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‘Alien Isolation’ Is The Best VR Horror Game You’ve Probably Never Played

by Bart Grudzien • August 31st, 2017

[Editor’s Note] – This article was previously published on November 23, 2016, but has been republished today to coincide with our latest article here about the Alien: Isolation VR mod. It now has support for both Oculus Rift CV1 and the HTC Vive directly through SteamVR. Now this is one of the best VR horror games that you totally can play again!


VR and horror are a match made in Heaven (or Hell, depending on who you ask).  I’m a horror fanatic, and always have been ever since I played the first Resident Evil on the original PlayStation. It was always that sense of atmosphere, immersion and fear of the unknown that kept bringing me back for more. So naturally the first thing I did when I started experimenting in VR was look for some great horror experiences.

Dreadhalls, and Lost in the Rift were the first VR horror games that made me realize the potential there was for scaring the crap out of people in VR. As simple as those games are, they still scared me more than any other horror game I’d ever played at that point.

alien-isolation-spaceship

The full potential of the genre was realized when Sega released Alien Isolation on October 7th, 2014 and a few weeks later I had eagerly modded a couple of lines of code in the config file unlocking an “experimental” VR build of the game. Sega used the VR version of the game to help promote the 2D version during E3, and it worked as many a reporters came away scared silly by their first horror experience in VR. Luckily for us Oculus Rift DK2 owners at the time, Sega left the VR build intact in the final retail release.

Alien Isolation is still, to this day, the premiere showcase for what can be achieved when a AAA horror game is given the VR treatment. Since it’s still early for many big game developers to commit big budgets to VR projects, most recent horror games have so far been created by small indie teams and they generally feature simplistic game mechanics, low production values, and often rely on cheap jump scares to get a reaction out of people. Alien Isolation is able to leverage these AAA production values and create a game that can instead focus on world building, suspense, story, atmosphere, and gameplay.

alien-isolation-tunnel

VR surrounds you with visuals and sound in full 360 environments, providing the ultimate sense of immersion, and when the developer meticulously replaces your world with one of their design, the results in the case of Alien Isolation are remarkable. Developer Creative Assembly has taken the essence of the first Alien movie, and has captured the atmosphere, the 80’s stylistic future tech-noir, pumping music, high-quality  visuals, and used it all to faithfully recreate that feeling in the game.  The authenticity of the world is a big reason why this game works so well in VR.  It’s a fully fleshed out, darkly beautiful world that can be fully explored and interacted with.

I played a good portion of Alien Isolation on my tri-monitor surround setup in 2D and the transition to VR was far beyond what I’d thought the experience would add. Playing Alien Isolation in VR felt more like a dream now that I think about it. I can still clearly remember exact level layouts. I can remember walking the halls, and corridors of the Sevastopol – like I was there in person, more like a memory of being somewhere than just playing through a video game.

alien-isolation-standing

The sense of scale can only be realized through the power of VR, and it really is essential to achieving the sense of presence that the game can elicit. Presence is the holy grail of the VR experience, and Alien Isolation was one of the few games ever to make me feel like I was “really” someplace else.  You feel like you’ve walked the entire space station, multiple times, and can truly appreciate all the detail that went into the game’s great level design, and overall aesthetic. The atmosphere is genuinely terrifying and leaves your senses completely consumed. After experiencing Alien Isolation VR, I felt like a survivor, like I’d been a part of one of the best horror games ever made.

All that being said, he highlights of the experience  are undoubtedly the Alien encounters. Each moment is a suspenseful game of cat and mouse. Instead of just holding a button to peak out around a corner, or from behind a desk, or from under a bed, trying to spot the Alien from the other side of a TV screen,you are actually using your head and your body movements to try and keep your foe in visible range.  Being finally discovered by the Alien in VR, really is something that made my heart skip a beat (or two) and the fact that as I ran I could actually turn my head and look behind me as the Alien was bearing down on me is something that could never be experienced in standard flat 2D gaming.  The sense of fear is much more palatable in VR, and it’s really difficult to separate yourself from the horror unfolding around you.

alien-isolaition-hiding

Horror is a genre that people either love, hate, or love to hate. I sometimes ask myself why I want to put myself in such traumatic situations and I believe it’s the feeling of being alive, that fight or flight response, that really makes me come back for more. VR takes that fear to a new level, and with games like Alien Isolation it’s possible to get completely immersed and scared like never before. You live the horror around you, and there is no looking away (closing your eyes is cheating!)

