Between its flashy explosions and deep weapon customisation, the PlayStation 4's latest co-op action role-playing game is transforming me into a ruthless alien killing machine. Want to watch? Released yesterday on the PlayStation 4 from Housemarque, the creators of Super Stardust and Resogun, Alienation is a co-op multiplayer alien murder simulator. One could call it Diablo-esque, only instead of saving a fictional land from spiritual evil we're saving the real world from alien evil. If you've played Housemarque's Dead Nation, the developer considers this its spiritual successor.
Aliens have taken over the Earth, which sucks. Luckily these aliens explode easily and in spectacular fashion, and humanity has just the tools for the job. Those tools are tasked with completing a series of missions aimed at ending the alien threat once and for all.
Rather than simply tell you how a mission in Alienation plays out, I recorded a 22 minute video without commentary so I could show you.
Then I went through the video second-by-second, recording time stamps and screens so those of you who prefer to be told can follow along.
Let's do this!
00:00: My Saboteur
This is my saboteur. There are many like him, seeing as he is one of three armour types players can choose from when the game starts, but this one is mine.
I could have chosen to be the brutish tank, with its increased melee strength and superior firepower.
Or I could have chosen the bio-saboteur, a sort of wizard capable of healing allies and harming enemies with swarms of nanobots.
But no, I choose the stealthy, teleporting rogue of the group.
00:05: Around The World
The initial campaign for Alienation involves travelling to various locations in an effort to rid our planet of the invading alien hordes. Once a mission is chosen, the player can select whether to create a new party (open, friends only or invite required) or join an existing one. As the game just launched, there are plenty of strangers online to play with.
I managed to hop into a game with Stephen Totilo over the weekend, where I learned an unfortunate fact: Alienation does not level match. At the time he was level 13 and I was level 4, and I was killed so many times. Then he came into my game and blew through a mission like it wasn't even there. Player levels and equipment matter here.
00:45: We Now Join Our Mission, Already In Progress
From selecting my character to a group with three strangers in under a minute, Alienation is pretty quick when it comes to getting players into the action.
There's no voice chat for Alienation between strangers (friends can always party up). Instead, players communicate via a simple series of audio emotes. "Wait." "Over here." "Nice." Short and sweet.
As long as players stick together, no deeper communication is necessary to enjoy Alienation's gorgeous explosions. While the sprawling maps are filled to the brim with aliens, all players need do is follow the map pointers to accomplish their mission.
01:08: Burn, Baby, Burn
It was about this time that I discovered that there were enemies that could shoot flame. In earlier missions, along with an SMG in my main slot and a shotgun in my secondary, my heavy weapon of choice was a flamethrower, so initially I thought these were my pals.
They are not my pals.
02:27: Upgrade If You Got 'Em
See the white gears over the other players' heads? That means they are in menus, upgrading their equipment, salvaging upgrade materials from junk or assigning skill points earned by levelling up.
If you are playing with strangers, try to save your business until everyone else is ready. Otherwise you get bored, wander off and die.
04:00: Horde Approaching
One of several random events that occur during missions, when the "Horde Approaching" message flashes across the screen you'd better have a lot of ammo on hand.
There are always a lot of enemies coming at you in Alienation. Horde events turn the enemy dial up to "Oh god we're going to die."
06:08: It's My Turn
Thrill as I swap out weapons using green, blue, purple or (one day) orange equipment! Gasp as I put a skill point into movement speed!
Diablo-style equipment grading aside, Alienation gear loadout and customisation gets pretty deep. Unwanted equipment can be salvaged for materials that can be used to attempt to reroll weapon stats (there's a chance they will get worse.) Blue and better weapons have a skill tree that can be filled with various grades of materials, making them more powerful and unlocking special skills.
Players will learn to love these menus.
07:31: Kill The Xenos Commander
Here's another event that randomly spawns during missions. A super-powerful alien threat appears on the map. If the players take it out, they get goodies. Players love the goodies.
These fights can be tough solo. In a group of four when one of the players is armed with a tricked-out rocket launcher, they are brief but rewarding nonetheless.
09:02: Death To Respawn Beacons
As players progress through a mission they encounter a number of respawn beacons, which can be activated to serve as save points. The natural instinct is to activate them whenever possible. This is wrong and bad.
Every destroyed respawn beacon adds to the players' spoils at the end of the match, as long as they survive to it. Up until the point in the video above my team was activating them. My shooting it probably confused them. They probably thanked me later.
09:45: We Don't Need To Be Here
The area above has absolutely nothing to do with the mission we were on. It was just an open door we came across while travelling that we collectively decided to explore. Many things died for our curiosity.
13:20: Super Powers
Alienation is a flashy game, and it doesn't get much flashier than this.
That's my Artillery Strike skill, which sends out concentric circles from each player in range, marking enemies within range for aerial bombardment. Bio-specialists get a poison cloud and tanks get an energy discharge. This bit of awesome here is saboteur-exclusive.
I point out the move because of my play session with Totilo on Sunday. My activating Artillery Strike was the only point at which he was impressed by my performance. I save it for special occasions.
15:53: Blowing The Bridge, Or At Least Everything On It
Things blow up real good in Alienation. Explosions are gorgeous balls of smoke and fire, and this trip across the bridge is filled with them.
Vehicles explode. Certain enemies explode. Explosions chain, leading to gorgeous conflagrations that extend farther than the eye can see.
Originally this entire post was going to be about the explosions. In a way it still is.
22:00: The Home Stretch
Finally we reach the last few exploding aliens of our mission. I skipped a little more than six minutes between the last time stamp and this one, as we've pretty much gone over the basics to this point. All that's left is to reach the evac chopper, collect our gear and go home.
24:00: Mission Accomplished
It was a long row to hoe, but we were just the bros to hoe it.
Despite coming in late I managed to fire more shots than my companions and take less damage in the process, which seems to indicate I was shooting at nothing while they did all the work. Not true! I did not have the least kills! Just the third-least.
Once the mission is over players can choose to stick together for the next one or exit the group to write a lengthy article about Alienation. I chose the latter.
I've got plenty more to do in Alienation. Stephen tells me that there are 19 scripted missions and a 20th unscripted one that must be cleared without any checkpoints. Once that's cleared the world resets and advances to level two, where the missions feature new enemy patterns, new side missions and plenty of exciting new alien meat to detonate.
Honestly they had me with the explosions, but I'm going to stick with Alienation to see where this trail of smoking bodies leads.