Written by Derrick Smith
Before going into all the intense action details of Nex Machina, if you are a hardcore fan of Resogun, you can stop reading now with the understanding that Nex Machina is an absolutely fantastic arcade shooter, and even better than your beloved Resogun. Yes, I went there!
While it may seem hard to believe, based on the impressive experience afforded by Resogun, developer Housemarque has taking their development ambitions to new heights with Nex Machina. As if taken from the same Resogun well of development elixir, Nex Machina plays like the ultimate top-down shooter as you weave your way through an increasingly challenging and diverse alternate universe, where robots have taken over and humans have an unhealthy symbiosis with their screened devices.
According to the games themed narrative, human have become so dependent on technology that they cannot avert their eyes from portable devices anymore. Around them, machines have reached consciousness and surpassed human intelligence tenfold. With no reason to be subservient to their human creators, robots become the superior lifeform, and in becoming so, they begin their eradication process of all humans. Beginning in the Techno Forest players take on the role as the fearless soldier making their way through an increasing robot infestation as you attempt to save humanity.
Nex Machina offers a simple arcade style UI with several gameplay options: Arcade mode, Arena mode, Single World and Local Co-op. There is also an achievements menu called Feats, which details over 220 feats players can attempt to accomplish in game.
In form, Nex Machina plays like an extreme rouge spear shooter where players are pushed to the brink of insanity as you are eventually forced to pull out all stops in order to be victorious against the games relentless robot enemies, hell bent on destroying you. With level designs seemingly perfect in size and scope, our lone soldier is forced to engage his enemies while in constant movement as you simultaneously destroy various robot types with their unique attack objectives, while executing stylish evasive maneuvers. While I would not classify Nex Machina as a bullet hell shooter, reigning countless bullets in your direction, there are times however, when the idea is in full order as the robots increasingly pull out all stops to take you down. Filling your positional area of proximity with almost countless robots, lasers and other projectiles, forcing players to pay careful attention to every inch of the play area.
As the lone soldier players are automatically zipped around the asymmetric universe after destroying all the enemy robots in a given play area. Within the midst of each play area are other humans identified by their greenish silhouette (similar to Resogun just more fleshed out) who walk aimlessly in any direction and in doing so are made defenseless against robot attacks and it is your job to quickly rescue them fom their assailants. From outset players are equipped recharging dash maneuver and a rapid firing rifle-like weapon which is fastened to your suit. With unlimited ammo and the tilting of the right-toggle, players can fire a quick succession of bullets in all direction, however this just isn’t enough to get players through the harder levels and eventually to the impressive boss battles.
Thankfully, Housemarque has integrated a tactical angle to the playing field, as many levels offer unique weapon enhancements to balance the scales when the odds can seem overwhelming. From the weapon spread enhancement, laser, effective powershot and rocket launcher, to the most necessary triple dash, dash explosion and awesome detonator, players are given more than enough resources to be successful. Yet, these weapon enhancements can be lost as you perish in the torrent of endless robots. Nex Machina has a unique way of keeping you honest and ever alert despite the destructive tools at your disposal. Again, how you move about the playing field is just as important to how you line up your well timed powershot or detonator blast.
Aside from acquiring new weapon enhancement, players will occasionally find extra life rewards, as well as other secrets and alternate paths in each deep layered world that lets you juggle with saving humans and trying to stay alive.
Taking a page from the Resogun experience, Nex Machina is a beautiful game, sporting reminiscent color particle explosions and neon lights with evey destroyed robot or destructible object, making for a contant visual spectacle. The game offers three main difficulty settings and more to unlock as you learn the ropes, with each difficulty offering new things to learn and conquer.
Shedding more light on the Arena mode, one where hours were spent trying to be victorious, here is where you can return to locations in the game that are now totally different with faster speeds and other fresh modifications. Competing to best your friends and the world with unique leaderboards for each challenge, made this a mainstay due to the games addictive appeal. I never felt frustrated when the game became most difficult to conquer, which I found compelling. My desire to keep trying was always met with exciting gameplay sequences forcing me to get better. Impressively, I also never felt like the game ever cheated me when I lost a life or failed to advance to the next stage.
Fueling the entire Nex Machina ride, the games soundtrack mix is quite exhilarating with Ari Pulkkien making a return to spice up the ride with a retro dramatic vibe adding intensity and tension to each victory and defeat.
Adding some swagger to the mix Nex Machina also features unlockable skins, weapon colors and more that open up as you play the different modes.
For all the hard to put down intense action thrown at you in each level, I would have enjoyed some form of a narrative cinematic integration, assisting with driving the experience and more of the story forward, which if spaced out with balance could have made for a more memorable affair. However, even still, Nex Machina is fantastic shooter.
If you enjoyed Resogun, Housemarque’s PS4 launch title from 2013, or you’re looking for an energetic, heart-pounding, intensified shooter, oozing with style and gorgeous visuals, Nex Machina is the best arcade shooter we have played in years!