Note: This review was written in cooperation with The Idiosyncracy of Life in Words‘ editor bino32.
Alien Shooter 2: Reloaded (PC)
(Russia 2007, developer/publisher: Sigma Team, platform: PC)
In 2030, the M.A.G.M.A. Energy Corporation sends mercenaries to one of their facilities where top-secret experiments were conducted, and soon all alien hell breaks loose.
Hey, look, it’s a story!
The original Alien Shooter didn’t have or need much of a plot or character development, as the levels were self-contained and the alien invasion idea just an excuse for blasting fun. While the sequel doesn’t offer the most original story, it still tries to engage the player on a superficial level. One can and even has to talk to NPCs to progress, while it’s also possible to change the ending, depending on a specific choice. It’s certainly not mind-blowing, especially with rather forgettable characters, but one feels more connected to the world than it was the case in the former game. Being able to choose between eight characters is also a nice touch, and even if it doesn’t make any difference how the clichéd story plays out or how people react, it shows that Sigma Team is more ambitious this time with a few twists and turns along the way.
Choose a weapon and class you must
Choosing a character isn’t without consequences, as each one is of a different class and offers various abilities others don’t have. Stats and starting equipment are already different, and depending on these stats, one character is more proficient with a certain weapon than another. The RPG mechanics are much more prominent, because one has to distribute experience points after leveling up when completing objectives or killing enough enemies. The unique abilities are also important to a certain degree, although, as in any RPG, some are more useful than others. For example, one earns/finds more money or one can see secret rooms much better, although these can also be found easier, compared to the original, with most being reached via doors and having the right keycodes. The whole upgrading system is certainly more advanced than in the previous game, but it’s not perfect, as the stats increases are only noticeable in the first stages of the game. Later one receives weapons or upgrades that are so powerful that one doesn’t really care about point distribution anymore.
Too much choice can spoil the gore
Skills can further be improved by augmentations, but as there are so many combinations and the capacity to carry them is limited, their usefulness is questionable. The same holds true for the weapons. The sheer number of them is impressive, but as they’re quite pricey sometimes, buying them in a shop is more of a trouble than just picking them up during missions. The balancing isn’t right, either, because some weapons one can use mid-game can be more powerful than later ones and less expensive. So even if one accumulates enough money, one soon learns only a few items, upgrades, and weapons worth spending it on. Of course it all depends on the class and play-style, so it’s actually great to be given so many choices, something that was lacking in the original. Still, more doesn’t necessarily mean better, as some classes and their abilities seem quite superfluous.
New enemies and even vehicles = new ways of killing
Speaking of more, the number and variety of enemies, including new ones like thorn-spewing plants that can also be used to one’s advantage to damage nasties, on screen is again intimidating, so much in fact that one can’t retreat to a safer distance. Being overwhelmed can happen rather frequently if one isn’t careful how to approach each level, having the right weapon, maybe switching it, and knowing when it’s time to run away if possible. A welcome change to the tried and tested run-and-gun gameplay are the vehicle sections in which one drives a car or even a tank. Mowing down enemies with a machine gun or rocket launchers becomes as satisfying as simply running over them and crushing them. Unfortunately, these parts of the game are a bit too long at times, and the controls aren’t the best, especially when the vehicle can easily get stuck on rocks, fences, or other obstacles.
You can always go the extra gory mile
Gameplay remains largely the same with alien crowd control and learning about their individual attacks, although one has various mission goals with bonus objectives that can also change during missions. It’s also possible to accept side quests to receive items, weapons, and cash as rewards. This makes the rather repetitive slaughterfest of aliens more engaging. While the missions aren’t very memorable, they serve the pacing of the story, because one isn’t simply stuck in one underground base, but also traverses in the wild and to other places. Granted, there’s still a lot to be desired in terms of world-building, but being able to actually talk to people and be given various objectives is a big step up from the arcade-focused original, even if the A.I. isn’t the best, resulting in NPCs being not very helpful in tight situations.
Bloody good looks and bloody good sounds
The game’s graphics and sound are a huge step up from the first game, with atmospheric lighting and weather effects as well as more varied environments and more detailed characters and enemies. With rarely a slowdown, it’s amazing how much the engine can handle, with so many explosions, aliens torn into pieces and all the guts and blood remaining in each level. Only some very long loading times when resuming a saved game can become extremely annoying. In addition to the atmospheric outdoor or indoor graphics, there are some excellent, creepy sound effects, while the voice acting is surprisingly good as well. The rock soundtrack is as motivating as ever, although one shouldn’t expect anything memorable from it.
An extraterrestrial send-off
The reviewed Reloaded version is quite a bit different from the original release, for better and worse. The “Gun Stand” mode is new and a very welcome addition, because it tasks the player to survive an onslaught of enemies that become more dangerous the more one progresses. Being able to upgrade the weapons of the gun stand as well as the barricades with the money earned during the various stages is highly motivating and requires a bit more strategic thinking than the survival mode in the first game. Furthermore, the Reloaded version adds a few new levels and simplifies the RPG system and has several other minor changes. Unfortunately, it has less music, no co-op campaign and no multiplayer which were available in the original and shareware version. Taking into account how much fun playing together with a friend should be, it’s a very disappointing decision not to include this in the revised edition. Smaller levels than in the original is also a strange design decision.
Gory, gorier, Alien Shooter 2
Alien Shooter 2: Reloaded shows how a sequel to an already fun game can be. It looks and sounds better, while the setting is larger, the missions motivate more, and the RPG system gives more freedom in play-styles. However, the story, characters, and world remain unspectacular, and even if blowing aliens into pieces with even more weapons is very entertaining, repetition soon sets in and one sees the cracks of the leveling-up system. Of course this doesn’t mean the game can’t be enjoyed in small bursts. Hopefully the developer will take all the best bits of both titles and deliver a third installment that also features various multiplayer modes, maybe even with up to four or more people.
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