Good news for anyone that had grown tired of my incessant whining (borderline, and besides, I call it ‘artistic longing’), Aliens vs. Romans (80 MSP) made its late April launch and has been in the hands of a patient indie crowd for just under a week. So, after a pair of so-so, tide-me-over side projects and a handful of trailers that were set to stunning, is Aliens vs. Romans as groundbreaking as it claims?
Yes and no. The game attempts to rewrite history by providing an alternate ending to the fall of the Roman Empire— Aliens did it. Awkwardly-somersaulting aliens with energy-based weaponry, to be exact. To take the republic back, you’ll need to commandeer said guns (and try some others that are graciously beamed down to you) in order to forcefully evict said extraterrestrials. Set in our hero Jonas’ hometown of Coloseo, you’ll fight wave after wave of enemies in a mid-sized arena with decent cover and vantage points.
Trailers and screenshots make it plainly evident, but I’ll go ahead and still state the obvious: Aliens vs. Romans is a beautiful game, right up there with Shark Attack Deathmatch in terms of XBLIGs that can match the visual fidelity of Arcade or even Retail games. So, ‘groundbreaking’ as far as looks, yes. If you’re not a shallow ass, though, you’ll know that you should never date a game based on appearance, as it’s what’s on the inside, the personality, that you should praise and pay attention to.
In this regard, A vs. R isn’t bad either. There’s only so many ways to dress up a wave shooter, and this game tries on every dress in the store. Your ultimate goal is to take down the mothership terrorizing your town. In the interim, you have your prototypical numbered rounds, where you’ll simply gun down every alien, sure, but these are bookended by other wave types that inject some needed variety. This includes ‘Predator’ battles (cloaked foes), ‘Turret’ waves (stationary guns that pack a punch), and ‘Dropship’ segments (lock-on missiles are your friend), all while working with new weapons (a shotgun type, scoped varieties (including thermal vision), and a grenade launcher) that are doled out over the course of the fight.
Hate to see you go, love to watch you blow up.
While the controls, AI, and weapon variety are solid, Player Health can be an issue, particularly against the stationary turrets and mothership / dropship missiles, which can end your life in one volley. Yes, to be fair, health regenerates. You can earn extra lives, too, and it’s not like the game is unconquerable in its current form, though the absence of a continue option or saved progress might impede some players. It’s on the short side in content, as well. The lack of additional modes, scoring, and / or an unlimited run means A vs. R is limited. You can bring down the mothership in roughly 35-40 minutes (about 15 waves), with only a hint at future trouble (i.e., the obligatory sequel setup) for your reward.
Aliens vs. Romans does a great job in remixing the bored-to-death formula of most wave shooters, but it still falls victim to the same genre faults of repetition and subsequent tedium. It’s a good trade for a dollar, just a superficial joy, with no incentive to return to it once you’ve cleared it. To put it another way, Sick Kreations’ alternate Rome is a beautiful place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.