Note: This review was written in cooperation with The Idiosyncracy of Life in Words‘ editor bino32.
Alien Shooter (PC)
(Russia 2003, developer/publisher: Sigma Team, platform: PC)
After contact is lost with an underground government laboratory, a marine is sent to investigate and finds out that a teleportation system has brought an alien invasion to Earth.
Different people, same day of alienation
Story and characters are as forgettable as they come in top-down shooters. While the add-ons Fight for Life and The Experiment try to tell a coherent story, it still ends up as a simple excuse for bringing down lots of enemies. Choosing between two different characters with their own background stories also only serves minor gameplay purposes, as the levels and storyline don’t change. Still despite not having any memorable characters or NPCs to talk to, the way the levels are connected with the pseudo-story works out, as so many cheap action and horror movies attest. Unlike the Alien Breed games, one isn’t bombarded by useless text in between or during missions, and if one wants to, skipping the few cutscenes and simply reading the mission objectives is enough to have a lot of fun with this game.
Run and shoot first, don’t ask
The size of the levels is usually just about right and the layout isn’t complicated, so that one can navigate them without a map. In order to complete them, one simply has to kill all enemies, with only a few levels requiring additional objectives, like destroying teleport stations that continuously spawn aliens. Finding keys or pulling switches is only necessary sometimes, but more often doors open after one triggers an event or passes through a section. This is certainly no thinker’s game, as puzzles are non-existent, which is actually a good thing, as one has more than enough to do to handle the often insurmountable number of baddies rushing from all sides. Crowd control is key to survive, while using the right weapon and knowing the enemies’ ways of attacking is essential for survival.
Enemies g(al)ore once more
The enemies are varied, not only in their looks and sounds, but also how they move. Some shoot rockets, others spit acid at you, some are slower but harder to kill and others are faster and easier to kill, but dangerous in numbers. The high number of enemies on screen is impressive. With rarely a slowdown, one is constantly on edge. However, sometimes there are too many enemies that keep the player from retreating to a safer distance. Especially in the last levels, it’s nearly impossible to complete levels without the right weapon and fast movement, even if one can man stationary turrets that offer more protection and firepower. With more and more enemies spawning, reaching the teleports is a difficult task in itself.
If you don’t see it, simply shoot
This isn’t made any easier by the camera angle, with some enemies being hard to find. Not being the brightest, they often get stuck in front of walls. This situation can be used to one’s advantage, as certain weapons fire through walls, but as some walls actually hide them, completing “seek and destroy” missions can become very annoying if one can’t even see the targets. The same also holds true for goodies that are placed before walls. Not being able to zoom in or turn one’s viewpoint, finding these is often a case of good luck. It’s also possible to shoot walls and find secrets behind them, but this is again down to trial and error.
No brain, no change of weapons and skills
It’s not all about shooting, though, as the game also has some slight RPG mechanics that motivate the player to pick up money from killed enemies, destroyed boxes, or in hidden rooms. Using this currency in between missions to buy new weapons, ammunitions, lives is a given in most top-down shooters. But one can also increase certain stats of the character, e.g. speed, fire rate or power, which becomes essential to survive later levels. It’s also possible to buy or pick up add-ons, but as one can only carry a limited number, one should be careful which ones to choose. This isn’t always easy, because there’s more choice than money at one’s disposal and using them isn’t much of a difference, compared to the basic skills. Saving up for better weapons or equipment is also a double-edged sword, because in later levels one can simply find these lying around if one looks carefully enough. Still, earning money and slowly unlocking more powerful equipment and upgrading one’s character to be more efficient in killing enemies is highly motivating, which can’t really be said about the whole game.
There’s more blood to come
The constant action might be thrilling and a lot of fun with all the bloodshed going on, but it also becomes very repetitive. Sure, the base game only lasts 5-6 hours, depending on one’s difficulty, so it’s rather short, with the add-ons only providing 2-3 hours more of the same, but if one expects varied missions, then this isn’t the game to play. It’s clear that one has the most fun in short bursts of non-stop action, so it’s not surprising that there’s also a survival mode that throws more and more, tougher and tougher enemies at the player, while simultaneously making the character more powerful when picking up upgrades. It dispenses with the level structure, as most of the action happens in one place, and there aren’t any goodies to find, either.
Not for the weak of stomach and ears
The game’s guilty pleasure appeal can be found in the presentation, too. It’s amazing how many enemies can be on screen and it’s even more amazing how much blood and guts cover the ground and walls after one has mowed down countless waves of them. However, even if the violence is over-the-top with all the entrails flying around and enemies exploding into bits and pieces, one doesn’t shoot people, only aliens, so there’s no moral ambiguity here when the aliens are nothing more than cannon fodder. It’s also possible to change the color of the blood from red to green to make it more authentic. The graphics might not be the best with the low resolution and few lighting effects, but the engine is strong enough to make all the carcasses and blood stay until the end of a level without any slowdown. Enemy designs are varied and despite not featuring the most memorable settings, the background graphics are still okay. There’s no voice acting, but the sound effects are quite good, even if hearing the enemies’ death cries too many times can become tiresome. The same is also true for the music which fits with its rocking pieces, but a bit more variety during levels would have been nice, as it quickly becomes repetitive. It should also be noted that there are a few system crashes.
Alien Shooter is a simple game in its level design, gameplay, and also storytelling. It doesn’t have the greatest graphics or sound. But what is more important, it’s simply a lot of fun to play. The RPG and upgrade system might not be perfect, but it’s still highly motivating to complete each mission and find money to improve one’s weaponry or stats. There isn’t much else that can be said about it, except that it provides a gory good time of top-down shooter action that would have been even more fun in multiplayer, which it unfortunately doesn’t include.
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