When I first sat down to play Alien Rage on a high powered PC with a gaming keyboard and mouse and an extremely nice set of headphones, I expected nothing more than a generic space shooter, another example of moving down corridors, shooting everything that moves until some arbitrary voice tells me to stop doing so. For the most part, that’s exactly what I got, however, what I didn’t expect was for it to invoke similar emotions to playing early games in the first person genre. A little bit of Duke Nukem meets Alien Breed, the shock factor of Doom meeting the space elements of Quake. Alien Rage is one part crazy, one part violent fun, and all parts surprisingly entertaining.
My demo of Alien Rage started down a narrow corridor, the view outside of the windows confirmed that I was indeed in outer space and I had no choice but to move forward. Without an introduction to the game, being told instead to just “get started” (a method of demoing I much prefer, if the game’s good enough you shouldn’t need an intro), I had no idea what kind of enemies I would be facing off against, what kind of abilities they would have or (more worryingly) how to combat those potential abilities. This is the first point at which Alien Breed feels like an old school first person shooter, just being left to your own devices and having to figure out for yourself which things work best against certain enemies. During my time with Alien Rage I came across three distinct types of enemies – although judging by the style of the game, and the obvious reliance on old-school styles, there’s going to be a lot more in the final game – who, for the purposes of this preview, I’ll call the Grunt (normal soldier, nothing special except quick movements and an even quicker trigger finger), the Stealther (an enemy which has the ability to turn invisible and get right up in your face), and the Boomer (a heavy-type enemy wielding explosives, usually a rocket launcher, who explodes on death). All of these enemies require different methods to take them down and, in classic old-school style, you’ll have to keep your wits about you if you expect to survive, as the appearance of just one of these enemies when you’re not expecting it can cause serious problems.
The Grunt is obviously the easiest enemy to take down, being the foot soldier of this particular alien race. There’s nothing special about them, they have standard alien technology as weaponry (which the player is able to collect and use themselves) and go down the quickest, after just a couple of shots. Their main advantage, however, is that they very rarely come alone. There’s usually a group of them ready to swarm you just around the corner, and that’s where the orange crystals come in – which I’ll get to later. The Stealthers go down as quickly as the Grunts when shot, but actually finding them to shoot them is the tricky part. As mentioned earlier, the Stealthers have the ability to turn invisible and sneak up on the player. The only way you’ll be able to see them is by either watching them turn invisible (giving you the advantage of roughly knowing where they are) or by looking for the very slight effect that gives them away, a sort of rippling of the light around where they are. There is a third way of finding them too: just spraying bullets and hoping that you hit them as a single bullet will cause the cloaking effect to disappear momentarily. There are moments when the ammunition in Alien Rage is scarce though, so that third option really isn’t advisable. The last of the enemies, the Boomer, is the most fun to take down, but also the most difficult. Equipped with heavy weaponry – during the demo, this was a rocket launcher – they pack a serious punch and should be handled with care. The fun part about these enemies is that when they die, they explode, taking down any other enemies with their immediate vicinity. As you can imagine, this means that it makes a lot of sense to empty as many bullets into these guys as it takes, as soon as they appear – especially if there are other enemies around them.
Speaking of explosions, the world of Alien Rage has two types of crystals littered around it. Blue crystals are stable and make up the vast majority of the colour palette which you’ll be seeing, but the other colour that you’ll see are the orange crystals, and these are far from stable. Orange crystals are liberally located around the game and, when shot, will explode with immediate effect, taking out all of the enemies in the vicinity and taking down pre-determined structures in order to help your own progress, or hinder the enemy’s. There were various moments throughout the demo where the most logical option in order to progress through the game was to blow something into tiny little pieces.
Throughout my time with Alien Rage I felt like I was playing a classic first person shooter, with all of the positives that come with that, but without any of the negatives. The visuals are stunning, provided by the Unreal Engine 3, and the weaponry and enemy variety seems to be rather good, although, admittedly, this impression is based on the fact that I had access to quite a few weapons during my 20 minute play session. Alien Rage is scheduled to release later on in the year on Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Steam. Hopefully, the relatively cheap price for a game as fun as this will help it to sell well. I certainly had fun with it and I can’t wait to empty my rage on more aliens later on in the year.