cult. Fans love the detailed and atmospheric recreation of the Alien universe while the xenomorph’s AI, which turned him into a terrifyingly intelligent enemy, created an incomparably tense and suspenseful survival horror outing.
From crackling FMV to cinematic prelude, Alien: Isolation is a case study of a hugely successful transplant of a cinematic universe to the medium of video games. Careful attention has been paid to Alien’s retro-futuristic aesthetic, from 80s-style green computer screens to sleek gray spaceship interiors, while the sound design remains one of the best in the entire medium. .
I highly recommend playing the mobile version of Alien: Isolation on a bigger screen. A small cell phone screen, even the largest one, doesn’t do justice to the great visuals on offer, especially since your fingers will obscure part of the screen. Opt for a tablet instead. The touchscreen controls work well, with only the occasional annoyance of inputting puzzles and trying to enter vents while the heart is in your mouth trying to escape dastardly androids and monsters. ‘Alien.
The graphics are some of the best I’ve seen on an iOS game. The smoke, light, and fire were all rendered brilliantly, while the character models looked convincing without falling into the trap of trying to be too realistic. But the most impressive thing is how fluid everything was. My iPad Mini is from 2019, but playing Alien: Isolation on it never felt like I had a compromised experience.
Speaking to TheGamer, developers Feral Interactive said the main challenge of porting the game was, first, to “maintain the quality of the visuals as they were on other platforms and, if possible, to improve them.
The second challenge was to succeed in the first while maintaining a fluid performance. It was easier on iOS than Android, but both had plenty of meaty issues. The third big challenge was to implement touch controls that were intuitive and as easy to use as a gamepad”.
The touch controls are indeed a joy to use. While navigating through different menus can be a bit confusing, especially the crafting ones, getting around in-game is intuitive. Feral has also added haptic feedback, so, for example, a vibration is triggered when you reach maximum walking speed. This feature will depend on the device you are using, of course.
Ports can sometimes be disastrous, and when it goes wrong, players quickly point it out. The recent GTA Definitive Edition debacle is a major example of this, with players still pointing out bugs and inconsistencies. What does Feral think of such incidents?
“We do not comment on ports made by other studios,” the developers state. “However, through our direct experience, we understand how difficult it can be to bring a great game successfully to mobile. It’s never a simple process.
“We are fortunate to have partners who trust us to carry on the work and who offer constructive support rather than interference. They know we won’t come out until a game is as good as it can be. This trust from our partners allows us to focus on port quality. »
Alien: Isolation is not without problems. The endgame drags on. It can be obtuse – I found I got stuck soon enough, only to discover after a quick Google search that I wasn’t the only one who stumbled. The game’s sheer difficulty remains, although much of it is due to its design – Alien: Isolation sticks closely to realism. It is impossible to get up again after being shot several times and run away, like in other games.
But these issues are as true for the port as they are for the original console releases. Feral has done a great job adapting Xenomorph’s atmosphere, sound design, and AI to these mobile versions. So how did this come together?
“Put simply, we haven’t cut corners,” they say. “The lighting, sounds, and AI are all as they were in the original version of the game. We just had to make sure the added touch controls didn’t detract from that experience, and many user reviews say how playing with headphones in a darkened room is just as exhilarating and atmospheric as it is on any other platform.
I can testify to that. Lying on an armchair, my iPad screen clasped to me, with headphones on in the evening darkness, I was transported to Sevastapool, trying to escape the monster, the sentient creature, as it stalked me . The experience remains special, highly memorable and to be cherished.
Alien: Isolation is available on the App Store and Google Play. A list of supported devices can be found here. The code for the iOS version was provided by the publisher. The mobile game includes all seven DLC packs.
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