Alien Rage – Unlimited (PC) Review
Posted by Marc Morrison on 09.30.2013
411mania’s Marc Morrison sees the rage build in this budget first person shooter. See if he is able to conquer the aliens inside!
Title: Alien Rage - Unlimited
Publisher: CI Games
Developer: CI Games
Genre: First Person Shooter
Players: 1-16 (Online)
Rating: M for Mature
Alien Rage – Unlimited can best be summed up by the saying “It tries, but it doesn’t quite succeed.” This could be the game’s ultimate review score honestly, given the wasted potential here. There are some relatively decent ideas in the game but it just doesn’t come together in a way that is satisfying at all. Worse yet, some of the technical issues, and (more importantly) the difficulty spikes make the game an utter chore to play.
Alien Rage is a weird mis-mash of two other more (semi) competent shooters on the market, Hard Reset and Bulletstorm. Structurally, the game is almost an exact copy of how Hard Reset handled, level layouts, and exploding barrels at every turn. Enemy typically charge at you and you can either shoot at them, or else shoot the (usually) conveniently placed orange barrel that will explode if shot, taking a few of them down.
The Bulletstorm comparison comes into focus with how the game scores you (inexplicably) for taking down enemies, usually in semi-creative ways. These include headshots, causing the enemy to explode with a barrel, using a melee kill, using your secondary fire, and so on. You can get multipliers for your score if you get a chain together, like five headshots, five melee kills, etc., but it’s pretty hard to actually pull off. Unlike in Bulletstorm, which tried to give a surface reason for doing the shots, there is no such justification here. The system is in place at the start and that is that. It’s tied to a poorly thought-out upgrade system where you have to unlock a set up upgrades then you pick which one you want to use. It took me reaching level 4 (of 14 levels total) in order for me to even unlock the first tree.
You can only carry two weapons (as well as a useless pistol) in the game, with the gamut running from human assault rifle, human shotgun, human RPG to alien assault rifle, alien shotgun, and alien RPG. There’s 10 weapons total, but since you can only carry two, it gets kind of annoying. Also once you complete a stage, no matter the weapons you were carrying, they are discarded and you start the next stage with the default pistol, and human assault rifle. The human weapons all require bullets, but the alien weapons are like the alien weapons from a half dozen other games in that they don’t require ammo, but overheat and need to be cooled down. Each gun also has an alt fire mode that usually involves firing some kind of rocket or grenade-like projectile out. The secondary fire requires specialty ammo that you can pick up during the levels, but you can only have five shots of this total. Weirdly, there are no actual grenades in the game which feels kind of strange.
The basic game has you just going through fairly decent-sized levels taking down aliens who come at you, most of the time quite stupidly. There’s always a way point for you to follow so you never get lost. If the game was just this, it would be a pretty, but bland shooter that might justify its $20 price tag.
But, it’s not. It’s hard to pick the biggest problem of the game, but I’ve boiled it down to three choices. They are: 1. Difficulty spikes, 2. Technical issues, and 3. Game design/visual issues.
Difficult Spikes -- to say that the game is hard/uneven is an understatement. You can make it through the first two levels easily enough, but by the third, I had died around 9 times, specifically on one part. I played the game on the easiest “Challenging”, in the game’s parlance, mode, and still, it is a frustrating mess. In the 3rd level I was at a bridge, me on one side and a half dozen enemies on the other. I had to redo this section 9 times because I would always fail to leave one guy alive (see below, visual issues), he would surprise me, and pretty much one-shot me. Another area, either in the 3rd or 4th level has a staircase you need to climb, but it’s an open area with three ways to get to it. I did this section about 5 times because enemies were constantly spawning and I would have to keep darting back around a corner (usually dying in the process) to catch a breather and regain some of my paltry health.
Technical Issues -- I didn’t have it as bad as some before I stopped playing, but I did notice some problems. The big one seems to be the enemy can sense your presence over vast distances and can shoot through walls. Unless you are around a fairly large piece of level geometry, you will take incremental damage from enemies because their shots are passing through whatever you are trying to use for cover. Another great example is in the fourth level, you have to cross a bridge with teleporters on either end. My first time through, these teleporters didn’t activate so I made it to the next area (before checkpoint) but died. When I respawned, the teleporters decided to activate and 4 enemies swarmed me. I respawned again, the teleporters activated, and so on. I was able to make it past them once, but then proceeded to die on the next area again, after expending my secondary ammo on the teleported-in guys. So, that’s great.
