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Old 02-06-2009, 04:09 AM   #1
J Arcane
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[J's List #5] Alien Shooter Vengeance: Against the Badly-acted Hordes

This week's List entry touches on one of my favorite fetishes, and no, I don't mean the "in the sack" variety:



Alien Shooter: Vengeance

PC, 2007

Ever since I was a young lad, there's been a strange fascination within me for horde attack scenarios. One lone man fighting off a sea of enemies, his back to the wall, doing his best to make a last stand against impossible odds, until finally beset and ripped apart. Zombie hordes, alien menaces, hell I'd even consider actually playing the Germans in a WWII game if it meant desperately fighting off the Red Tide. It's one of the few sure fire ways to get me in the door on a game, so when I saw Alien Shooter: Vengeance pop up on Gametap, I had to download it and give it a shot.

Alien Shooter: Vengeance is the descendant of a whole line of "Shooter" games from Sigma Team. Technically I think it's even supposed to continue some kind of marginal story from the previous game, but it's really hard to tell, on account of the story that is present in Alien Shooter: Vengeance is barely there, and completely and utterly awful when present. The writing is bad, the plot makes no sense, the voice overs are terrible, and yet at one point an actual plot decision rears it's head that hinges on you caring about one of the characters, which surprised me to no end because all of the characters were utterly and completely forgettable on a level I've never before witnessed in a game. There's even a couple alternate endings, for some reason, though I couldn't for the life of me figure out how they worked because, again, they hinged on me being able to somehow care about or make sense of the plot, which as I've stated, is basically impossible.

Thankfully however, the gameplay hits all the right notes. AS:V is a strange cross between multi-direction shooter a la Smash TV, and Diablo, but with fixed level layouts. As you mow through hordes of things you'll find various gear and ammo, earn XP to help level up your character, and find cash which can be used to buy bigger and badder guns and armor. The game levels are usually pretty simplistic point A to point B sorts of things, with the occasional alternate path or switch/cardkey puzzle, but a few levels actually break out of the mold, including an indoor vehicle rampage in a Warthog-like 4x4 complete with bloody tire prints, a tank level or two, and one level that even lets you take remote control of a security robot armed with two big fucking lasers.

Of course, a game like this is made or broken on it's combat, and thankfully, that's it's greatest strength. It trips all the right pleasure zones for those like me seeking balls to the wall pure fucking carnage of epic proportions. The sheer waves of enemies are paralleled by nothing I have ever played, like oceans of pure alien death, flowing into rooms and through walls and even out of the ground at times, all headed straight for you, and determined to rip you twelve superfluous new assholes before finally devouring the dismembered pieces of your corpse. It is not at all uncommon, or an exaggeration, for a given wave in some of the later levels to involve hundreds upon hundreds, or even into the thousands, of foes. I forget exactly what my highest kill count in a level was, but I'm pretty sure it approached 8000 at least.

Fortunately, your character is no less capable of dismembering them before they can succeed, a feat which is animated on one's screen with absolute rivers of blood and alien parts, which squish and crunch beneath your feet, and in the case of some of the vehicle levels, one can even leave tracks through.

And the difficulty curve of the game is crafted just so, that it never ceases to be anything but white knuckle thrills the whole way through, in part because of the brilliant way the game introduces new enemies. Each new enemy encountered is tougher than the last, usually introduced one or two at a time, but as the levels progress, before long you're encountering several at once, then waves, then those waves become almost commonplace as yet another even tougher baddy suddenly appears as the big dog in town, and the whole time you find yourself involuntarily screaming phrases like "Sweet Jesus, what the hell is THAT? OH FUCK THERE'S TWO OF THEM?! OH MOTHER FUCK ME IN HELL HOW MANY MORE ARE THERE??!!"

This is of course, as one might imagine, fucking awesome, and so goddamn fun that when you finally manage to mop up that last little ankle biter in the latest wave you find yourself simultaneously relieved and disappointed, as now you have to tromp forth in search of a whole new tide of alien death to face. The level and gear curve help you keep up with each new onslaught, but only just, so you're always challenged, but it keeps throwing enough of the lesser cannon fodder at you to never make you feel you've not accomplished anything.

My only complaint is that with the levels being fixed, and by and large nothing in them randomized, once you've been through the game once, there's not much urge to go back and do it again, and the game's short length means that that first level won't even have faded much in your mind on the second playthrough. Despite me having somehow earned the "Bad ending" to the game, I couldn't bring myself to go back through it again, earn the same levels, the same guns, and so forth. There's a bone or two thrown at extending the gameplay and encouraging replay, in the form of online scoreboards and multiplayer, as well as a survival mode, but none of them capture the feel of the main game well enough to be worth the time. I even tried several of Sigma Team's other games, I think Zombie Shooter even made my list as well mainly for being even shorter than AS:V, but they were all rather short of AS:V's mark.

Still, it's definitely worth a download, Gametap has it, and Steam sells it for a mere $5, making it more than worth the price of entry to one of the most visceral and thrilling games you will ever play.
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Last edited by J Arcane; 02-06-2009 at 06:30 PM.
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