Alienation Review

Old-school multiplayer shooting with flair.

Housemarque has produced action games with an old school pedigree for years, but Alienation may be its most intense release yet. The epitome of the retro-style, overhead four-player shooter done up with new school technology, this is a game that clearly shows off the developer's skills at crafting intense action experiences. Alienation isn’t that far removed from Housemarque’s Dead Nation; the aliens you fight here frequently move in a zombie-like fashion. The overhead, isometric perspective and focus on team-based survival feel very familiar, too. However: the devil is in the details. There’s a decided focus on refinement over Housemarque's past games in Alienation.

The world has been overrun by aliens, much of the population has either been killed or mutated, and the only hope for turning the tide rests upon a squad of four heavily modified soldiers. Levels have plenty of space to explore, with mission objectives that force you to scour maps from end to end. Exploring the game's side pockets and out of the way places is a rewarding pursuit, with items, weapons, and currency in abundance, allowing you to level up both your soldier and weapons in an RPG-like fashion.

There are three distinct classes to choose from before you get started, each offering a different style of gameplay. The tank is just what you’d expect—big, bulky, and tough. He can generate shields and unleash massive bursts of energy for special attacks. At first, the saboteur seems like an odd choice for a decidedly non-stealth focused game, but he ultimately proves to be a valuable asset during coop. They can turn invisible and sneak past aliens, double dash, and unleash a devastating aerial bombing attack. Lastly, the bio-specialist is a valuable assist character that can heal teammates and choke enemies with clouds of poison. Alienation's three classes compliment each other well on a full team, with the tank taking the direct approach and shielding his teammates, while the saboteur handles outliers quickly, and the bio-specialist backs them up with healing and the poison cloud attacks that whittles enemies down.

All three offer a range of upgrade options; every ability has an upgrade path with sub-choices that can be switched on the fly. You might opt for a slightly faster recharge rate for a special attack, or slightly more attack damage. As you progress, new weapons can be picked up from fallen enemies or scattered crates. When you acquire a new weapon, you can either equip or salvage it. Salvaging weapons rather oddly lets you “re-roll” the stats of your guns, so you can potentially get them powered up without actively adding upgrades to them.

Housemarque's talent for delivering exceptional gunplay is on full display.

There are shiny “cores” to pick up too, which allow you to increase the power levels of guns—everything from damage to clip size is modifiable. Since you can upgrade on the fly, the results of any re-roll or upgrade to your character or weapon are immediately noticeable, adding a huge boost of instant gratification to the leveling system. Each player’s loadout consists of three weapons—a primary, secondary, and heavy. In addition, there’s a grenade slot that recharges after each use and can include mines and a boomerang, among other destructive toys. Housemarque's talent for delivering exceptional gunplay is on full display; the shotgun has a satisfying oomph and the flamethrower's chaotic fountain of fire is a joy to unleash.

It's probably time to panic.
It's probably time to panic.
Welcome to Alaska. Slay a while!
Welcome to Alaska. Slay a while!

Starting off in Alaska, Alienation moves you to places like Brazil, Russia, and onto alien ships. Depending on the number of players, difficulty level, and specific map, its 20 missions can each take anywhere from 20-30 minutes to nearly an hour each.

You're given a variety of 'go here, scan this, kill that' type of objectives within each mission, but the appearance of random events helps mix things up--sudden boss battles or a horde of aliens can appear at a moment’s notice. These random events get deeper the farther you go and beating the game introduces new gameplay elements like special assignments, alien hideouts, mysterious artifacts, and other goodies. These extras do a great job of incentivizing you to dive back in.

Though you can play Alienation on your own, it's absolutely focused on its online multiplayer. Levels get blisteringly hard after a while, even with a full team, and coordinated attacks can be a near-necessity later in the game. There are respawn points spread throughout the map where dead characters will respawn. Yet, the game is almost sadistic in its respawning of aliens. Dying means having to plow through whatever lost ground you suffered, which will be completely repopulated--frequently with more and tougher aliens.

Alienation is a refined and intense shooter that looks and sounds great, and offers fantastically chaotic and violent action.

There are a couple odd bits of frustration though. For one, Alienation only supports online multiplayer--local co-op has yet to be implemented. Another annoyance is that, even when playing alone, you can’t actually pause the game. Finally, Vita owners will find that the control scheme requires a lot of tweaking to be playable on the small screen.

Alienation is a refined and intense shooter that looks and sounds great, and offers fantastically chaotic and violent action. While the game sometimes feels a little too eager to kill players and lacks local play, with a full troop online, it’s easily one of the best all-out action multiplayer games in recent memory.

Jason D'Aprile on Google+
The Good
Intense action
Superb cooperative gameplay
Robust upgrade system
Lots of distinct character builds and equipment to explore
The Bad
Sporadic difficulty spikes
No way to pause the game
No local multiplayer support
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Jason D’Aprile is still killing aliens in a quest to reach level 30 and unlock hero mode after almost 15 hours of play time.
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Avatar image for santinegrete

Is this better than Helldivers? anyone played both?

