Priding itself on run-and-gun mechanics, Alien Rage promises an old-school PC shooter with a large variety of weapons, enemies and epic boss fights. Unfortunately, what CI Games delivers is a mishmash of old and new mechanics that don’t particularly go well together, which sometimes leads to a “rage induced” environment. The things that Alien Rage does well really shine through, but these successes are met with an equal, if not greater, amount of shortcomings.
The first thing I noticed about Alien Rage was its minimalist approach in regards to visual settings. It only has the basics, such as: texture quality, post-process quality, shadow quality, resolution, etc. and doesn’t go any farther in depth or have a field-of-view option for single player mode. The latter could cause problems for some gamers, as the default field-of-view seems slightly narrow – something that has been known to cause disorientation issues.
However, despite its lack of settings, Alien Rage is a gorgeous-looking game. The texture quality is solid, there’s a large variety of enemy and boss models, the particle effects look nice and there aren’t any major lighting issues. The only problem is that the environments are so repetitive that it felt like I had gone down the same corridor 10 or more times. Though, with a setting like “asteroid space colony,” I suppose there’s going to be only so much variety.
That being said, the game is optimized very poorly; systems that can otherwise easily handle Unreal Engine games are being brought to their knees and are reporting around 40 frames-per-second on medium settings. What’s even worse, though, is that the FPS is highly unstable and can radically change from 60 to single digits over a few seconds; this is especially true during transitional cutscenes where frame rates bottom out for no reason.
Since the game is advertised as a “run-and-gun shooter,” I expected it to at least involve a lot of running and shooting, but what was delivered was, instead, a semi-broken, cover-based shooter. As far as game mechanics go, pretty much everything about Alien Rage has been taken from current era shooters. There’s a convoluted regenerating health system with very slow recovery, no health power-ups, a maximum of two main weapons and one sidearm, and a completely linear scripted storyline.
Essentially, the only thing that feels old-school about Alien Rage is its enraging difficulty level (even on easy), which is due to the fragile nature of the “hero” and the use of modern game mechanics. What’s worse is that most of the cover is either destructible or has small openings allowing for random stray bullets to come through. Combine AI that actually uses cover and adapts to pursue injured players with a hero that can withstand maybe 4-5 shots, and you start to get an idea of how often you’ll die.
If you’re not dying from the hail of enemy gunfire, it’s likely that bugs are going to be the cause of your checkpoint restarts. It can get frustrating after 5 or so attempts at clearing an area only to have a successful run nullified by a broken door, elevator or bridge. I feel like I lost more time repeating areas due to glitched game mechanics than I did on every boss fight combined.
When it comes to the boss fights, they were simply underwhelming. There was barely any skill or strategy needed for any of them. Instead, they required luck, time and repetition. Most boss fights consisted of running around a big open area, getting a few well-placed shots off, taking almost enough damage to die, hiding behind cover to heal, and then repeating the process. Surviving most boss fights really comes down to luck, which is a big negative because fighting giant robots could have been a lot more entertaining than this.
The one thing that Alien Rage excels at is its solid gun mechanics, which is obviously one of the most important aspects of a game based on shooting aliens. Even though some weapons were seemingly superior to others, they all seemed well created. The guns felt as realistic as possible, with adequate recoil and sway during movement (it’s actually hard to hit things while moving or spraying). There are a total of 10 different weapons, each with two modes of fire and varying amounts of usefulness. The biggest downfall is the limit to two primary weapons and the fact that they reset to only the default assault-rifle at the beginning of each level.
In an attempt to add creativity to the gunplay, a bunch of skill shots and achievements were added. It feels like they were trying to mimic Bulletstorm, but fell way short in this aspect. There’s just not enough variety in the bonuses or the perks, and the system fails to stand out. It is slightly entertaining, though, and gives a sense of positive reinforcement for headshotting every enemy.
Overall, Alien Rage is a very transparent game with a number of issues. It’s all about playing a space marine and shooting a lot of aliens; there’s no character development and the story is told entirely through brief audio logs scattered throughout the campaign. At a reduced price of $19.99 though, it may be worth it for a bit of mindless fun. Besides, it’s far from the worst “aliens” game released this year.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which we were provided with.
Alien Rage is far from a perfect specimen, due to bugs and core gameplay issues, but it still manages to pull off great aesthetics and solid gun mechanics.