When developer Housemarque stated that Alienation, their latest top-down action-packed team-based shooter, which is exclusively available on PS4, was their most ambitious title to date, we were certainly anxious to see just how far the talented team could take this new experience. From Resogun and Dead Nation, to Super Stardust Delta, Outland and Furmins, Housemarque has certainly set the bar pretty high for themselves. However, after leveling up my Bio-Specialist to level 25 (oh how I long to reach lvl 30), which is one of the three playable character classes, Alienation is without question one of the most intense shooters around, if not the most fun at the moment.
The formula here borrows from Dead Nation or as we like to call it, Dead Nation on some supped up steroid growth hormones. At its core Alienation is a sci-fi shooter and while Dead Nation fans will immediately identify similarities, Alienation isn’t simply replacing Zombies for enemy alien types. Alienation is a vast improvement in almost every way possible, and then some.
As the story goes Earth has been inhabited by a Xenomorph alien invasion with wars swelling as the decades pass. Ultimately you are mankind’s last hope. Because the aliens are so dominating the UNX has developed a mechanized infantry made up of powerful exoskeleton suits, which you the player go into battle with, in the war against extinction. Players have the option of choosing either the Bio-Specialist, Tank or Saboteur class. Each character class has a list of unique abilities. Though each class has what is known as a Rush ability, how this is performed varies from class to class. My personal favorite which is the Bio-Specialist class comes equipped with healing, wraith and poison cloud abilities, while the Tank offers a protective shield, ground smash and a powerful tesla charge. Our Saboteur has a unique light bending ability, which render this class invisible. This class also comes with a devastating plasma sword and artillery strike ability.
Impressively, all of these exclusive abilities work together brilliantly when all the classes come together in up to 4 player coop action. Mastering these abilities for the good of the team is the key to victory as this is something quickly learned as Alienation is far from merciful. Alienation throws the whole kitchen sink at you in terms gameplay quality. The balance here is well thought out, supported by bombastic wow moments with an impressive visual flair. Avoiding incredibly vivid explosions, cutting down enemies, healing your teammates, switching between your primary, secondary, heavy and equipment weapon slots while utilizing your active and passive abilities brings together a compelling mixture of alien carnage that is both exciting and addictive.
Again, active abilities very from class to class while the passive abilities are consistent, however Housemarque has included each active and passive ability with additional slot attributes, dependent on your desired play style. As you play through the game your chosen class will organically level up, increasing their combative dexterity or MAX HP. Alongside this progression tree an alluring loot system is maintained with cool gear drops. Similar to Destiny or The Division, the loot drops here are supported by weapon levels and color scheme appearances, with green items known as ‘Common’, purple items known as ‘Rare’ and orange known as ‘Legendary’. How you equip your weapon slots (primary, secondary, heavy and equipment) determines your gear power level. The ‘Equipment’ slot is where you will find tools such as grenades of varied types along with a mechanized boomerang which stylishly cuts down enemy numbers, in addition to other destructive tools found on the battlefield.
Unfortunately this only applies to weapons as there are no cosmetic loot drops to enhance the appearance of your chosen character class. Yet, I never thought about loot drops to change my appearance while I was playing. The frequency of the trigger pull against the barrage of enemies coming at you from every angle made sure that my focus was centered on making sure I was equipped with the right tools for the job. Prior to starting the game however, when selecting your character class you are given the option of choosing the desired armor color.
In addition to gear drops there are also resource or material drops which are also vital to the improvement of your weapons. I encourage you to spend some quality time increasing your gear upgrade cores as much as possible, which enhances the power, boost, utility and prismatic abilities of your weapons.
So far our Bestiary reveals that we have encountered almost 30 different alien enemy types who have been unleashed on us in abundance. I actually attempted to go it alone on a few locales while being equipped with some serious firepower and though I played quite well as a rouge mechanized operative, the sheer enemy numbers were overwhelming. Interestingly, you will find yourself quickly jumping back into the the action for more punishment, which can randomly involve another UNX mechanized soldier quickly dropping into your game as an adversary fighting you while alien forces are also knocking on your door. When this first happened I was a bit confused as it happened so fast and before I knew it I was in a crazy stand-off against a Tank class soldier who invaded my game as an enemy as well as a horde of aliens, and the intensity was ridiculous. On the first go round, though I stood my ground for a while, I was simply outclassed by a more experience soldier. Pissed he killed me, it was a blast!
There is no doubt that at its best Alienation shines when played cooperatively. I’ve already played countless matches in varied locales with a number of random players and at all times while playing, players are naturally driven for each other to succeed. I guess I’m just lucky or maybe this can be attributed to the way Housemarque has developed the game. You naturally believe and understand that you must assist and be assisted in order to succeed the crazy odds.
While the game plays amazingly well, if I could remove anything from the game, it would most certainly be the conclusion of completing an area, just after being evacuated, where your team is standing with their mission stats looking disappointed while one of your team members is celebrated. Sure, this has absolutely no bearing on the gameplay and if I’m being honest, I found myself with hands raised in recognition of my performance often. However, it feels misplaced and inconsistent with the field efforts of your squad. You will absolutely bust your butt on some of these missions trying to make it out alive with your mates while completing the objectives. Though I was often celebrated, there was no way I would have made it out if not for my teammates while playing on the brutal difficulty known as ‘Veteran’. The last thing I needed was to be disappointed, I just kicked major alien butt just for showing up and it was awesome.
Alienation is the most ambitious game Housemarque has ever developed and as a result is easily one of the best shooters on the market, regardless of the genre or play style. Explosions and the destructibility never cease to amaze and the enemies are constant. Surviving missions is enjoyable and though after missions most of my time was spent making sure I applied the necessary upgrades, it would have been nice to cosmetically enhance my character class as a confidence booster. We all want to look good in battle.
Alienation delivers bigtime!