Housemarque studios continues to prove they can do no wrong by developing another stellar gem for PlayStation 4 owners with Alienation. This addictive twin sticks shooter is a spiritual successor to one of Housemarque’s earlier titles, Dead Nation, in every single way.
Alienation begins with players picking from three diverse classes, the heavy Tank, the sneaky Saboteur and the nano-machine infused Bio-Specialist. Each class comes with it’s own set of unique abilities that are fun to use in single player, but need to be used in tandem with each other to create an effective multiplayer force. It’s exhilarating when your team comes together to fight off a horde of aliens and starts firing off their abilities, but it’s a shame they didn’t add one more class to create a definitive 4-player team experience.
Alienation’s campaign runs around four or five hours per character and is an experience that never overstays its welcome. While there is a story constantly going on in the background as you complete objectives, I never particularly cared for it because I was so absorbed in the gameplay and fighting with all my might to stay alive. The story is more or less that aliens have invaded the Earth and it’s up to you and your team to blow up their battleship and get them off the planet permanently.
People who prefer to play their games solo will have no problem having fun with Alienation. The game can be completely played alone, albeit there will be stressful situations when random events start to occur, but every time you die, it’s mostly because you didn’t know how to think through the situation and use your abilities and the environment to your advantage. That being said, I definitely had the most fun running through levels with random people in multiplayer. The difficulty of the game dynamically adjusts to how many people are in your party, even when one player decides to jump out mid-session. There is a lack of couch co-op at launch, but Housemarque has already said the game will be receiving local multiplayer in a later update.
Unlike traditional twin stick shooters that feel very linear, Alienation breaks the formula with huge expansive maps that players can explore and interact with. Each level feels like a beautiful playground and has a distinctive look. Once you set out on a mission, you can freely break off the path and search for loot crates or fight one of the powerful xeno commanders in the hopes of acquiring a powerful weapon. Respawn beacons are littered around the environments to limit your lost progress when you die and there are inactive turrets that you can power up when you need help fending off a horde of aliens. Despite these maps being so large and expansive, they feel so perfectly designed throughout that your character will always have pieces of cover to run too when a firefight gets too hot.
I love the variety of weapons in the game. You start out with the bare necessities of a primary rifle and an explosive, but as you collect loot, your character will start to acquire quite the arsenal of both human and alien based tech. The alien weapons don’t drop as often till the later half of the campaign, but they are easily the most fun because of their cool designs and energy infused effects. Some weapons though, especially the revolver, don’t have a lot of use in combat because they’re simply not as effective as other weapons in their category and would greatly benefit from a balancing patch in the future.
The aliens are a formidable enemy, coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes with unique roles. The hulking snipers and warriors keep you on your toes because they can stun you with a single shot, while the cannon fodder mutants start overwhelming you with numbers. There’s always some new alien species to discover in each of the levels, and they really compliment each members role in the cast, creating a great sense of challenge when you have to break through their ranks to progress. It’s also a nice feature to discover more about the aliens in the bestiary as you discover them. There’s a lot of fluff to get you interested in them, and it’s nice to see their in-game models up close to appreciate the little details. Most of the bosses found in the game are just tougher versions of their grunt counterparts, but there are a still a variety of monstrous creatures to discover that are sure to surprise you when they first appear.
Every complaint I’ve had against Alienation so far are mere nitpicks. I fell in love with the game immediately during my first session because it was just a better, smoother, even more, addictive version of Dead Nation. Even if indie games aren’t your cup of tea, I truly believe gamers are missing out on the PS4 by not picking this one up. Alienation may not be the most ambitious game Housemarque has produced, but this is definitely the one with the least faults.