Alienation is a top down twin-stick shooter made by Housemarque and published by Sony. It is currently available for free for EU/AUS Playstation Plus members. Housemarque is an indie company who has many quite a few popular PSN games including Super Stardust HD, Resogun and Dead Nation. This game feels like a spiritual successor to Dead Nation that adds significantly more depth to the core gameplay.
First and foremost, if you are going to play this game make sure you do it with friends. The game currently supports local and online co-op for up to four people and I would recommend having a full squad when playing this game. On your own this game feels very lonely and repetitive. Having friends play with you is a must as it allows the new class additions to make the experience more interesting.
There are three different classes in Alienation: Bio-Specialist, Tank and Saboteur. The game is at its best when all three classes are in the fray using their abilities to help each other out. I was a Bio-Specialist which was essentially the medic class but with some additional offensive abilities such as poison and nanobots who seek out enemies. In addition to this is a range of different weapons and equipment all of which can be upgraded and deconstructed. It feels like the developer was going for a Diablo-like vibe with the loot system as there are constantly items being dropped and crates around the map with additional items.
This mechanic feels well developed but there isn’t enough explanation for how the system works in my mind. There are so many things and numbers throw at you in the menus and on the battlefield that it can be hard to make sense of it all at first and there are so many different types of crafting materials that it can all feel overwhelming.
It also feels like it isn’t worth upgrading any gear you find early as you go to the next level and everything you are currently using feels obsolete so I would say that a lot of this would be post-story content where I’m told there are new assignments and stronger loot.
The graphics of the game look great and it manages to have hundreds of enemies of different types on the screen at the same time without any slowdown which is impressive for a game like this. The aliens are well designed and look nice. They are slightly derivative of other science fiction aliens but I can understand the difficulty in creative so many different unique aliens.
As the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world the colours of the maps are pretty dull which is unfortunate as the game can be very pretty. I feel like more colour would have benefited the game.
The game takes place over 8 large maps which have multiple missions played out on each one. I played through the first four maps in preparation for the review and while there are distinctive areas in these maps I felt like they all felt rather samey and derivative.
Speaking of which, the gameplay in Alienation didn’t really work for me. There have been so many top down twin-stick shooters over the years that this just didn’t feel very interesting to me. The combat is fine and has a Gears of War style active reload system and all of the abilities are visually impressive but the core gameplay just felt uninteresting to me. There are plenty of different difficulties to spice everything up but I don’t feel inclined to do the same missions over and over when the gameplay isn’t grabbing me.
I know that there is an audience out there for Alienation and when played in co-op with four people I’m sure there is fun to be had. Unfortunately for me it just felt uninteresting. I’ve done this before so many times from their previous effort of Dead Nation to games like Alien Swarm and Helldivers. There is a lot of depth on offer here, much more so than other games of its kind and if you loved those types of games I’m sure that you will have a good time here if you bring your friends. For me though, I’ve been there and done this before.