My primary thought while slogging through the first half of Alien Rage, the latest offering from CI Games, was, “well, at least they got the rage part right.” Therein lies the rub, however. It’s hard to hold budget games like Alien Rage to the same standard as a $50 tentpole release, but frustration is frustration, regardless if you’re playing the platinum collectors edition of your favorite AAA release, or if you’re playing around in an alpha stage of an unnamed browser game.
For its price, Alien Rage is not a failure, provided you have the patience to withstand cheap kills, courtesy of the latest enemy squad that just spawned all around you. The problem is, AR wants to be a first-person cover shooter, and that’s a fine goal. However, in order to fight the next round of enemies, players must progress to the next blue dot (sound familiar?). What you get is a potentially keyboard-smashing mix of always moving forward to the next area, spawning the next batch of enemies.
From there, the most effective strategy seems to be backing out of the area you just entered and finding cover, waiting on the aliens to walk into your path of fire. The only problem is, much of the cover is porous. That is, it can be fired through, making the “cover” aspect of cover shooting something of a bullet absorbing mess. Just because a game is inexpensive doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Unfortunately, Alien Rage falls short of that in that area.
Starting with the alien enemy force you’re battling, they’re incredibly accurate during the game and they double as bullet sponges when engaged. Sure, headshots work as they should, but good luck lining those up as other aliens proceed to tear you up from all angles. There is some variety to the enemies–including grunts, a grenadier class, some Predator-like invisible attackers, snipers, and some powerful end-stage bosses that will also test your patience for hitting the “Restart Checkpoint” option. Related to that, there is no quicksave option. Alien Rage uses checkpoints to save a player’s progress, meaning you have to backtrack a little if you die before the next checkpoint is reached. Thankfully, the checkpoints are liberally located, although, some sections force players to try, and try again, meaning you’ll be hearing the same lines of dialogue again and again until the next checkpoint is reached. I understand developers wanting to eliminate players spamming the quicksave option to save their progress, but at the same time, there has to be another option besides progressing to the next checkpoint. For such a simple concept–advance to the next marker, kill all the enemies that spawn, advance to the next marker; rinse, repeat–the quicksave option isn’t as crucial as it is in something like Skyrim.
CI Games’s go to gameplay design feature uses something of an on-rails approach. The environments that CI Games created for Alien Rage boast an attractive design, but they only serve as window dressing. Players are not allowed to deviate from the path to investigate out the alien installation. While many areas may appear reachable, a strategically-placed metal case or some impassable debris will inevitably block the path, teasing players who want to see what’s going on over there. That’s where the game’s budget price tag comes into play. Perhaps CI didn’t have the budget to create these additional paths, but if that’s the case, maybe the environmental design shouldn’t have been so open and inviting. Considering the developers’ commitment to the “stay on the path” gameplay, perhaps changing the settings to tight, poorly-lit hallways, allowing the combat to get up close and personal, would have been a better design choice. Speaking of dispatching the enemy, this is where Alien Rage shines.
The gameplay control is what you’d expect from a mouse-and-keyboard first person shooter: tight, responsive. The design of the weapons, while nothing exceptional, is effective. Players can carry three weapons at a time, and while you’ll have the option of picking up sniper rifles, shotgun derivatives, and rocket launchers, more than likely players will stick to the automatic firing weapons. Again, when the fur is flying, you won’t have much time to line up that perfect headshot, so you’ll need as much ammo as you can carry. As previously indicated, these enemies are absolute bullet sponges. Each weapon features an alternate fire, which acts as a throwable in many cases. Your luck will vary with these additional functions, to put it mildly.
For those of you who like Steam achievements, Alien Rage has you covered. The game boasts almost 50 trophies to collect, which, combined with the varying difficulty levels, gives it a modicum of replayability. There’s also a multiplayer feature; however, review copies weren’t given access to this feature until after the game’s launch. According to the description, Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch will be supported, which shouldn’t be a surprise. Expecting Alien Rage to redefine that particular genre is a little much from where I’m sitting, but you never know.