Humanity stands at the brink of extinction and it may come at no big surprise that it’s the various government's fault. Knowing for decades about an alien threat already present on the planet and covering up the incidents as to not alarm the general public, one group stands as the final bulwark but even they may not be enough so save what’s left of our race. Equipped with new exoskeletons to provide speed, power, and protection, even that may not be enough to turn the tide.
Alienation is a third person isometric twin-stick shooter from the makers of Dead Nation. With three classes to chose from players can embark on a twenty mission story either alone or with others through an easy to set up online coop. What was a bit disappointing was that local coop was not an option forcing players to have more that one system in the same space. The game modes themselves can be left to open, friends only, or invite only. What was interesting and terrifying at the same time was that my friends Louis and I while playing (and after going out to find another PS4) were eventually invaded by another player. This level twenty dropped in and dropped us to the ground having nothing more than twelve levels between us. Needless to say that revenge would need to wait a while.
I have personally not been addicted to a twin-stick shooter in a very long time. I believe the last was Age of Zombies featuring Barry Steakfries. Playing host to responsive controls, Alienation was easy to get into regardless of which of the three classes were chosen. Moving around is simple enough with the left stick while players can easily aim with the right. Shooting can be done through either a primary or secondary weapon before a heavier weapon can be picked up in the form of flamethrowers, rocket launchers, or miniguns. All weapons have their own amounts of ammo and once depleted can be reloaded either by letting the reload gauge fill back up or by triggering the sweet spot for a faster reload. The only penalty for missing the sweet spot is having to wait for the gauge to finish.
Equipped ever with only one primary weapon there are plenty of secondary weapons to change things up. New weapons can be found either in chests or are dropped from enemies that are taken out. Using an MMO like system weapons come in various rarities which can be distinguished by their color. Weapons on top of rarity can be sorted by levels which generally make them better. It isn’t always the case as the more rare a weapon the better the bonuses on it can be. If a weapon does look good however but for some reason it looks like junk compared to the one you have it can mean one of three things. The weapon really is junk. The weapon doesn’t have any upgrades placed inside of it. Or the weapon had crappy creation rolls to its stats which means some re-rolling is required in order to get the most out of it.
Re-rolling stats can be done by breaking down other weapons that are no longer needed for materials. Each weapon clearly shows the lowest and highest amount that a weapon can contain in each field. Rate of Fire, Ammo Clip Capacity, Damage, and Gem loadouts can all be re-rolled. In regards to upgrades however these can only be done with the more rarer and unique items which will all display how many gems may be placed. Gems can be picked up like weapons from either chests or dead enemies and combined together by adding three of a kind in order to make a more powerful one. Putting these inside of your weapons can make them go past the specifications that a weapon contains which are all available to see in the re-roll screen. Taking the time to sort through weapons and try out different things can turn certain hard to overcome situations into a cake walk. Other times it just becomes more bearable.
Because no mission ever goes according to plan sometimes a bit more than standard locked, stocked, and barreled weapons are required. Grenades, mines, cluster bombs, boomerangs are all available beside three active skills that the classes may learn on leveling up. Poison trails, orbital strikes, and what I ended up calling a mega particle cannon as the sheer insanity of the blast (in a wholly good way for your team) and more can help level the playing field. Every kill and opening of a chest for loot will grant experience to all of those involved in an RPG fashion. Obtaining enough experience and each character will level up. Leveling up grants on skill point for either an Active Ability or a Passive one. With three abilities in each forming a bit of a skill tree with a choice of modifiers that can be switched at will between skill levels and two players using the “same” skill can have different results.
Playing in regular mode, as there is a hardcore one death and that’s it option, respawn points will be your best friend. Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry and you die. Morbid, but true especially when playing on one of the harder difficulty stage modifiers. Respawn points only work one at a time and are a great help especially when tackling events and optional mid-bosses that can drop some pretty sweet loot. What can be tricky at times is that respawn points can sometimes be located behind a horde of enemies and can get caught in the crossfire. If activated then everything is good. If it wasn’t activated then kiss it goodbye as there is a big enough explosion to let you know that mistakes were made and you now need to hope that you don’t pay the price.
When playing in coop re-spawning only occurs once the entire force has been decimated. Until the last person falls anyone who already fell can change their camera around as they wait for the other to revive them. This is where things can get a bit tricky but also work in the player’s favour. Players can only venture so far from the squad leader who is basically the host of the game. Stay too far, which is a fair distance, and a timer will appear stating a teleport back to the leader is in progress. If there are too many enemies and the leader puts in the distance then the fallen comrade will be teleported to his feet and he can be revived if there is time. If the reverse happens then it’s basically a game of leading the enemies away and then get teleported back to the leader to get them back on their feet. Using this feature as needed could be get strategically but sometimes trying to cover two different areas does not work out because of this distance limiter. Usually it’s a better idea to stick together.
Level designs were well thought out and big. What made the size of these environments manageable was that they didn’t always have to be explored to the fullest. Numerous stages could use different parts of each environment or even come back five or ten stages later in order to perform an operation. With twenty stages available, there are really only a few environments to be explored but never to they feel redundant as different portions become the highlight essentially making the player explore new “regions” if they didn’t already go hunting through for all of those previously mentioned mid-bosses.
Alienation with its three classes and different loadouts worked great with the environments that were set up and the style. Using a well designed twin-stick style of gameplay simply made everything click together. Having sat down and played for twelve hours the first time in order to finish the campaign in coop as we hit up the hardest difficulty and tried out different classes, there is more than enough gameplay here to occupy any lover of the style.
Sony Computer Entertainment America
Article by Pierre-Yves