Alien Rage describes itself as an “old-school shooter,” yet it uses regenerating health and a two-weapon inventory (plus an infinite-ammo pistol). That’s pretty much the exact opposite of old-school shooter design in my book. What I think it’s trying to say is that it’s hard – and it is, but in the way that repeatedly kills you with cheap deaths. Even on the normal difficulty level (which calls itself “Hard” next to the arrogantly named “Challenging” easy level) there are frequent nasty spikes that throw tons of enemies at you at once. They’re not really tough to kill – headshots are pretty easy to pull off (once you disable the counter-productive auto-aim) and they’re dumb enough to round a corner in single file, but their weapons deplete your small health pool extremely quickly. The worst part is the grenade launchers. Alien Rage’s most common enemies pack one attached to their rifles, and obviously so do the dedicated grenadiers that look like Big Daddies, and as a result there are explosions happening pretty much all the time. That wouldn’t be so bad if hiding behind something would shield you from an explosion happening on the other side of that thing… but in alien Rage, splash damage shockwaves travel directly through any solid object. There is no hiding from them, unless you not only take cover, but stand about 10 feet behind that cover. Considering the tiny amount of health you have, that leads to a whole lot of one-hit deaths. I like a challenge, but not when the challenge involves learning to avoid being killed by something really stupid. It wasn’t until about halfway through the 12-mission campaign that I unlocked the perk that boosts your health by 50%, and only then did things start to become anywhere near balanced. Suddenly I had a chance to recover if a grenade hit me instead of being instantly killed on the spot, making progress much easier and the choice of which perks to equip not actually a choice at all. Levels are set almost literally in an exploding barrel factory in space, which also contributes to the frequent and graphically underwhelming explosions. You have to slog through a few different settings – from a mining facility to underground caves to an alien ship – but they’re all the same dull gray metal color, making each one virtually indistinguishable from the last. I missed a good chunk of the backstory, since it’s hidden in hard-to-spot audio diaries. They tell a not-too-terrible tale of cultural misunderstandings that led to the alien attack, and they made me wish that the writing and acting going on in the here and now was anywhere near as competent. Super-cheesy dialog, including an alien boss’ garbled noises translated into “Say hello to my little friend” and references to a guy hiding under a box and sneaking around, falls flat. I’d give you an estimate of how long it took to beat, but it’s going to vary widely based on your shooter skill level and how many times you have to repeat a section until you reach a checkpoint or learn to dodge a bullet-sponge boss’ missiles. In certain areas, it took me a dozen attempts before I was able to pick off each of the enemies as they spawned like Bill Murray in an action movie version of Groundhog Day. A bland shooter like this seems like it might’ve been okay in multiplayer, but the servers are a total ghost town. I’ve yet to see a game with more than a couple of other people in it, and all of these maps are built for eight or 16 players, resulting in a complete absence of fun. Even if there were people to shoot, you’d be doing it in the most painfully plain deathmatch and team deathmatch modes using weapons that are never anything more than mundane. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done just as well – or significantly better – in virtually every other half-decent multiplayer shooter you’ve played in the past five years. THE VERDICT What game were we talking about again? I’ve pretty much forgotten Alien Rage already. Between its lack of personality or distinctive, original features of any kind, and completely non-existent multiplayer community, the only memorable aspect is its annoying and frustrating difficulty spikes.
«Blew my mind»