Video Games Review: Alienation (PS4, 2016)

If there is one thing I love, it’s a twin stick shooter. If there is something I love even more, it’s a twin stick shooter made by Housemarque. The Finnish developer gave us Dead Nation in 2011 and Resogun in 2014 and while Alienation, their newest IP has nothing in common with the latter, it certainly wears Dead Nation’s influence on its sleeve.

Alienation puts in you in the combat suit of three playable characters, each with their own abilities and each with a grudge to bear against Earths newest occupants, an army of aliens, or Xeno’s as they’re commonly referred to here.

The story is presented solely through text screens and in-game dialogue. In the fairness of a review, I’ll point out that it is the games very clear weak point. There is little more beyond “we’re being invaded by aliens, we must beat them”. But unless you absolutely cannot function without a solid narrative, it shouldn’t be bothersome. Alienation is the kind of game that would only feel bogged down with the specifics. All I needed was a small portion of exposition, an objective and an arsenal of weaponry to appease me…

Which is the games bread and butter. In essence, Alienation is a loot shooter like Borderlands or Destiny so you’re constantly picking up new weapons with different stats. Your default is an energy gun but you can loadout your second and third spots with high powered revolvers, shotguns, flamethrowers and mini guns. Add this to throwables such as cluster grenades and mines and your abilities and you have a tonne of options for mutant slaughtering mayhem.

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Alienation works on a rarity system so ascertaining an orange legendary is a nice gain. The higher the rarity, the more “core slots” they have to be upgraded. Cores are found during battle and attaching them to your weapons increases the usual suspects like damage, clip capacity and fire rate. Legendary weapons sometimes come with a bonus too like sending out a boomerang upon melee that slices up surrounding enemies.

If this all strikes you as overkill, then you’re wrong. Occasionally you might even think you need more because it isn’t uncommon to rack up 1500 kills by the end of a mission. Your screen is constantly filled with enemies, sometimes up to ten types at once. Being rushed by 16 mutants while having spitters fire plasma bolts at you as you’re being lined up by a sniper is stressful to say the least. The challenge is welcome though and you’re definitely stocked to deal with it. Cars can be blown up to decimate anyone in a small radius as can enemies like Combusters. Lining up Xenos is imperative as a nicely placed powershot or cluster grenade can net you a pretty massive multi-kill. It’s satisfying when you get a grasp on your surroundings and use it to your advantage because running through enemies will definitely get you killed.

Alienations maps are fairly large. You’ll be dropped in various locations on the same map across different missions. They range from lush forests to snow to gritty industrial areas. I loved that it switches up the order so you’re not constantly in one setting over and over again.

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It’s a lovely looking game too. There is  a beautiful contrast between the drab and muted and flourishes of colour. Explosions look fantastic as fire rockets up in different directions and characters explode and die in an almost artistic fashion, with goo and body fluids stringing out onto the floor.

Alienation supports online co-op and on the harder difficulties, it’s damn near integral. With different classes, every one will have a part to play in order to complete each mission as smooth as possible.
The Tank is great for what is essentially genocide, ground smashing giant shockwaves and protecting the team with a shield; The Bio-specialist is a medic and The Saboteur can render himself invisible.
Building your XP multiplier is the best way to augment all of these abilities and level up and the best way to make sure it doesn’t reset is to have a cohesive team that doesn’t let you die.

My time with Alienation has only just begun. I have no desire to stop playing it because I’m having a blast. It’s constantly rewarding and never feels like a grind  – I’m looking at you Destiny – and the combat is fast paced, tense and (this word has never been more apt and it should probably be retired now) chaotic. It has officially set the standard for twin-stick shooters.

If being warned that a HORDE IS APPROACHING and proceeding to lay waste to (not lying) 200 sprinting mutants with a lacerating boomerang and rocket launcher ever stops being fun, I’ll keep you posted.

Review Score: 9.0 out of 10
Highlights: Addictive; Satisfying combat; Never becomes stagnant
Lowlights: Minimal story; Could use another class for 4-player co-op
Developer: Housemarque
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Released: April 26, 2016
Platform: PS4

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