Tech News on G4
Co-operation is key in solid Alienation
May 10, 2016
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
Finnish developer Housemarque takes its twin-stick top-down shooter formula from 2010 title Dead Nation, and spices things up with loot drops, endless particle effects, and a ridiculous amount of aliens in the new PS4 exclusive Alienation. The final product doesn't quite reach the highs of some of the developer's previous games, but it still has a lot to offer.
The basis for Alienation really isn't that complicated. You and up to three teammates are dropped into one of several spots on Earth (as well as some enemy space ships) and are tasked with essentially decimating anything and everything that moves.
The game's alternate-reality story revolves around an invasion of Earth several years ago by "Xenos." In Alienation, the humans are attempting to take back their planet thanks to men and women who use advanced mechanized suits to cut through the swarms of baddies.
Like Housemarque's Resogun before it, Alienation is simple enough to learn, but it shows layer upon layer of depth for the more dedicated players who want a challenge.
There are three classes to choose from - Saboteur, Tank, and Bio-Specialist. As you can probably tell from their names, these classes focus on stealth and speed, sheer firepower, and healing, respectively.
A well-organized team of four players should have no problem getting through the game's initial 20 missions on the normal difficulty. The levels and objectives rarely stray from "kill everything," beyond occasionally activating a switch or searching an object.
For a game that's focused on shooting, it feels really good unloading a clip of bullets into a group of enemies. Whether you're using your basic automatic weapon, or opting for a fancier rocket launcher or boomerang, Alienation knows how to make a player feel powerful. I'm still not convinced I like the inclusion of the active reload (a mechanic made famous in the Gears of War series), but it's not enough to ruin the game. If anything, the argument could be made that it adds yet another layer of strategy to a game that aims to be far more than Just Another Shooter.
That's because where the game really tries to hook players is in its loot-dropping system. Similar to Destiny and The Division, Alienation isn't shy about dropping different-coloured weapons. Blue or white, for instance, is relatively common, while purple or gold is far more rare - and more powerful.
Defeating enemies also results in dropped "cores," which can increase a weapon's profiency, from clip size to damage output to critical hit rate.
I'm not the kind of gamer who is typically drawn to these types of progression-focused titles, but Alienation managed to successfully hook me. Gaining and understanding weapons and upgrades is far simpler than in something like Destiny, although as mentioned above, it offers enough strategy to keep players coming back to levels many times over. It did for me, at least.
And on that note, it's worth mentioning that while the game opens up noticeably after you complete the first set of missions, you'll still be replaying a lot of the same levels. Yes, enemy encounters are somewhat random, and special missions are unlocked depending on what optional objectives you complete, but levels for the most part share one of a handful of basic looks.
That said, the game very much offers Housemarque's brand of visual polish. Abandoned vehicles light up and explode after absorbing enough bullets, air strikes result in enemies burning up and violently flying through the air, and enemy artillery causes life-like plumes of thick smoke to rise from the ground like mini mushroom clouds.
I'm an unabashed fan of much of what Housemarque creates, though I'm often somewhat perplexed as to why its games aren't more popular with that masses. Alienation follows a similar path - it has a low learning curve, but the basic game likely won't keep casual fans hooked for long.
If you're willing to stick with the game and explore all of its nooks and crannies, you're bound to get a lot out of it.
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.