By: David Tavernier
Alien Rage is the latest offering from CI games, a publisher/developer that was established back in 2002. It attempts to go back in time, providing an old-school shooter very much like Serious Sam or Painkiller in that it sends wave after wave of quickly moving, relentless enemies directly at you. At the same time it also incorporates some elements from modern shooters, such as limited weapon carrying capacity and regenerating life. Do the styles mesh? Let’s find out.
The controls of Alien Rage are very much based on the stereotypical modern shooter. You can carry a pistol and two additional guns that can be swapped with any other guns that drop from fallen Vorus warriors. Aiming and firing are standard fare, and each gun also has a unique secondary fire option that is activated via the right shoulder button — for example, the pistol fires a burst shot while the assault rifle launches a grenade (the game features 10 distinct weapons in all, each with its own secondary fire option).
Each weapon can be used to melee an enemy by pressing in the right stick; this can be very useful against invisible enemies that sneak up close before attacking. You can also sprint by pressing in the left stick, and there is no stamina bar in Alien Rage so you can sprint as long as you want. In this way progressing through each map is a breeze, and running from powerful enemies is also an effective strategy. Jumping (typically ineffective because you can’t jump very high) and crouching (very useful when there is cover available) round out your options. All in all the controls function very well. The only gripe is that aiming can be a pain, especially when enemies are close.
The graphics here improve as you progress through the game. Even though Alien Rage makes use of the Unreal Engine, at first sight I thought things couldn’t have looked worse. However, later on the levels actually started to look pretty elaborate, with nicely done bump mapping on ground and wall textures. The bosses were also well-designed Mechs that looked as imposing as they were dangerous.
As a nice auditory touch, there is even an announcer just like in the original Unreal Tournament that triumphantly proclaims whenever you score a double kill, a headshot, or detonate a barrel for an explosion kill. This adds to the arcade-like feel of the game. The voice acting in Alien Rage is well done. The main character is connected to two AI’s that often banter about whatever the main character is doing. These AI’s often serve as witty comic relief that is a welcome change of pace. The music, however, was forgettable as I have a hard time recalling the melody of a single track.
The basic premise of Alien Rage is that you have arrived at a space station far from earth that is currently being overrun by a warlike alien species called the Vorus. At one time, humanity and the Vorus were at peace, but due to conflicts over an extremely energetic element called Promethium being mined at the space station, they are at war. It is your task as a lone space marine to fight back against the alien horde.
Alien Rage is, in general, fun and exciting to play, but the game does get monotonous over time. Even after you come to grips with the limited scope of weapons and the different types of aliens, sometimes the combat seems like an exercise in repetition. There are invisible aliens that rush at you, firing an shotgun. There are aliens that fire barrages of orange plasma at you from medium range. And then there are aliens that typically stay far away and fire rockets or a sniper rifle at you. Beyond these, though, and the occasional gigantic boss, there is little enemy variety to be found.
There are positives to the combat, however. Popping headshots is almost always a joy. Landing a well placed rocket between several enemies and watching their bodies fly through the air is equally pleasurable. If you can imagine what it would be like to play Gears of War as a first-person shooter, that would be the way I could best describe Alien Rage. You have to move from cover to cover, ducking down and then peeking out in order to fire critically aimed shots at alien heads/bodies.
The story in Alien Rage is mostly told by audio recordings that can be found strewn about each level. These recordings fill in the back story of how the Vorus and humanity came to fight against each other. Even with these recordings, however, the story is somewhat nonsensical. I had a hard time connecting the endless battles against wave after wave of enemies to the storyline being told.
All told, the single-player campaign took about 11 hours to complete, and I feel like that alone justifies the $14.99 asking price. There are also higher difficulty modes and leaderboards if you crave extra longevity. It’s worth noting that even on the easiest difficulty, Alien Rage presents a decent challenge, especially some of the bosses; so if you’re looking for a casual FPS you should look elsewhere.
For first-person shooter fans, Alien Rage is a good buy, as it successfully takes several elements from a plethora of classic FPS titles and combines them effectively. It’s not a big-budget title, but if you can move past the mediocre graphics there’s a possible cult classic to be found here.