Say what you will about twin-stick shooters, but there’s something quote hypnotic and addictive about them, Housemarque’s Dead Nation released on PS3 (later PS4 and Vita) was the perfect example of this, breathing new life into the underrepresented genre and in some ways reinventing it. Now almost 6 years later, Alienation has arrived and as such iterated on the Dead Nation formula very successfully, earning its namesake and giving top down shoot ‘em up fans more of what they love.
If there’s one aspect in which this spiritual successor perfects the formula already established by Dead Nation, it’s almost certainly in its depth. Whereas Dead Nation’s campaign relied heavily on a set narrative, Alienation recognises how important and fun its gameplay is and places this firmly in the foreground, bringing in a deeper upgrade system and multiple characters.
The classes on offer here feel a lot more like a shell as opposed to fully fleshed out characters, but don’t worry, this is a good thing. Alienation lets you customise and build your class the way you want, encouraging you to try out multiple configurations and upgrades to discover which best suits your play style. Detailed systems such as this are what keeps players coming back to play and is more align with the twin-stick shooter mentality, being wildly different to Dead Nation’s ‘one and done’ story campaign.
Whilst Dead Nation had a pretty serious tone and atmosphere that perfectly worked for its subject matter, Alienation shares more in common with the likes of Starship troopers and Helldivers, and not just because of the intergalactic setting either. Alienation overall feels a lot campier, coinciding with it’s over the top gameplay mechanics and enemy types to take its time to have fun with itself. Alienation is an enjoyable experience that is most definitely a result of its world and tone.
Certain gameplay elements first seen in Dead Nation also translate over, carrying more weight this time round in Alienation. As most will know, crowd control cannot be underrated in this type of game, with grenades being key in the event that you get swarmed by both zombies and aliens alike. Whereas Dead Nation showed you the area of effect upon throwing a grenade into the hoard, Alienation takes this one step further by allowing you to detonate it on command, leaving it less to risk whilst still making sense in the futuristic setting.
Obviously, the addition of two more co-op partners is always a very welcome addition, so if you are looking for the best 2 player PS4 games (heck, you can even play with 4 players) look no further. Each class perfectly balanced to ensure you gain the best advantage possible when taking on the various enemy types. Alienation perfectly encapsulates on that “just one more game” mentality that Dead Nation never even attempted. Introducing a shoot and loot mechanic by drawing some inspiration from Diablo to never fail to keep you coming back for more.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone to say that if you even slightly enjoy games like Dead Nation, you’ll love Alienation. The game is Housemarque’s successful attempt to perfect that established formula, recognising the successful mechanics and hooks of its predecessor and gamifying them in such a way that makes it much more enjoyable!