How is Alien: Isolation making one-on-one encounters so damn affecting? By creating a video game Xenomorph the like of which you have never even imagined. Having faced the thing in action, and subsequently spoken to the developers about how they created the beast, it seems that as much effort has gone into making the Alien a real, living, breathing, thinking entity as goes into making some whole games.
This thing is purely AI driven. There’s no scripting, no standard behaviour, no predictability, no exploitable patterns. It’s driven entirely by its senses. It will see you, it will hear you, it will smell you, and it will kill you. I could bang on about the hundreds of terrifyingly lifelike, dynamically blending animation cycles that make it move like a real, conscious creature. I could talk about the circuit board of an AI flow-chart that the devs showed me. I could talk about the way that subtle tells in the Alien’s physical behaviour could be life-savers later in the game, as you start to form an all-too intimate relationship and get to “know” it as an entity. But all you really need to know is that this thing is, to all intents and purposes, alive. And that I’ve never faced a scarier creature in a video game. Ever.