The future looks very promising for horror VR with games like Resident Evil 7, Alison Road, Stifled, and Narcosis all coming soon.  Anyone who has played the Resident Evil 7 Kitchen demo will be sure to tell you that Capcom is not concerned with easing the potential millions of PS VR players into the awesome world of AAA VR horror.

alien-isolation-necromorph

With Sega recently confirming that they are in fact working on VR titles, the prospect of a fully-featured and more complete version of Alien Isolation running inside virtual reality headsets could be more likely than you think.

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  • unreal_ed

    It’s funny to me that that game came from Sega. They’re so not associated with both top-of-the-line tech OR horror games in my mind

  • Me

    Come on guys, I’ve bought the game but I am still waiting for a proper VR support to play it. Don’t let me die of boredom, and want to be brutally slain by a badass Xenomorph in glorious VR. Hum, well, I meant maybe I’ll play through the first few minutes and then we’ll see if I can keep my underwear dry.

  • GodMk2

    I cant even watch the movies in a single sitting. At least if the sound is on as well. If i put my fingers in my ears and sing la la la its fine.. just people getting splatted. I tried AVP when that came out and went.. nah. So VR then… Gonna have to get some guts. Loads of guts. If they release the VR version with the sound track from Wizard of Oz instead of that creepy humming, scraping, scratchy pattery, noises I may even be able to complete 1 level.

  • xGryfter

    I’ve had this installed on my PC and ready to go for over a year waiting for official VR support. I finally just played it for the first time a few weeks ago and really enjoyed what little I played which makes waiting for VR support that much more difficult. I was really hoping that even if Sega/Creative Assembly drop the ball on VR that a modder would put out an update to the original VR hack.

    Have you guys used the VR hack with the current build of the game and the retail released Oculus? I heard it only works with the DK1.

    • Deppchef

      It only works with the Dk1 and DK2. It still does, but you would need an outdated Oculus runtime and windows 7 or 8. (win 10 doesn’t work).

      • Tony

        I can confirm a non-updated copied offline edition works with a DK2. Runtime needs to be paused. Windows 10 definitely kills it.

  • jimrp

    Hope. It is a big opportunity they are missing and they really dont have to spend to much to get it to work with motion controls.

  • Nikos Tsarmpopoulos

    I’ve played the game with a DK2 and I was amazed. The only issue was with positional tracking not working perfectly, thus frequent position reset was required.

    Would the game work with revive on HTC Vive? I would love to play the game again on the Vive.

    • Tony

      No motion control support was implemented.

      As I mentioned earlier, I hope this is something they’ll fix as it is the only thing I would spend money on.

      Heck, I’d pay (almost) full price for Crew Expendable and Lone Survivor missions if the Alien’s look, animations and AI were updated…and I didn’t have to hold 4 buttons down on a gamepad and rotate sticks just to open a door!

  • Tiny Rick

    This has to be one of my favourite titles on the PS4. I want a VR version so badly!

  • Tony

    If you look at what happened to Doom3 BFG edition, Dk2 support died but the community picked it up and now you have a fantastic Vive/Rift + Mouse+Keyboard or Motion control fps experience.

    I played it for a while…then said “Nope!” and got the fuck out. It’s intense.

    Alien Isolation in VR was the same. THe DK2 experience made me scream like a girl. I loved it. Crew Expendable and Last Survivor are fantastic!

    This being in Unreal Engine, implementing VR should be quite straight forward – my guess it is lawyers and Sega execs are trying to find out how to milk a second copy of this game “built for VR”.

    • wheeler

      The community won’t be able to add VR support for this one though because, unlike Doom 3, A:I is closed source. The “hack” from a year or two ago only worked because the (very rudimentary) VR option was enabled by toggling a flag for pre-existing code. We are at the mercy of SEGA for this one.

      • Bradley James Blackmere

        Vorpx works, but it’s a crappy experience compared to the native support.

      • Tony

        The ini file change from a couple of years ago was really simple since Unreal already had VR support. In fact, the vr support worked as long as the Oculus api services were DISABLED > It needed to no middleware to operate!

        So we know certain features have already been implemented (decoupled POV, positional tracking – leaning behind corners and physically ducking to get below tables actually hid your avatar from sight!!!!)

        But the dev’s simply turned off the VR support, making the game simply ignore the VR hardware and Unreal’s support for it.

