10 odd years ago, I found a game developed by Sigma Team that satisfied a hungry need of mine to mow down swarming hordes of blood thirsty aliens. I was smitten with it. It was considered “retro” then. A top down isometric sprite based corridor shooter with independent movement and firing controls, so you could backtrack and manoeuvre whilst laying down a carpet of fire at a specific point in another direction. With blood soaked walls and adrenalin humping music. I played it quite a bit. I also wrote about it, in my over-enthusiastic and often very blunt laddish manner.
Fook me this is the biz, the bees nollocks! Imagine unimaginable amounts of alien horde swarming towards you in narrow science lab hallways, breaking out of walls and generally coming to dismember you. Then imagine having a leather clad honey (or butch) depending on your persuasion, with twin desert eagles blazing away, shells falling all around, and pulsing techno beats rattling your brain. Then imagine, if you will, picking up a shotgun and emptying that into the green menace, out comes your minigun and you chain spray them all over the walls, they still keep coming, so you flip out the grenade launcher and thin them out a touch, to nail them hard with your plasma gun, instantly turning them into mulched goo! Nightvision equipped its time to crawl through another dark infested lab.
It’s an isometric top down view (ala Diablo etc), it uses the WASD or cursor keys for movement (or right clicking the mouse) and it uses the left click of the mouse to empty your chambers. So the firing and the movement are separate mechanisms (ala Zax the Alien Hunter). My favourite. Gives you plenty of options to backtrack and lay suppressing fire, or circle strafe round a leggy horde to drop a grenade in the middle. The environments are nicely constructed with blow-able walls, doors that need power to open them, and walls that burst holding fecking millions of the things. The nasties are suitably menacing in very large numbers, bigger bipedal aliens and spitting crawlers are all there.
Blowing shit up hasn”t been this good for a long time and the action is relentless. You collect money and ammo on the way, health here and there. You use the money to buy equipment before the next mission. The hero decked out in full red armour (90% damage absorption) carrying a minigun is pretty impressive. The music is nice, although I haven’t heard many different tracks, it goes “plinky plonky” at times, until the horde start emerging in numbers, then it picks up with the pounding techno “kill em all”.
Theres one slight niggle, in that if you use the mouse totally to move and shoot, the pathing AI of your character to the next click point, is virtually non-existent. He/She’ll bang into the wall in a straight line more or less and won’t move unless you click somewhere else. This isn’t a problem, if you prefer the more responsive keyboard movement control mechanism. I wouldn’t advise using the mouse for both movement and shooting, it slows the action down because you’re having to worry about getting to where you want to be, whereas with WSAD I’m already there, and I’m already circling the perimeter of a seething mass of nasties. Gun sounds are great. Empty shells make a clink as they hit the ground! I try to keep the minigun stocked with ammo at all times, but for clearing the wooden boxes that sometimes carry equipment, the two pistols are sufficient. They have infinite ammo. Be careful not to clip a oxygen tank strewn across the floor or kaboom baby, say goodbye to that red armour. You can use the liberally sprinkled oil cans and gas tanks in the environment to organise ambushes that will take only a single bullet to initiate.
Top bloody stuff, this. If you like massacre of aliens on a grand scale its well worth a butchers.
A passionate if a little vulgar appraisal of the game on the PC, way back when.
Well this title has just been released on the PS4. I believe it was already available on the Vita. But I remember the warmth of my shotgun barrel and the thrill of the execution as if it were yesterday – so naturally I was excited to see how the game translated to this gen consoles.
It holds up well, with the one caveat that they’ve had to knobble the aiming mechanism since there is no pointing mouse on a PS4. So you have two options, turn on Aim Assist – which seems to track the nearest threat automatically, or turn that off and use the right stick to point in the general direction and hope you get a shot to hit something.
On release day, I tried both mechanisms out, and I struggled with both – which was a bit disconcerting. The Aim Assist works well with direct fire weaponry with good range, but with shotguns, and grenade launchers (the early weapons) it can be very imprecise, and if you need some sort of precision to save you, you’re out of luck. With the directional aim, you have no focal point to shoot at, which is crucial again when needing precision placement. Direction and hope does not an alien kill. So you take melee damage, because your weapon/direction combination isn’t hitting the thing on top of you as more rush at you in the closer zone.
Release day+1 saw a patch, that seems to have cleared up the early aiming mechanics, to a much more acceptable level – which pleased me no end. Now, the Aim Assist seems to have become more snappy and accurate regardless of weaponry type. Indeed, you can cover a wider arc of reliable fire now, than with the directional method – your gun toting hero will flip between targets possibly greater than 180 degrees around your forward firing arc.
The menu UI is a bit clunky, and small – but is essentially the same as the PC version. My major bug bear here, is that when trying to buy something, you have to select the item in a grid like array, and then move the cursor highlight to the bottom of the screen manually to hit the Buy button. Perhaps the touchpad gives you a greater level of control, I don’t know. As it stands its usable, but not elegant.
Lastly, the game retains its primary appeal. Gun blazing, horde control, ammo management, environmental bottlenecking and survival.
The large numbers of monsters thrown at you, turn the game into some sort of tactical survival game, it’s not about the immediate kill, it’s more about using the weaponry options and level design to maximise the killzone, and minimise the withering melee damage of claw and tooth. The field of view on offer for the hero, affords some planning ahead, even as you unleash your hailstorm of lead on the skittering swarming masses. Whilst holding a doorway, you can be assessing your next move amidst the shell casing tsunami. You can effectively kite these writhing masses into better positions for their destruction, and it has an almost meditative quality of thought and planning as the floor becomes wet with rivers of alien blood.
However, the game is also very good at pitting you against overwhelming odds at key stages where the only good method is one of evacuation and damage control. The action ebbs and flows between feeling heroically in control and desperately hunted whilst fighting for your life. If you corner yourself, and you are low on ammo or armour, you will be torn to shreds. This is where the game excels, the action buzz versus the real danger of being totally swamped and annihilated.
The destructible environment just add to the positioning and trapping mechanics that you can set up on the fly. Lead them past a few gas cannisters and a single shot will detonate the whole area and the extraterrestrial wildlife will be dripping off the walls. Blow holes in some walls to make quick exit tunnels for yourself (although these are few and far between). If in major trouble, usually make for a chokepoint and hope the ammo lasts out. Backtracking whilst blazing death and destruction.
Here’s a snippet I recorded to give you an idea of the carnage on offer. It’s not my best playthrough, and I manage to make several rookie mistakes (like blowing up nearby flammables and killing myself), but it should be enough to give you a hint of hearty action that can be had with this title. The gibbage flying when my grenade launcher is unleashed is a truly wonderful level of control in the chaos of xenomorph battle!
Since this title, Sigma Team developed a whole host of similar titles, with sequels and zombie inspired variants, but for me, this was the one title that inspired a purer more desperate level of corridor carnage, and I’m just happy that a whole new audience is now able to sample the delights on the console.