With so many first-person shooters on the market, new entries need a hook that'll get players interested, whether it's cooperative play, amazing multiplayer or a fantastic story. For Alien Rage, the upcoming downloadable shooter from CI Games, that hook is the mixing of old-school mechanics with more modern ones to make an interesting combination.
The demo version at E3 2013 featured two levels, though time constraints only gave us the opportunity to play one stage. It showcased an element that people have come to accept from modern first-person shooters: Your hero can only carry a limited amount of guns at a time. As such, he discards the currently held weapon if the player picks up a new one. Your health system is regenerative as long as you stay out of combat for a while, and guns always require reloading due to limited clip size.
Enemies try to take cover, and while some just run into you, most try more tactical approaches if they have a chance to overwhelm you. New enemy types get introductory cut scenes before fighting against you, and there's always a constant stream of banter between you and your companions, who are safe somewhere else while you're doing the fighting. There are a few differences, such as enemies who shock you so their comrades can get in a few shots, but generally, this will all seem very familiar.
There were a few things that stood out about Alien Rage. The first is the sense that the game is trying to mix some classic shooter elements with new mechanics that people have come to expect. Taking a few pages from EA's over-the-top shooter, Bulletstorm, the title comes with a scoring system where every kill gives you points based on how the kill was performed. It's best to dispatch foes with a series of headshots and multi-kills to quickly increase the score. Facilitating these high scores is the presence of red barrels. Well, OK, they aren't exactly barrels in this game, but they produce the same effect when shot, and the explosions and on-screen kill notices produce the same amount of glee.
Another standout feature is the graphics. Though Alien Rage is still using Unreal Engine 3, the amount of tweaking done to that engine is extraordinary, as it has some of the hallmarks of bigger budget titles. There are plenty of particle effects littering the screen, with floating dust particles being the most prominent items. Gunfire gives off lots of heat trails that bend the appearance of whatever is in their path, and some of the glass doors also do a good job with the warping effect. Lens flare is very prevalent here, with just about every light source available trying to produce enough to rival a J.J. Abrams movie. About the only signs that this is still using old technology are the small texture swaps that occasionally occur and the bulky look of your character and the enemies. Still, the game looks gorgeous enough to catch the attention of people milling around the E3 show floor.
One final interesting tidbit of information comes from the game's pricing structure. For the PSN and XBLA version, Alien Rage will be $15. For the PC version, though, it'll be $20. When we inquired about the price difference, we were told that it's because the PC version will feature a multiplayer component, which the console versions will not have at launch. It is still up for consideration, though, but it looks like the PC version will initially be more complete, and the price reflects that.
Alien Rage looks interesting and plays pretty well. With only a few more months to go before its September release, here's hoping the final product is as fun as the demo.
More articles about Alien Rage