Look! Aliens are invading earth again and it is up to you to defeat them! Have you heard that before? I’m sure you have, because so many games that use aliens as the force to be conquered follow this cliched and somewhat boring story arch. However, somehow Alienation – from Finnish developer Housemarque – follows this same story line but manages to be fun, and somewhat different in the process.
History of Great Games
This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Housemarque has developed and released some fantastic titles, including Resogun, Super Stardust, and Dead Nation, so we all understand the quality team and capabilities of this team. And everything that made all those other Housemarque games great made this one great as well: dedication to creating something that players will love, that will provide a challenge, and that has some replayability.
Deciding on a Hero
Alienation allows you to play the game you want to play, as long as your style fits within one of the three main classes: a heavy, front line hero (Tank), a stealthy behind the scenes hero (Saboteur), or as an all around, healing hero (Saboteur). For my first time playing through, I choose my personal favorite – the Tank.
It’s a game of humanity versus the world – stop the Aliens before they annihilate you. It’s a pretty common premise, but it works here. The game uses a top down, twin stick shooter approach that perhaps sets it apart from the average game using this story, that is those that take a first or third person approach to alien destruction.
Another thing that sets Alienation apart from the others is the use of locales. When I first downloaded Alienation I was expecting fierce fights and missions across the expanses of space. I could not have been more wrong! You will travel through North and South America, as well as Russia, trotting across large maps completing various missions and tasks. Every completed tasks brings you one step closer to saving humanity, and they come with perks as well: loot!
There is loot all over the map, from guns found in crates, power cores dropped by enemies, or unwanted scrap that serves multiple purposes. Guns are varied, and can be powered up for an added punch. While ammo was often an issue for me, finding a gun to replace whatever I had was rarely a problem. However, once I settled into a weapon, I would often use it for long period of time before finding something that appeal to me more.
With a variety of weapons comes a variety of enemies, and while I never found a link between a weapon and potential extra damage it could cause to a specific enemy, I feel like it would be a no brainier to include that in some form. Perhaps it is there, perhaps not. Regardless, on harder monsters I was often trying multiple tactics to see if something could take down what I was facing, faster.
You will also level of your characters as you go, and will be given the option to assign specific skills while moving through the level ranks. This becomes incredibly important since once you’ve completed Alienation once, you have the option to do it again, but on a much harder difficulty level. You will want any advantage you can get!
Alienation can be played on your own, but this is definitly not the way it was meant to be played. Partnering up with three friends in online cooperative play makes Alienation so much more enjoyable. It is not really about any extra strategy, but rather, it is all about mowing down aliens with friends…which is cool, right?
There is obviously more to it than that. The online multiplayer mode is simple to get in or out of as it supports a drop-in, drop-out system. The levels will be tailored to the number of players currently playing. A 4 player mission, for example, will be much more difficult than a three player mission. The one question I had that I never was able to confirm, is whether or not the difficulty level changed on the fly, or if it was preset based on the number of players who started the mission.
There is a fair amount of difficulty in playing Alienation. This is not a toned down shooter that will appeal to anyone who owns a PS4. Those that begin the adventure need to realize the difficult nature of some of the games final levels. However, it is still vary rewarding, and retrying areas and missions never felt like much of a chore – it was a challenge, to do something different in order to progress further. Although a few challenges popped up a long the way – no real tutorial for those new to twin stick shooters, and often, not a lot of direction – the rest of the package more than makes up for it. Through outstanding visuals and an amazing score, Alienation is a great game to tide you over till, I don’t know, Uncharted 4 comes out?
- A fair difficulty level
- An outstanding soundtrack
- Varied level environments
- Outstanding online play
- Lack of explanation early on
- Where is all that ammo?