Just a tiny confession before I restart this review, I absolutely suck at twin stick shooters, don’t know why but I do. Though I died plenty of times, I still enjoyed it more than enough to actually write a review about it. Also just for the record, this was an unplanned spur of the moment for me, and I am glad I decided to pick it up. How would I describe Alienation? Well, it an isometric twin-stick shooters with weapon upgrade systems and co-op gameplay, with role light playing elements mixed in. Alienation is actually a spiritual sequel to Dead Nation, which I ashamedly have not played yet. If you are looking for a game with a deep enthralling narrative and story look elsewhere. Alienation at its core is a very straightforward alien invasion story, one that involves you traveling the globe to defeat waves upon waves of aliens.
And honestly, you really don’t need much motivation or encouragement to do so. You get three character classes in the game: The heavy Tank, the sneaky Saboteur, and the nano-machine infused Bio-Specialist, each with their own special primary weapon and active ability skill tree. As part of each character’s load-out, you can have one primary weapon, one secondary weapon, one heavy weapon and a variety of equipment, special weapons with different ranges and capabilities such as cluster and remote grenades, mines and electronic boomerangs. On top of that, you can also unlock several special abilities by spending skill points obtained by leveling up and customize weapons by using cores, which can increase the weapons’ stats such as power, critical hit rate, and fire rate. Weapons and skill choices can also be changed during the course of the mission.
So you aren’t forced to restart the game if you have made some bad upgrade choices beforehand. You can also breakdown unwanted weapons into core components for upgrading other weapons. The game also features a robust loot system in the same vein as Diablo or Torchlight. With weapons coming with different stats that can also be re- rolled with the corresponding materials, which are obtained by completing missions or by salvaging unwanted weapons. All this might seem a bit confusing at first glance, but thankfully this is not the case. As it takes very little to understand all these mechanics. In as little as a half an hour, I was swapping and upgrading weapons as if it was second nature. It’s really impressive how Housemarque managed to include so many different mechanics in the game and make everything flow together so well.
Before heading out on your first mission you are given an extremely short tutorial mission that teaches you the basics like navigating shooting and throwing grenades, and honestly, you really don’t need anything more as the rest is pretty self-explanatory. Navigating and aiming is pretty simple, you use your left thumbstick to move around and the right thumbstick to aim. The game offers plenty of offensive and defensive options outside shooting, as it’s possible to employ a melee attack and quickly dash out of the way while you are reloading your weapon. Also timing you’re reload perfectly means you don’t spent ammo when you time it perfectly. Which gets rather critical when you are involved in a firefight and you are running low on ammo. Unlike most traditional twin stick shooters that feel very linear, Alienation breaks the formula.
With huge expansive maps that you can explore and interact with, that takes place in various locations like North and South America and Europe, I would highly recommend doing some exploring first before doing the main objectives. Since you will miss out on plenty of experience and upgrades and some beautiful scenery along the way. There will be times when you will have to go through the same locations multiple times, but each time enemies will be placed in different locations so it makes it feel far less repetitive than it should. Adding, even more, variety to the experience are the different mission objectives, ranging from destroying alien nests, activating certain devices and randomized special events. Such as special “boss” aliens that are very difficult to defeat and hordes of aliens assaulting you from all sides, just to mention a few.
Also add to the fact that all the missions’ starting level corresponds to that of your current characters levels, adds plenty of replay value to the game. Since I don’t have a stable internet connection I played the game entirely solo, which at times was an uphill struggle for me. Since the game has procedurally generated content, and while you can checkpoint your position at occasional beacons, each time you die enemies reappear in new combos and positions every time you spawn. This is not a big issue but when you die close to the end of a level and you have to battle through endless baddies again just to get back to where you died, this can be a bit brutal at times. I would highly recommend playing Alienation co-op as I think it will be a far better experience and more fun than playing it, single player.
And the graphical nuts would be glad to hear that Alienation keeping a steady 30 FPS frame-rate at all times. Even when the screen is filled with enemies and special effects. Not a small feat, considering that Alienation looks amazing with its flashy explosions, weather effects and hordes of aliens. The excellent graphics and solid performance manage to make Alienation an even better experience, which is critical for a twin stick shooter. The campaign runs around five hours per character, which amounts to around 15 hours of gameplay if you play with each character class. While there is a story constantly going on in the background as you complete objectives, I never particularly cared for it because I was so enthralled in the gameplay and desperately fighting to stay alive.
Alienation is all about the gameplay, and holy crap, does it play well. It does not take the game very long to throw you straight into the action, and I love really loved that aspect of the game. Alienation is without a doubt a very well-crafted and solid twin stick shooter, outstanding graphics and physics, with lots attentions to details makes this a must own game for the PlayStation 4. And even if indie games aren’t your cup of tea, I truly believe if you do not play this you are missing out on a truly addictive twin stick shooter. I only have one big complaint with Alienation. With the inclusion of internet, co-op play why not also have included in local co-op? It really is a no-brainer in my opinion, but for some obscure unknown reason, it is completely missing. Which begs the question. Why?! It would have been an excellent edition to an already amazing game.