CI Games’ Alien Rage has taken it’s time coming to digital platforms, and is still yet to make an appearance on consoles. Exactly what the hold-up has been – name change aside – is not known, but given that Alien Rage has the slick presentation of a first-person shooter (FPS) that reflects back on the days of QUAKE II while taking advantage of modern hardware, few fans of the genre are about to complain.
This is a no-nonsense FPS in the vein of Bodycount. Yes, that’s Codemasters frequently chastised title that clearly suffered from a case of mistaken identity. Not every FPS has to be Call of Duty or Battlefield, nor do they have to be Halo or Killzone. Every now and then there’s room for something a little less po-faced; something a little less Hollywood; something in which earning a high score is more important than being the hero.
Alien Rage casts in as a lone space marine on a planet which humanity once claimed until an alien race initiated an unprovoked attack. Your mission is to land on the planet and attempt to make peace with the aliens or failing that eradicate them. Of course, it’s only moments into the videogame that you decide to abandon protocol and let the ugly mothers have it. After all, this wouldn’t be a balls-to-the-wall action videogame if it there was diplomacy involved.
And that’s exactly what Alien Rage is. This is not a videogame that offers political insight or social commentary, nor does it try to redefine the FPS genre in the face of hardware progression. The few attempts at gracing the gameplay with a holier-than-thou storyline fall flat as, for all its attempts at creating character, you simply can’t wait to get back to the blasting of faceless enemies. But of course, that’s a good thing: the act of being better than your enemies is so much fun that it stands head-and-shoulders above anything else in the videogame. One can only hope this is what CI Games were aiming for, as in this alone Alien Rage is a success.
The levels are designed to make use of the videogame’s unique selling point: its score attack system. Players are rewarded for kills of all kinds, with special kills such as headshots and explosions offering more points and combos increasing the score even further. However, this isn’t Bulletstorm. The enemies are more than just puppets for your kill counter and will frequently attack in packs with firepower that far outweighs your own. Given that each enemy is fully capable of being a threat alone the player will often find themselves on the back foot and in need of an alternative to direct combat.
Alien Rage provides this by including many interactive elements throughout the levels that will give the player the upper hand. In the first ten minutes alone you’ll come across a room which can be set alight from the safety of a balcony, eliminating all enemies via explosions and propagating fire, and immediately after a rockslide can be initiated in a tunnel should the player demonstrate their ability to create forceful impact with precision aim. These elements litter the environments in almost every room or corridor, leading to second or third plays that result in much greater scores in a quicker time.
The campaign is relatively short-lived, but not so much that the player will feel cheated. Of course, alongside this comes Alien Rage’s multiplayer, which is a pleasant if uncomplicated affair. Deathmatch and Team Deathmantch, quick matches or a server list; that’s all there is to it. Get in a match, grab a gun, shoot your enemies. Immediate and unrelenting is Alien Rage at it’s best, and the multiplayer gameplay has been design to reflect this. Sadly, CI Games have taken the odd decision of not including the multiplayer component in the console release, potentially harming the appeal of the videogame to a significant percentage of it’s audience.
The visual design of Alien Rage may well be something of a cliché, but at a time when the industry is more concerned with zombie hordes than space marines it sits far better than would be expected. The gruff don’t-want-to-be-a-hero voice acting is a stretch too far, but the visual design that coats most environments with a blue tint and bright lights is a strangely welcome approach. The enemy design is also of a good quality, from military operatives to armoured beasts and much more besides, and each is instantly recognisable allowing the player to decide upon their tactics for each bout of combat early.
A mid-range production offered at a budget price, Alien Rage is most certainly a well positioned videogame. In the face of the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield it’s never going to hit the headlines, but for an experienced gamer its tactical action is surely a vital piece of the gameplay design puzzle that is missed. Ultimately, the appeal of Alien Rage lies within its gunplay. If you have fond memories of a time when FPS videogames demanded that the player be quick with their aim and even quicker with their trigger finger it’s more than likely that Alien Rage will be an eye-opening modern action experience.