        The experience was not rudimentary (for a vr gamepad game). The only thing missing was motion controllers – which would have taken some major work from the studio to implement some of those involved interactions with doors/switches etc.

        I hope the publisher and/or dev did not prompt this move just to give them an opportunity to sell it back to us again.
        But if this game is going to come back with some serious Touch controller support, I may consider it as an addon.

  • Fab Z

    I want to go to there! (in PSVR please)

    • JustNiz

      PS4 probably doesn’t have enough power to run this at anything like the framerate and resolution you’d need for a good VR experience.

      • Fab Z

        I disagree. There are many PSVR games that prove otherwise. Obviously the graphical bells and whistles have to be reduced, but Alien Isolation is not all that graphically intense anyway.

        • Buddydudeguy

          Reduced, reduced and reduced some more.

        • d0x360

          Alien isolation on console and PC has effects turned off because the game was pretty demanding to begin with. Yes it scales well but when you add VR into the equation you are talking 90hz or higher. To run that game on the ps4 you would need to cut the resolution in half just to hit 60fps. They would have to add loading zones inside each map and likely turn off some effects.

    • Buddydudeguy

      baaahaha. PS couldnt handle it. Not even close.

  • Muhammad Jihad ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    I played this at the time on my DK2… while it did, and still does, look impressive, it also make me sick incredibly fast. The head tracking was really off, the height of the camera was seemingly off, it was an incomplete VR game that showed what a AAA title in VR could look like. Very cool to check out, the author is correct about the atmosphere and all – but he’s overhyping it quite a bit as he’s failing to mention all of it’s failings when it comes to performance, motion sickness, poor head tracking, etc. If you however get this on-sale, and it’s always on-sale, you should do so – it’s worth it, and playing it in VR is truly impressive, it’s like being in the movie. It was the first title that just completely blew me away – that and then Elite Dangerous. It’s amazing we’re 2+ years from that time and those are still two of the most impressive titles.

  • brandon9271

    The next Aliens game will supposedly have full VR support. I HOPE that during it’s development they used Isolation as a test bed first and they can bundle both games as the ultimate Aliens VR experience. Perhaps even offer a patch for owners of the first game.

    • polysix

      Hope Alien: Covenant game is better than the awful film! Loved A.I but if this goes to close to that trashy plot it would be a waste of VR.

  • bigmike20vt

    its been a long time coming but a fan made patch – done by one of the chaps working on HL2 VR i believe – is imminant. was meant to be the weekend of july 22nd but has been delayed for a bit more polish. …. not long now however.

  • care package

    I can honestly say AI in VR is still my best VR experience. Motion controls are not the be all – end all of VR, they are a great experience and do add to immersion, but lack the depth and lengthy play time. Chronos is also one of my favorites. Guess I prefer to do AAA type games and chill, the same way I play them on a screen, except in the world instead of viewing the world through a window.

    • polysix

      Yeah but if they manage to map the tracker to a (motion) controller it’ll feel great in-game.

      • care package

        Totally agree. Rift motion controls are basically a split xbox controller minus the d-pad, so everything that’s there now would more or less still be there.

  • polysix

    But I have played it… 2 years ago on a DK2 😛

    But I am gonna go back with my CV1 when I get chance. It really was awesome, a sense of place was high in this mofo.

    edit:
    MAN I just realised how old this article was!!! why do you confuse us so with republishing old articles like they are new news? Thought it was strange when the new mod is already out.

  • brandon9271

    Guys, Alien Isolation is currently on sale on Steam for 75% off 🙂

  • LoreII

    Hey Bart, great article, I’m also a lover of first resident evil ( that changed my way to live videogames), Psvr changed it the second time.
    And I fuc…g want this alien on Psvr or a vr dedicated title

  • Dean Manley

    “Never a truer word spoken”

  • LoreII

    Yes, except REVII

  • Andrew McEvoy

    Hang on…I can only see a cinema view when I play not first person view. Is there an option Im missing? I dont see it anywhere? :/

  • MaR2307

    Wow, that Xenomorph looks gorgeous.

  • DJHeroMasta

    “Alien Isolation’ Is The Best VR Horror Game You’ve Probably Never Played” – Yeah, cause it sucked.

  • Ninjai71

    I’ve completed it in VR. Took 18h pure gaming time magnificence. This game was and it is awsome, especially in VR. A true must have for every VR fan 😉 Steam key for the game is not expensive at the moment.