Housemarque has made a name for themselves as one of the finest purveyors of twin-stick shooters in all of videogames. Super Stardust is one of the very best space-bound twin-stick shooters, in existence, while launch title Resogun is arguably still one of the best games available for Sony’s current home console.
They haven’t just made twin stick shooter games with pilotable ships though; Dead Nation is a fantastic twin-sticked zombie shooter, melding that sort of play with arcade-styled gameplay for one of the best local co-op games you’ll find on PlayStation systems. It’s a game that I played through with my wife, blasting away hordes of undead, cackling with maniacal glee as we survived wave upon wave on zombie terror. Naturally, I was rather excited for its successor, Alienation.
Until I realised that unlike that game, this one had no local co-op whatsoever – so I had to relinquish the hopes I had of a weekend on the couch blasting away hordes of alien scum with my co-op partner next to me. It was a bitter pill to swallow really, and I spent the next few hours shooting at the frequently overwhelming swarms of extra-terrestrial enemies with a terrible case of the sulks.
And then something happened. Somewhere between being upset at the exclusion of couch coop and trying to understand the game’s systems I fell in love. I think it was around the time I managed to pick up a Legendary weapon (signified, as they are in many games, by a delightful orange hue). I’d mostly – spitefully even – been playing the game alone, not wanting the aide of others.
And as a result, I’d run in to a few areas that left me overwhelmed; constantly succumbing to the Xenos onslaught. And then I found that Legendary weapon; a shotgun that let me hurl boomerangs – giant rotating discs that, as their name implies, come back after being shot out – and it made me an unstoppable force, tearing aliens to shreds. The little assimilated former humans, the bug-like creepy crawlies, the hulking, brutish beasts and even its soldiers – all fell to my mighty boomstick. Later on, I got a plasma rifle that, in addition to its usual energy blast, also shot bolts of lightning. Bliss.
Despite the name, Alienation is not very much like Dead Nation at all. As you’ve perhaps ascertained, there’s a bigger focus on loot and the all-consuming quest for a higher DPS (Damage Per Second) – because Alienation is a numbers game. It’s all about making sure your weapons are capable of producing bigger numbers than the enemies’ life bars can hold. It’s lazy, terribly easy and far-too-convenient, but the game inevitably, inescapably invites comparisons to Diablo.
Like the console versions of Blizzards action RPG, combat is a little more active than the click-click-clicking you get on PC, but the other parallels are unmistakeable. You start off by selecting one of three available classes, each sporting a range of unique passive and active abilities that you’ll unlock as you progress and level up. You’ll dispatch with hundreds, thousands of increasingly tougher bad guys, and once you’ve finished all twenty of the games main story missions, you’ll unlock harder worlds, and do it all again – all in the name of better, more powerful loot. You’ve got your typical primary, secondary and heavy weapons, plus an extra bit of equipment like grenades and mines – so there’s a lot of loot waiting for you to pick it up.
There are a couple of other things waiting for you once you’ve hit end game, as the whole thing’s designed to be rather replayable. On what’s essentially my third playthrough, now on the hardest difficulty level, my enjoyment has ramped up considerably. The missions themselves are less objective-based than you’d find in something like Helldivers, but in my opinion, considerably more fun.
There are a few other systems in play to make the game, and indeed its loot, more interesting. Don’t like a weapon you’ve picked up? Salvage it for scrap, turning it into bits of metal. Scrap a rare weapon, and you’re more likely to get a bit of Legendary metal. You can then use your accumulated bits and bobs to reroll the stats for your gear; by luck of a random generator, you could push the damage output higher. Or, if you’re like me, you can turn your mega rifle into a pea shooter.
You can enhance higher class weapons even further using cores. They’re little orbs you pick up from the corpses of dead Xenos. Red cores, for example, increase damage output while blue ones buff your rate of fire. You can place these cores in guns with slots, combining them for the best effects. On top that, you can combine cores of the same type to enhance them further – levelling the cores themselves up to five times. It’s all just more numbers, really – but the effect is that you can keep on using a gun you absolutely adore even after it’s out-levelled, as long as you plan accordingly.
Of course, the game is made to be played co-operatively – and it positively comes alive when you team up with 3 others. When I got over myself, I spent a fair bit of time taking out the alien menace with new friends from all over the world, using our abilities in tandem as we made it across the map. A journey, I might add, that’s filled with the chaos of destructible environments and a wealth of explosions, bringing with them some of the best smoke and particle effects you’ll see on the PlayStation 4. You can play it alone, as I did for much of my time with it – just be prepared for moments of frustration as you die repeatedly. Until you get the perfect weapon, that is.
Last Updated: April 25, 2016
Alienation is an ambitious twin-stick shooter that goes beyond Housemarque doing what they do best. It's gorgeous it's addictive, and its's some of the best fun you'll have on your PlayStation this year - especially if you're the get caught up in the grind for better loot.
|Alienation was reviewed on PlayStation 4|
79 / 100
April 25, 2016 at 16:06
I stopped reading at “..no co-op”