Alienation Review

Talk about twin stick shooters, especially on Playstation platforms, not to mention Housemarque it is probably impossible: thanks to the sui generis level design of the Super Stardust series and the more recent Resogun, but also to some "experiments" that have tried to decline the genre also in survival sauce (Dead Nation). It was from this last title that the Swedish team decided to restart with Alienation, creating a sort of spiritual successor with a more action-packed DNA. With what results? Let's proceed in order.

Alien Nation
There is a hint of narration, even if it always remains in the background

The alien invasion of the Xeno forces began quietly, also thanks to the covering up of the first signs of the conflict by some governments, which silenced incidents such as that of Tunguska or Roswell. The conflict, for several decades, now seems inevitably one-sided, with the ground forces unable to launch significant attacks against troops arriving from beyond space. The only hope left, the only lucky punch that the UNX (the world government on earth) can hope to throw, lies in mechanized suits capable of giving the soldiers who wear them superhuman capabilities: it will be enough to subvert the fate of a war that does it now seem hopelessly lost?

Compared to what has been seen in previous titles, Housemarque Alienation therefore proposes a more defined boundary texture and capable of evolving mission after mission, although everything still remains a framework for the experience and limits itself to contextualizing the battles faced by the player, without detailing or characterizing the various characters involved. The distinctly arcade pedigree of the studio therefore continues to exert its influence, once again creating a product where the emphasis is on "playful content" rather than on the stories told.

Alien + Dead Nation
The starting point is the proven gameplay of Dead Nation, however, declined more on the action and forgetting the "ballast" survival

The basic playful skeleton, as mentioned at the beginning, is derived from Dead Nation: Alienation is in fact a dual stick shooter with a bird's eye view which also in terms of controls follows the zombie-based title released in 2010. You move with the left analog, while the right stick allows you to take aim using the laser pointer on each of the available weapons, then firing at a later time (thus separating the aiming operations from those of fire) by applying pressure on the right trigger. The player has three different weapons at his disposal, the primary with a larger but more limited magazine as regards the damage inflicted, a secondary more lethal, but also more difficult to use (generally the magazine contains 5 or 6 rounds) and a heavy weapon, capable of mixing the merits of the two classes seen above. In addition to firearms, the soldier is equipped with additional equipment, ranging from remote grenades up to a lethal boomerang capable of hitting at launch but also "on return", which unlike Dead Nation it does not wear out with use but it only takes a certain cooldown time between launches. Finally, the classic melee attack could not be missing, useful for eliminating enemies that move alone or to breathe, as on the other hand the shot, while reloading the weapon (R3 key, with the possibility of halving the time charging if you press with the right timing). Already at this point it can be seen that, although the base is common to that of a product more geared to survival and "saving" resources, Alienation interprets the genre more than: you switch continuously from one weapon to another (instead of relying only on the main fire, using the rest of the arsenal only as a last resort), a maneuver encouraged by the game mechanics which, whenever ammunition is collected, boosts the number of bullets available for all three weapons (with more generous quantities for the two not in use), and grenades and other equipment are also thrown more frequently as they are no longer limited by the supplies gathered around. Without the bogeyman of "wasting" what was collected in the game the component linked to looting also benefits from this more action footprint: it is almost natural to explore the map available during a mission, even if you move away from the main objective, in search of chests or secondary events (hordes or particular targets to be eliminated) that bestow more interesting loot (we'll get to that shortly) o they help to keep the multiplier of experience points high, essentially linked to the number of enemies killed and reset only in case of death (with respawn at the last checkpoint activated manually). Checkpoints that among other things can be destroyed, a bit like it happened in Shovel Knight, in order to get other extras related to the score during the game.

The class system does nothing but increase the distance between Alienation and Dead Nation, making the multiplayer modes even more successful

