There is something to be said about giving a game a name that is as blunt as “Alien Shooter”. You instantly know what to expect. There will be aliens and there will be shooting – both of which this game has in abundance. Alas, Alien Shooter is a relic from the past which is as bland and uninspired as its name. Our Review;
Alien Shooter is a twin-stick shooter which has you play as 2 of the most featureless main protagonists I have ever come across. Johnny NoName (the unnamed male of the game) looks like a reject from a mannequin factory while the female (Jenny NoName) is a generic, by-the-numbers space marine. You get to choose between these 2 characters but the choice is entirely cosmetic.
The games Campaign is set in a greyer-than-grey military facility that has been over run by alien scum and it is your job to clear them out. To progress deeper you are tasked to clear each floor of the alien menace and destroy all of their spawn spots.
Alien Shooter does most of the bread-and-butter game play aspects correctly. The aliens are plentiful and varied, often filling a screen as they clamour to kill you. Different coloured aliens have different skills. Green crab-like enemies always seem to come in a huge swarm where as the bigger, orange aliens are mounted with ranged lasers. The deeper you go the more varied and difficult the alien cocktail becomes.
To aid the mission to turn these extra-terrestrials into gibs, your character can use an array of weaponry which can be picked up during levels. There are the dual wielding pistols, the shotgun, an ice-ray, a flame-thrower, a missile launcher, a Gatling-laser and more. You can also upgrade your characters speed, strength, accuracy and health using cybernetic chips which can be bought from the in-game shop.
Unfortunately, this is where the positives of Alien Shooter stop and this bug hunt becomes a monotonous, poorly designed drag.
Let’s start with the controls. As a default, Alien Shooter has something called “Auto Aim” set to “On”. An obvious hang-over from this titles mobile port origin, Auto Aim points your character at the nearest enemy when shooting. While this sounds all well and good, Auto Aim will point at the nearest enemy even when they are on the opposite side of a wall. Walking into a corridor ready to unleash a can of whoop-ass on a group of aliens only to find you are blasting your last rocket into a wall because Auto Aim deems an enemy in another room as closer is infuriating.
What’s more, even with Auto Aim switched off, you never really feel in control of the direction in which your character is shooting. Rather than having a 360 degree firing range (like in which you can move) it feels as though you can only fire in the 8 polar regions (North, North East, East etc.). This might be a draw back from the artificial inaccuracy built in to the game (making sure that the people that bought the game on mobile shell out for those cybernetic upgrades) but for the PSVita, it just doesn’t work.
Next up is the repetitiveness of it all. Shooting at a swarm of alien enemies remains interesting for a very short time before it becomes stale. Alien Shooter does try its best to mix things up but shoots itself in the foot more often than not. On one particular level, the power is off therefore there are no lights and the screen is darker. Rather than adding tension or atmosphere, this just makes it more difficult to see what is going on thanks to all of the grey. On another level, aliens crash out of walls all around you. This would have been a jumpy surprise attack had the shadows of the hidden enemies not been visible through the walls they were hiding in. As you progress, several levels have stationary heavy weapons which you can sit on and fire. While this should have added some excitement to the proceedings, it just makes blowing up the wave of incoming enemies all the more mundane. Alien Shooter just doesn’t have enough substance to its game play to keep it interesting when compared to modern day top down shooters.
And the list of faults goes on. Whenever there are more than a handful of enemies on screen (which is almost the entire time you are playing the game) the frame rate drops and the game stutters. The UI looks cheap and is far from intuitive. The sound track is like a “Please Try Me” demo CD of an experimental synth-mental band that was left in the bathroom of a back-alley rock bar.
When Alien Shooter first released on the PC back in 2003, it was a basic but enjoyable top down shooter with slick game play that was a little ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the port onto mobile platforms and then subsequent port on to PSVita has not been kind on this ageing title. What remains is a clunky mess that is showing its age when compared to the recent releases like Hotline Miami 2 and LA Cops. While shooting aliens seems like a timeless gaming trope, time has taken its toll on Alien Shooter.
Developer: Sigma Team
Publisher: Sigma Team
In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of Alien Shooter from the PlayStation Store.
Alien Shooter is available now for Windows PC (via Steam), Android, iOS and PSVita (version reviewed).