Game Design & Visual Issues -- For a game that cribs as much from Halo, they kind of missed the point in a lot of specific cases that make Halo actually fun to play. For one, you have no health or armor/shield system at all. This game uses the Call of Duty health system where the screen gets jacked up the more damage you take. That’s fine and all, if certain enemies (like the alien grenadier) didn’t one-shot you with a single hit. You never have a real good sense of the damage you are receiving either since the visual indicators are bullet trails, looking like something from the Matrix. There also isn’t a mini-map or radar screen of enemies. There is a screen in the multiplayer section but not in single player. That is a bewildering choice to make given that the single player is the mode that actually needs it. The enemy teleporters are also an issue since they can’t be deactivated and have a nasty tendency to activate when you think the coast is clear. Most enemy behavior is stupid also, given enough time they will rush at you where you can easily pick them off. Also, having largely grey/black enemies in a largely grey/black base is boring to look at. Too often, enemies would just blend into the scenery until they started shooting, because of the game’s aesthetics.
Despite the banal color scheme (it’s an Unreal Engine 3 game…so…you know), the game does have a few good elements of graphical merit. The game keeps up a fairly steady frame rate, even as explosions or effects are happening all around you. The explosions themselves are pretty good, and while the game doesn’t have completely destructible environments, what you can destroy falls apart nicely. There are also a few decent (if repetitive) animations for when you open a locked door, or have to blow it up. Visually, the game does have a polish to it, and aside from the lack of color with the enemies, is a notch in the game’s favor.
The march towards “boring” continues with the game’s audio. The music is fine, for what it is, but it never comes up too much, except for the musical cue that “Enemies are finally done in the area”. You will learn to appreciate this, I can assure you. The bullets and sound effects are all appropriate, never rising toward great, but never becoming farcical. The true humor comes from the voice acting in the game. The main guy is doing his damndest to do a pastiche of John DiMaggio/Steve Blum but he just can’t do it. For all I know, it really is one of those guys, I don’t know. The game’s credits only state an audio company called “Somatone” did the voice work, but neither the credits, nor Somatone’s website, nor IMDB, Giant Bomb, or MobyGames actually tell you the voice actors on the game. MobyGames doesn’t even list it, so you know the game has got to be good. The other voice work is about as uninspired as the rest, aside from the main dude trying his hardest.
There are stock replay factors to try and keep you interested in playing as well. The big one is a functional but threadbare multiplayer mode. While it does have a motion tracker/radar, the modes boil down to either death match or team death match, with I think only 5 or 6 maps total. Servers can have up to 16 people on them but good luck finding one with even half of that. The mode is completely fine but entirely superfluous. You can also collect bonus items (alien pyramids) or audio logs in levels. The bonuses just contribute to your score and the audio logs give out back story. Sadly, the pyramids are actually easy to find since they have color, while the audio logs do not. Like with most of the enemies, they tend to fade into the background so you’ll often miss them as you play.
Not completely broken
Has a stable frame rate
Uneven difficulty leads to frustration
Some technical issues do pop up
Just kind of humdrum all around
While it’s not the worst shooter in 2013, or even the worst first person shooter with the word “Alien” in the title in 2013, it is still a decidedly unimaginative affair. There isn’t anything critically broken in the game but there is a prevailing sense of “Why am I playing this at all?” It looks nice but good graphics can’t save the game. For $20 you could pick up either Bulletstorm ($20) or Hard Reset ($15), or even a dozen other more competent/fun shooters on Steam, and have a better time. If you really want to try it, it’s not the worst experience in the world, but you won’t get a ton out of it either.
Despite the generic color scheme, the game has good technical elements and some of the animation is pretty spot on.
Stock weapons, stock aliens, stock pick-ups, stock scoring system, etc. The only thing different is how many times you’ll die, compared to other shooters.
The music and sound effects are just firmly in the middle of the road. The voice acting is kind of unintentionally funny.
Collectibles, audio logs, and an ordinary multiplayer mode are here. Good luck on finding anyone playing though.
Some of the kills are creative, but you’ll be dying too much or having to deal with cheap/stupid enemies to have any real fun.