The above is the "common basis" of the Alienation gameplay: above these aspects a system of classes is then inserted that allows you to impersonate three different soldiers with different abilities (active and passive) to be unlocked as you level up, with the possibility of "resetting" the amount spent and freely redistributing the points at the beginning of each mission. It starts from Tank, slower (especially when it comes to shooting) but equipped with superior firepower, the ability to activate an energy shield to deflect enemy shots and to use the classic crash to the ground to smash aliens. The Saboteur, the only class capable of shooting twice in a row without loading, is instead reminiscent of Borderlands 0's Zer2, falling into its role as a "ninja" thanks to the possibility of making itself invisible but at the same time equipped with skills that increase the effectiveness of the body melee, while not forgetting the firepower thanks to the possibility of requesting an area attack that engages all enemies in its range. Closes on Biospecialist, the inevitable doctor of the group who on the one hand heals all the members of the team while on the other he hits the Xenos using swarms of nanomachines and toxic clouds for their race. It is no coincidence that there has been talk of teams, given that Alienation (although it can be played more or less quietly, with the exception of some more difficult areas, alone) gives its best in multi-player, thanks to the system of classes just described and the ability to start playing with others at any time, thanks to a very fluid drop-in system. In this regard, the absence of a local co-op mode seemed to us a particularly serious defection, confining at least for now all aspects dedicated to online multiplayer. On the other hand, however, Housemarque has seen fit to insert some competitive content that goes beyond the usual rankings: along the lines of what has been seen on the Souls series, it is possible to invade the games of other players or be invaded, exploiting the outcome of these conflicts to advance in the dedicated rankings. Thanks to the Ark, once unlocked, it is also possible to compete with other players in teams, adding aspects that go beyond the "indirect" competition that the Helsinki team had accustomed us to and even beyond the unprecedented PvP mode seen little above. In short, the package on paper appears particularly rich in content, and should be able to ensure a certain amount of entertainment even once you arrive at the end of the game (especially because once you reach level 30 you begin to accumulate Hero Levels which increase the HP available); however, as usual, the level of "grip" on the players on the medium and long term will be evaluated, to understand how many other soldiers it will be possible to find on the game servers.

Alien action
The weapon progression system also benefits from the title's more action-packed turn

Said of the progression system linked to the character, or rather to the mechanical suit of the soldier, we cannot but spend a few words for the upgrade mechanics dedicated to the firearms present: each rifle, revolver, rocket launcher or grenade is equipped not only with its own level and of its own rarity (from elementary to legendary), but also of basic statistics that describe the killing capabilities of the weapon in the form of damage, rate of fire, reload time and possibility of critical hit (the menu is also estimated damage per second). Each of these individual statistics, using materials collected by exploring the map or obtained by "disassembling" weapons no longer in use, it can be recalculated randomly as long as stocks allow and you are not satisfied with the score. You can also graft, on the weapons that are equipped with "settings" (generally the rare or superior ones), of the Nuclei of enhancement that further increase their characteristics, being able to recalculate in a random way also the type of slots for the nuclei of the weapon. The cores have 5 levels, which increase as you combine these elements with each other by "merging" cores of the same category to obtain a more performing one (along the lines, for example, of what happened in Soul Sacrifice with spells). Finally, some particular core-weapon combinations are capable of unleashing secondary effects, such as lightning strikes an enemy and then expands to touch the aliens close to him: in this sense, as we said, the more action vocation of the title (which encourages the exploration of the different maps in search of the loot best) goes perfectly with the leveling system chosen for the equipment of the soldiers, a lot more than based on the difficulty chosen for the mission, it is possible to increase the chances of encountering more tempting rewards, parallel lowering the drop-rate of the most common weapons. The reverse of the coin sees, at higher difficulties, the presence of more tough enemies in the area: the starting point is in any case the player's level (also as regards the "dropped" loot), which is however increased by two units on Professional difficulty and four levels on Veteran. The already good challenge rate (and "tunable" on your skills) can also be further increased at the beginning of a new campaign, by activating the Bloody mode which deactivates all checkpoints present (and player regeneration attached) and makes death a permanent status.


Alien techniques
From a technical point of view, Housemarque does not contradict itself

From a technical point of view Alienation behaves, as per tradition for the Swedish team, very well, resulting fluid in all cases and managing to display in addition to more than generous quantities of aliens (especially during horde events) also very successful visual effects such as flames, explosions and beautifully crafted clouds of smoke. The general level of detail, clearly, is not such as to be jaw-splitting, but thanks to the effects mentioned above and the use of a vivid color palette capable of spacing a lot between one setting and the other, the title succeeds, one more time. time, to bring home a convincing result that matches the Housemarque portfolio. The sound is also good, at the height of the situation both as regards the musical accompaniment and by going to listen to the dubbing (in English with subtitles), capable of doing its duty without being particularly memorable.

Verdict 8/10 Dead Nation with pepper at the c ** o Comment Housemarque managed to convince us again this time, confirming the good impressions that Alienation had transmitted to us at the announcement at Gamescom 2014 and then confirmed during the road tests. If the starting point is, obviously, Dead Nation, this time the nature of the product is distinctly more action, overshadowing all the survival aspects of the title of 6 years ago to make way for a more adrenaline-pumping formula that enhances the speed of maneuver. and the player's "shooter" skill. Sorry only for the absence, at least for the moment, of the local co-op, partially offset by the new online modes closer to the competitive philosophy but still capable of leaving a void in the playful offer that we cannot help but weigh. Pros and cons Fast-paced, fun, challenging
Different multiplayer modes ... x ... But the local co-op is missing
x "Population online" to be evaluated over the long term

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