|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: CI Games, City Interactive|
|Pub: CI Games|
|Release: October 18, 2013|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Strong Language, Violence|
by Jason Messer
“What the world needs now…is another vanilla, sci-fi shooter,” said no one.
There’s no doubt that shooters are a huge part of our gaming hobby. Some people utterly detest them, and there are others who almost exclusively play them. I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle. I imagine my skill is comparable to many of you, who are good enough to hold your own in games with friends online and can easily blow through most campaign modes on their normal settings with little issue. I’m good enough to feel like I’m enjoying myself, and my kill-to-death ratio is pretty good. The point I’m making here is that anyone of average FPS skill should be able to pick up a title such as Alien Rage and have a good time with it.
I didn’t. This game should have been called Alien Rage-Quit.
During the opening cinematic, I was actually looking forward to getting the game started. The cutscenes did their job in orienting me to the world, but they didn’t go into any great detail with things such as characters or backstory (the game addresses those through the audio log system…but more on that later). The gist of the game revolves around a fuel source that is used by humans and alien worlds alike, and it takes place a few hundred years in the future. A giant asteroid containing the substance, known as Promethium, is found. Earth sets up a mining colony there, claiming it as our own. Then, when an alien race descends, we attempt to share the find, until they decide they’ll just take it for themselves. However, being that we’re the United States of ‘Merica, we claim that “if we can’ have it, neither can they.” Now, that last line was not just made up…it’s actually in the game. It’s not only cheesy, but also a pretty petty reason for us to engage in an intergalactic space war, right? Well, this sets the tone for the rest of the storytelling in the game. Sprinkled throughout will be attempts at humor and little references that are supposed to make you stop and say, “Hey, this game just mentioned that other game! How awesome!” Most of the time, though, you’ll just wish you were playing those other games instead.
Let’s talk a little bit about the overall game design. I can tell you, as soon as the game dropped me into the map after the initial cutscene, I had the following thought: “Wow, this looks like a Covenant level from Halo 2.” Now, that may not sound like a bad thing per say, but Halo 2 came out in 2004. This won’t be the last time I reference a Halo comparison. Believe me, it’s not because I’m unfairly comparing them, but because I’m thoroughly convinced that many of the design elements were pulled directly from it. OK, let’s ignore the opening map that I’ve already described as Covenant-esque. Let’s also ignore your helpful female counterpart that bears no resemblance to Cortana (
If I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’… and I’ve never felt better.
You’ll also find similar concepts lifted from other games. For instance, the main character pretty much looks like he fell off the Gears of War space truck and floated into this game instead. Problem is, they didn’t take the same approach with other aspects of the game. Take the enemies for example, who each look like they are rejects from the space villain gallery of rogues. There’s nothing particularly interesting or unique about them, as they all pretty much run together as you progress through the game. I can’t remember any single enemy that really stands out in my mind.
Now, I’m already feeling a little bad for pounding the game so severely, so let me focus on a positive. I do think the graphics are good. Not great, mind you, but being that it’s powered by the Unreal engine, it definitely has a decent look to it. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a “wow” factor to it. It could be because it’s so very ordinary in its presentation (let’s face it, we’ve seen this before). This sort of ended up as a backhanded compliment, I know, but for what amounts to a $20 PC shooter ($15 on Xbox Live and PSN), it’s certainly not bad. There wasn’t any issues that jumped out at me; everything seemed pretty tight, and I can honestly say that I was pretty satisfied with my visual experience on my HDTV. On my TV, the explosions were nicely animated, the characters were nicely animated, and…OK, now I’m clearly just fishing for more nice stuff to say. Let’s get back to the real meat of the matter.
We now come to the gameplay aspect and also what amounts to the game’s fatal flaw. Remember when I told you I dropped into the world and started admiring the environment? Well, I can tell you for the rest of the game, I spent just as much time staring at the respawn screen as I did the game maps. The reason being, I found myself dying A LOT! There are many contributing factors to my constant deaths, but the largest is the diminutive health bar. You’re going to take only a few hits before you die. Taking cover won’t help, as you’ll find many of the enemies are able to shoot your surrounding environment to kill you. Many times, simply peeking out behind cover to try and pick off the enemy that has you pinned down results in death. Also, the lack of a radar system to track enemy locations can be a problem, as they often appear behind you without you realizing it.