CI Games is no stranger to first person shooters, since one of their biggest hits is the Sniper: Ghost Warrior series. Their new sci-fi FPS Alien Rage: Unlimited takes a step away from Ghost Warrior by focusing on fast paced arcade-style action with tons of explosions and automatic weapons. Alien Rage runs off the Unreal 3 engine, and between the gameplay and the narrator calling out your killing sprees- it feels a lot like the old Unreal Tournament games.
Alien Rage is one of the few shooters I've played in a long time that places the scoring system as an important part of gameplay, since your score unlocks player perks like extended magazines and damage resistance. You obviously get points for killing aliens, but you get more for headshots, explosions, and sprees. I liked the multiplayer rewards system being placed in the single player campaign, it gave a nice twist that encouraged me to fight stylishly instead of efficiently, which really fits the action movie tone.
The story is your standard sci-fi fare: Humans discover an asteroid that could solve an energy crisis back on Earth, but after we set up a mining facility with a faction of aliens, they decide to kill everyone and take over the asteroid. That's where you step in- Jack the Space Marine, ass-kicker extraordinaire. Your mission: kill a bunch of aliens, infiltrate the facility, and blow it up. Because if mankind can't have it, no one can. The only backup you have is a female A.I. and what I think is an old army buddy of Jack's talking through a comm-link. Jack's witty one-liners range from "No room for a logic circuit?" to "F**k you!", and the dialogue between him and his two cohorts is just as inspired. I can't for the life of me understand why they would give you two back-at-base buddies to talk to you throughout the game. Their banter gets annoying after a while, since they bicker with each other about as often as they say anything helpful. Every level has three hidden audio logs that provide more background for the relationship between the humans and Vorus, but it's not much deeper or innovative than the surface story. But you know what? The thin story and lame dialogue didn't bother me that much- because when I play Alien Rage, I'm not in it for the story or to learn about the rich Vorus culture- I'm in it to shoot big guns and blow up as many aliens as possible. And that's what Alien Rage does best.
There's your standard FPS arsenal: pistol, shotguns, assault rifles, snipers, and of course, a BFG. Each gun also has an alt-fire that usually causes some kind of explosion by lobbing a grenade or shooting a giant energy pulse. There's also a melee attack, but the physics around it are hilariously wonky. For some reason, your melee attacks have more blowback than an explosive barrel; but it makes earning melee sprees entertaining, even if it doesn't make sense that your punches have the force of a Fus Ro Dah. The one thing that kept bugging me is that for some reason, you can't jump high enough to get on a two foot tall box. If you can't jump high enough to do anything, why have a jump at all?
One arcade-era absence I was grateful for is the 'limited time invincibility bonus!' Instead, you get a minigun, which is by far the best gun in the game. So instead of picking up a cube that lets you walk through whatever enemies come next regardless of how good you are, you just get a kickass gun. And since you usually have to get it from an enemy heavy that's using it against you, you have to earn that BFG.
The graphics in Alien Rage are really good, but it seems to have an issue with frame rates. I don't have the best gaming set up, but I had to have the graphics turned down to medium just to play it- even then, it slowed down to a chug when there were multiple explosions on screen (which happened as often as you'd expect in a game full of guns and grenades that takes place in a mine). I've seen similar complaints on forums, plus a few people complaining about other glitches. I never experienced anything game-breaking, the worst I came across was the one time I had to restart from a checkpoint because the warrior that was supposed to clear my path didn't spawn. Other than that, I only got a few floating limbs from blown-up corpses.
The enemies you come across are diverse lot. There's three standard classes: the grunts that turn invisible and shank you- these guys should always be your priority targets; your standard warriors, each of them with enough firepower to kill you by themselves; and the grenadiers, which are essentially heavily armed warriors that only use their explosive alt-fires. Eventually, special forces will get thrown into the mix, like the minigun-wielding heavies (each one of these guys is like a miniboss by themselves) and the jetpack warriors. I loved killing the jetpack warriors- they always go limp, tailspin into the nearest wall and explode. Imagine that the three stooges were heavily armed aliens with M-80s strapped to their backs, it's hilarious.
The multiplayer is fun, if a bit repetitive. All of the required skill and action from the campaign are in the multiplayer, but the few times I logged in the only two game types were Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. It would have been nice to have some objective-based games just to mix it up a bit. The community is pretty small right now, so maybe they just don't have the base for games like that. Because there's so few people playing right now, you usually fight the same people over and over again, and the games have a slower pace since there's not a lot happening. But when you get in a confrontation it's way more intense than the campaign, especially in the Team Deathmatch games. Hopefully the community picks up a bit so the multiplayer can really shine.
My ultimate verdict of Alien Rage: Unlimited is that the story and dialog aren't anything new or interesting. In fact, there isn't much about this game that brings anything new to the table. But there's a lot about it that hits you right in the nostalgia. If you grew up Unreal Tournament and Halo like I did, and you're looking for a game where you blow stuff because it's fun- Alien Rage: Unlimited is worth your $19.99.