Space is the final frontier for man’s ongoing conquest of the universe. As the human race advances so does its reach to the stars. And despite technological advancements in weaponry, planet engineering and interstellar space travel, hostile alien takeovers are still best handled with one kickass marine to kill them all. He doesn’t even need a helmet.
That’s what players sign up for in CI Games’s self published FPS, Alien Rage. It’s a fusion of old school and new school game concepts that while undeniably fantastic in theory, doesn't always translate well into the final product. And like a double edged sword, the blatantly borrowed mechanics from other shooters while comfortably familiar, highlight the painfully obvious reality: Been there, done that.
Aliens don’t share:
Terraforming is all the rage (pun intended) in the future and humans are surprisingly even willing to share newly vested resources with extra terrestrials. However, when man’s new neighbors, the Vorus, unleash a surprise attack to cultivate the rock’s precious, planet-powering resource, promethium, all for themselves, all hell breaks loose.
With the hope to harvest promethium all but lost, and most of the human presence wiped out, military muscle steps in and figures, “if we can’t have it, no one can.” Cue our hero: Jack. A one man army sent in to blow away aliens and nuke the rock for good.
AR’s narrative isn’t trying to do anything outside of creating the basis for your typical sci-fi shooter; however, strewn throughout the game are audio logs, ala Dead Space style, that provide exposition leading up to the space conflict. Three per level to be exact. They’re optional to collect and while voiced well, provide no particular interest to the game other than boosting your score card, which affects game unlocks.
Shoot and shoot some more:
If you’ve played any shooter between 2007 and now, Alien Rage will not surprise you. Lacking any exploration outside of the aforementioned audio logs, AR has you go from point-A to point-B through 14 levels of ordinary action. You start off with a basic machine rifle and pistol, though you can find an array of weapons, 10 total, all of which house an alternate firing mode.
This is where AR ditches old school game functions for the mundane FPS standards of today. You’re only allowed to carry two primary guns at a time, with the pistol as your constant. Sound familiar? No matter what weapons you choose to carry, each level resets your character with the default rifle. Considering the game is all about shooting your way through hordes of aliens, it seems counter intuitive to prohibit players from progressing with their weapons of choice or why you’re not allowed to go old school and stack up an arsenal. Either way, AR’s commonplace doesn’t stop here.
Shooters never feel too brutal with regenerative health and Alien Rage is no exception. Taking too much damage is never a problem, as long as you find cover to replenish your life. Thankfully, this is balanced with destructible environments so camping cover is never an option. That said, the AI is noticeably predictable leaving little room for dynamism; though the game does feature some charisma even if it is borrowed from other games.
Surprisingly, this modest dynamic comes through sprinting. Not only do you have infinite stamina to scurry about levels, but sprinting presents the opportunity to slide, which proves helpful in more ways than one. On the one hand, you can slide in to take pot-shots on unsuspecting enemies or if the opposition is too thick, slide between cover for quick defensive maneuvering.
Even though enemies vary as the game progresses, your stapled grunts grow stale fast. Sure, jetpack Vorus and cloaked aliens mix it up, but the predominant enemies often upstage the new baddies leaving things feeling offley redundant. Additionally, extinguishing the 8 different bosses is more of an obstructive chore than anything else. Bosses slow down the otherwise fast-paced nature of the game and are, unfortunately, easily thwarted once you’ve learned their basic patterns; timed duck-and-shoots is all they require.
Coupled with wasting alien Vorus is a rewarding score system, which does break up the banal mechanics. It’s how you kill that matters. Dealing consecutive headshots, explosive kills, melee deaths and the like, all yield kill streaks that merit bonus points. The reward? Perks. The more points you score, the more perks you unlock. These advantages include weapon upgrades, damage boosts and health buffers.
Other than this it’s run, shoot, slide, cover, wash - rinse - repeat. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s not groundbreaking or refreshing either. And if to make matters worse, Jack exhibits a grapple hook and free form climbing during cut scenes, which would have greatly benefited the gameplay if implemented. Alas, it’s a missed opportunity, which is a shame considering the game’s impressive visual clout.
Hey good looking:
Using the always reliable Unreal 3 engine, Alien Rage bares fantastic graphics from beginning to end. Lighting, shadows and particle effects all fit the bill. Enemy models have fine detail with stylish design and bosses have a commanding presence on screen, like those found in Resident Evil or Castlevania.
The promethium mining facility has fresh war scars that add character to each environment. Spinning gears, automated machines and blinking control panels give resemblance to a once operational mining colony giving each locale a rich look and feel. Some smaller decals do repeat a bit, but the bigger picture outshines this qualm.
Complementing AR’s robust visuals is the equally impressive sound design, which includes orchestrated caliber themes and rhythms that amplify the action on screen. The music is appropriately cued up and down as the action escalates and recedes, giving the game a rather enjoyable pacing, audio wise.
Guns and explosions sound as powerful as they look and ambient background noises like machinery, droids, and the howlings of a death ridden facility liven the game world with AAA audio quality/detail. As cheesy as the script may be, the voice acting is solid with inflection hitting the right emotional notes every time. This sci-fi shooter may borrow a lot from its genre brethren, but the audio intonation compels on its own.
Alien Rage is old school in regards to being plot driven, with linear run and gun play. Unfortunately, the old school feel is more often than not overshadowed by trending shooter mechanics. Had this game been released 6 or 7 years ago, the impact would be much more relevant to the genre.
While sliding and stylish killing adds some depth and incentive to more focused gameplay, it’s still screams: I’ve played this shooter before. On the bright side, Alien Rage does offer a lively game world with entertaining harmonies and lush detail, but as we all know, gameplay always trumps graphics.
There is a multiplayer component with the game, featuring 4v4 or 8v8; however it’s all more of the same. AR’s online mode is as typical as the main campaign, which isn’t particularly good, but for $19.99 is a solid deal. The map designs are naturally inspired by the campaign’s locales and do offer a change of pace if the single player aspect wears thin. After all, playing with friends is always better.
For players who have avoided shooters since COD4 reinvented the genre, there may be some modest entertainment found here with some additional longevity in multiplayer. As for the ardent FPS fans, they’re probably better off playing a more expansive copy-cat like Bulletstorm.
- Excellent visuals.
- Strong audio design.
- Score system modestly breaks up humdrum.
- Feels like a generic shooter.
- Redundant combat.
- Predictable AI.
- Missed opportunities to expand gameplay.