With titles under their belt such as; Dead Nation, Super Stardust HD and Resogun, Housemarque has made a significant impact in the gaming community as far as smaller developers go. And now, ALIENATION, the ‘spiritual successor’ to Dead Nation has arrived; and just like humanity in a real alien invasion, this one will definitely put up a fight.The game revolves around an alien invasion of the Earth, which has forced humanity to the brink of extinction. The United World Governments have combined their powers to create ‘mechanized infantry’ exoskeletons that grant users superhuman abilities in order to combat the Xeno menace and take back our planet. Team up, load out and prepare for an all-out assault with the future of the human race at stake!Credit where credit is due – Housemarque knows how to make a game look fantastic. The top-down style of ALIENATION allows for some awesome environments; gloomy or harsh flat environments littered with wreckage contrast with glowing enemies and neon technology of the player. Enemies come in all different shapes and sizes too, with a high variation of model detail. In comparison, there are only really three character models for each class, but these are illuminated with bright neon and florescent elements, giving the game a post-apocalyptic futuristic feel to it. Everything is sharp and feels well-polished, but then again we wouldn’t expect much less based on Housemarque’s previous titles.The sound design is also top-notch; with an orchestral score that fades in and out with the action, as well as unique technology and weapon sounds that echo through the warzone as you struggle to fight off hordes of invading aliens.Similar to their previous work, Dead Nation, Housemarque has opted for another twin-stick shooter, and why wouldn’t they when it works so well? Each mission starts with the player (or players, and I’ll get to that in a bit) at the drop-point. From there, the objective must be reached by traversing the map. Pretty simple when it comes to top-down shooters, but the brutality and quality of gameplay is what sets ALIENATION apart from other top-down shooters. Each map has the base objective, which is usually to reach a point and activate a beacon or defeat an enemy, but the player isn’t restricted to this and can freely explore the map at their own leisure (or peril, depending on how tough you are).Legendary or super enemies can be found and defeated to gain items, weapons and power ups, allowing the player to deal more damage once upgrading, and these items can be found across the map in all variety of scenarios, so it is often beneficial to go around shooting as many aliens as you can. Reload buffs are easy and can provide great timing if you hit them well, but otherwise you have to time every reload, every special attack and every melee strike with a calm and clear mind, lest you waste your chance and get swarmed by enemies. With three different classes that focus on different styles of gameplay, players will also want to choose what suits them, be it heavy warfare, quick and fast, or master of special attack.
ALIENATION’s drop-in system works wonders too – if you find yourself struggling against the hordes of Xenos, you can invite a friend or join another game, and you practically drop straight in. Friendly fire isn’t a problem, and players don’t even have to worry about staying in the same screen – but then again, what kind of team are you if you’re not backing up your squad? The game allows for three additional players to enter, and it makes the game dynamic a lot more fun and unpredictable – especially with tight warzones and explosive vehicles nearby.Another thing Housemarque has got down is the loot system – weapons can be found everywhere, and some can even be upgraded – but the loot is so much more rewarding after dropping a hard enemy. With three difficulty levels, loot-grinders will be pushing themselves to nab the rarer loot in the harder levels of the game.
The only gripe, and I’m really clutching at straws here when I mention this, is the fact that there’s no way to pause the game at all. I died at one point ‘pausing’ (in reality I was basically on the upgrade screen) to talk to someone, and had to go back to the last respawn point, which wasn’t terrible but did add one lesser element to an experience that was otherwise flawless in my opinion.ALIENATION is not only a great game to play amongst friends or even on your own – it is a simple yet rewarding twin-stick shooter that will have you coming back for more. With well-rounded gameplay mechanics and very slick visuals, Housemarque has yet again knocked it out of the park with one of the best offerings on the PS4’s digital storefront!