Avatar image for TheEroica

@santinegrete: I've played both extensively... Helldivers is my 2015 GOTY.

They are both comparable in perspective and on screen teamwork. Helldivers is much harder, much more rewarding when you finish a tough level, but Alienation does loot, fast gameplay and a more arcade type smash TV feel better.

Helldivers is it's own brand of challenging gameplay.. Friendly fire is dope and such an overlooked element to the fun and strategy of the game.

Alienation is like Diablo 3 with guns.

Neither game should be missed.

Avatar image for RaveNRolla

awesome. big fan of dead nation, especially the intro (YES, you can use metal in a game, it doesn't all have to be techno!). this will be on a list for later though since 2 out of 3 of my favourite game-series ever thought it'd be a good idea to release a game within the same month. Definitely looking forward to this!

Avatar image for cejay0813

The only annoying aspect of this game is the fact that you can't pause it. Other than that, for $19.99 it's a frekkin steal

Avatar image for cejay0813

Game is actually quite awesome. Think it deserves more of a 9 but that's just my opinion.

Avatar image for hoyholyhoy

I think no pausing as a demerit is pretty stupid. Dark Souls has no pausing, where's its poor rating? Resident Evil? Every MMO ever?

Avatar image for cejay0813

@hoyholyhoy: Yah but once in area is safe in Dark Souls you don't have to worry about enemy spawns sneaking up on you when you're taking a quick bathroom break.

Avatar image for hoyholyhoy

@cejay0813: Sit at your spawn point and you will never need to worry about that, also I've taken bathroom breaks while in the middle of the map many times and not once had I been in any immediate danger, so unless you stop in the middle of a nest, you're fine.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

Gamespot took its time with this review indeed. :P

Very good game that improved the top-down shooter mechanic. making it deeper yet not compromising the simplicity that it's expected from the genre. a step forward from what they did in "Dead Nation" (Although I prefer the darker tone in that one, this is a better game in general)

Avatar image for lordshifu

man this game looks sick!!

Avatar image for jinzo9988

Well damn, another one of these kinds of games that's skipping the PC. I've had a soft spot for these kinds of game since I played Hunter: The Reckoning back in the day. Just good old mindless fun.

Avatar image for RaveNRolla

@jinzo9988: hunter: the reckoning is the game that brought me to gaming. that magic of playing videogames back then... by now i've played way too many games to ever have that feeling again. nevertheless i will definitely get this.

Avatar image for Xentarim

@jinzo9988: Consider trying Alien Swarm on Steam? It was developed by the Left 4 Dead/ Evolve developers when they were still a part of Valve, as I remember correctly. It's no longer in active development and it's a bit old by now, but it's pretty fun to play. Plus, it's FREE...

Avatar image for longflopper

@jinzo9988: Housemarque is a Sony owned studio. Of course it wouldn't come out on PC.

Avatar image for howmakewood

@longflopper: Housemarque is not owned by Sony, Sony is the publisher

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

@longflopper: You sure it's owned by Sony? They published all their last games but I find no info of them being acquired by Sony.

Avatar image for xbr85

@longflopper: I don't know about that, considering they released Outland on Xbox 360 and later Steam.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c0b07b32bf03

Another big-time win for the PS4. Man, Sony is certainly on a roll.

Avatar image for sleepnsurf

@reduc_ab_: Win? You must be wearing your cheerleading uniform.

Avatar image for longflopper

@reduc_ab_: After only 1 Sony game coming out last year that was good, it was about time.

Avatar image for domiddian

@longflopper: Firstly, Bloodborne wasn't a "Sony" game and second, it wasn't the only "good" game to come out on PS4 last year unless your definition of "good" is different to everyone else's. Until Dawn, Rapture, Tearaway Unfolded and Helldivers were all "good" games.

Avatar image for BigPrimeNumbers

"Finally, Vita owners will find that the control scheme requires a lot of tweaking to be playable on the small screen."

Vita owners? I don't see it available for Vita on PSN, but I'd love to play it there too. More details please; did you play it on Vita somehow Jason?

Avatar image for longflopper

@BigPrimeNumbers: Yea no way this game would be able to run on Vita without a huge graphical downgrade.

Avatar image for xantufrog

@BigPrimeNumbers: Remote Play, I assume?

Avatar image for BigPrimeNumbers

@xantufrog: Oh man, I forgot about that. I got really excited for a moment there haha.

Alienation More Info

  • First Released Apr 26, 2016
    • PlayStation 4
    From Housemarque OY, the creators of RESOGUN, Super Stardust: Delta, Dead Nation™ and Super Stardust HD, and XDEV Studio Europe comes ALIENATION, a next generation top-down action game, developed exclusively for the PlayStation4.
    Average Rating14 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Alienation
    Developed by:
    Published by:
    SCEA, Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Shooter, Third-Person, 3D, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Violence