Amanda Ripley is the main and only playable character in Alien Isolation, a first-person science fiction survival/horror game, which was released to a critical and commercial success by Sega in 2014. First, a bit of history: Amanda Ripley is the daughter of the famed Ellen Ripley, the star of the Alien franchise. Ellen first wowed us in the now legendary horror film from 1979, Alien. She continued kicking ass in three sequels, although the last two films were critical and commercial failures, particularly the third film.
Personally, the second film in the series, Aliens (1986), easily ranks somewhere in my perpetually fluctuating top 5 movies of all time. I first saw Aliens when I was 7-8 years old, and while the action and horror got my adrenaline flowing and heart pounding, I was totally floored by the sheer intensity of the movie, and even though I was your typical action-hero-loving boy, I adored Ellen as one of my personal heroes. Despite my lacking skills, she appeared frequently in my drawings where she was laying waste to aliens with her space marine pulse rifle or her more iconic flame thrower.
© 1986 Twentieth Century Fox
I wasn’t alone with my fanboying. The Alien franchise, the first two films in particular, and Ellen Ripley became icons of sci-fi and horror. Many saw Ellen as a prime example of a strong, independent heroine easily rivaled her male counterparts on the perfectly scientific scale of badassery. Her impact on sci-fi, horror and nerd culture in general has lasted through the decades and continues to this day.
That being said, when her daughter, Amanda, burst into the scene in late 2014, it was like Christmas come early to this fanboy. The graphics of Alien Isolation were breathtaking, the story was intriguing, the survival horror was on par with the best of ’em, and, most importantly, the gameplay facilitated deep immersion. Needless to say, I was right along all the other fans of the game, crying out ”space!” when I first saw the gorgeous view into the lethal darkness of space through the windows of Sevastopol, the space station and main milieu of the game.
The premise of the game is simple: Amanda is approached by the perennially evil corporation, Weyland-Yutani. They send her on a mission to retrieve a recently discovered flight recorder of the space ship Nostromo – the same ship where her mother, Ellen, first encountered the aliens. The recorder is held aboard Sevastopol, a remote space station orbiting the gas giant, KG348. She is separated from her team when things go awry. Naturally, it also turns out that an alien is roaming the space station, killing people, having left everyone aboard Sevastopol station freaked out to the point of panic: it’s every man, woman, and android for themselves!
You see everything through Amanda’s eyes in the game’s first-person perspective, but we do get a glimpse of her in a few scenes. She resembles Ellen and seems to favor similar no-nonsense clothes and gear. No cat suits and high heels here. She’s also very good at what she does, she knows her way around the gadgets and tools found aboard Sevastopol, and she has the knowhow to craft various items and weapons out of whatever she gets her hands on, such as fixing up a quick Molotov cocktail to help her combat the alien, the now hostile androids, and hostile humans.
The game emphasizes exploration and evasion over dashing headlong into fights. This is accomplished by providing you with very limited ammunition and only a few ways to defend yourself besides running away. Indeed, you will become very familiar with crawling through vents, hiding under tables, and sneaking through the desolate corridors of Sevastopol to avoid enemies. This is par for the course in true survival horror, and it’s not surprising Alien Isolation has been praised as a model example of the genre.
Amanda herself comes across as a very resourceful, determined, and pragmatic young woman, much like her mother, so it was an easy choice to include her on this article series. I can’t really find any faults in her character as a positive representation of women in games, so I’m left with little else besides urging you to give the game a go if you like science fiction and horror. You won’t be disappointed.
The next time we will take a look at our first non-human character, the antropomorphic dragon from the magnificent indie action platformer, Freedom Planet: Sash Lilac.
‘Til next time!
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