Posted on September 27, 2013, Alex Rubens Alien Rage Review: Mediocrity Defined
At its core, Alien Rage is an attempted commentary on the state of first-person shooters over the last decade. You play as a giant space marine named Jack with the strength to throw enemies across the room, yet he can’t jump. He cracks jokes about how silly things are and punches control consoles instead of using them. It tries to be meta in a way that could work, if only the game didn’t simultaneously fulfill these stereotypes unironically. Under this joke-filled exterior is a flawed, broken game that attempts to wrap a narrative around mediocre checkpoint to checkpoint levels built around collecting the highest score possible.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC [reviewed]
Developer: City Interactive
Publisher: CI Games
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Alien Rage’s narrative centers around an asteroid, Deimos 875, which both humans and an alien race named Vorus are mining to access its Promethium deposits. There’s actually a really good setup and lead-in for this, right up until you start playing and they say “just blow it up”. That’s not a joke. The goal of the game is to blow the asteroid up, with “if we can’t have it, nobody can” cited as the reason. It’s unbelievably stupid.
The single-player campaign is split up into fourteen replayable levels that do nothing more than funnel you down countless, bland hallways filled with enemies that are simultaneously intelligent and stupid. They’re preternaturally aware of your location, and can usually shoot at it, but they don’t manage to do anything else tactical with that information. Sometimes they’ll be shooting at a doorway before you even enter it. Other times can’t even seem to figure out how to get to where you are.
Because of their exceptional awareness of the player’s location, AI enemies can be incredibly difficult. Be prepared, because they’ll kill you many, many times without any warning, even on the easiest difficulty. I can’t even count the number of times that I went from full health to dead in one shot. It doesn’t feel like there’s any consistency to the damage done by enemies or their difficulty in general.
The beginning of the game is hard. I found myself repeating nearly every area at least once; I even set down the controller a couple times because the difficulty was making me extremely frustrated. But towards the middle or latter half of the game, it became easier, almost surprisingly so. I thought that maybe I had loaded into a difficulty that was below the lowest difficulty available (which is stupidly named ‘Challenging’), but that thought was quickly dispelled as the difficulty ramped back up without warning.
These haphazard changes in difficulty are presented as if they’re meant to evoke a “Dark Souls” style of difficulty, but they come off feeling like the complete opposite. The game isn’t difficult for the sake of being difficult; instead, it feels broken.
As if this weren’t bad enough, there’s just no substance to the story. As things progress, you’ll find that there’s no real objective other than going to a place and hitting a switch. There’s no opportunity for exploration or really anything other than following the blue dot that leads you to the next switch you need to turn off.