As a launch title for the PS4, Resogun was a fantastic addition to that initial lineup and one that wowed reviewers and players alike. The intense shooter action mixed with some of the most amazing particle effects yet seen on a next-gen console helped to effortlessly propel the PS4 to the top of the pack. Now, Housemarque has dipped their toe into voxel infested waters once again and released their newest title, Nex Machina. The game is set in a time where humans are too connected to their electronic devices to notice that the robots they created to make their lives easier have become sentient and decided to wipe out their creators. This is the ultimate top-down voxel shooter where everything can be blown to pieces so you can free the human race.
Never a company to rest on its laurels, Housemarque wanted to create something new that was based in the history of the medium. In order to do that , they reached out to famed designer Eugene Jarvis (Robotron, Smash TV) to help them get the feel of this game just right. Nex Machina is a top-down twin-stick arcade shooter that features fast-paced, in-your-face action with tight controls and oodles of replay-ability. You take on the role of the unnamed protagonist as you race to save the hapless humans before they are assimilated by the robot infestation. Sometimes you can save them all, but you will often have to decide on your survival over theirs in order to make it through the levels.
Gameplay is exactly what you would expect out of a twin-stick shooter. You control the direction the protagonist runs with the left stick while controlling the direction that he is firing in with the right stick. You need to have your thumb on a swivel because the robots will come at you from all directions. You start with a normal powered blaster but as you dispatch of the robot hordes, they will drop weapon power-ups such as a spread gun and a laser gun just to spice things up. In addition, there are also secondary weapons that you can find in the environment like the rocket launcher that can hep you out of a tight spot or add that extra punch when fighting the more powerful foes in the game.
While there is a bevy of different primary and secondary weapons to choose from, your character also has a few features of his own that can help to get you out of a tight situation…literally. While you can shoot at the disenfranchised robots in 360 degrees, you also have a run boost ability to help you get away if the walls start to close in on you. Having this ability saved me on many occasions as the enemies will often materialize in a complete circle around you and you will only have a split second to make a safe escape. Being that the robots are using energy weapons in an attempt to take you out, that run boost can also save you from them as well. While you are boosting, you are impenetrable to any energy weapon discharge which will allow you to pass through energy barriers as well as oncoming fire from enemy robots.
I can assure you that Nex Machina has an amazing solo-campaign but what good is a shooter game, ultimately, if you can’t play co-op? You will be thrilled to know that this game does indeed feature a fully fledged arcade campaign that can be played solo or in local co-op with a friend. In addition, if you should happen to need a break from the intense action in the main game, you can try out the intense action in the other mode in the game. There is a continually changing Challenge Mode called the Arena that allows you to return to your favorite locations in the game in order to face-off against different enemies with faster speeds and other fresh modifications. This mode will undoubtedly lead to some fierce leaderboard competitions between you and your friends.
I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t talk to y’all about the amazing visuals in Nex Machina. Nobody does pixellated explosions like Housemarque. One of the features that struck me initially about Resogun was the cool voxel effects that happen when you blasted an enemy to bits. Keeping with that same motif, when you blast one of the attacking robots in this game, they bust into hundreds of tiny, colorful voxels piles and then quickly fade away. Depending on how much whoop-a$$ you are handing out, you could actually have tens of thousands of voxels on-screen at once. This game is beautiful in every respect and will be considered as one of the best games to launch when Game of the Year discussions start happening in the fall.
Make no mistake, you are going to die and die a lot. However, no matter how many times I died, there was something that keep me trying just one more time to clear a particularly stick level. I haven’t played a game in a long time that made me drop the F-bomb as many times as I did while reviewing this game and I think that I probably broke a record or two. Nex Machina offers four different difficulty levels and I started my review on the Normal level which is sufficiently challenging, however, the Easy level was only just slightly easier, to give you an idea. This game is VERY challenging in a way that is VERY fun!
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Housemarque does it again
Challenge - 10/10
Gameplay - 10/10
Design - 10/10
+ Fast, frenetic action
+ The visuals are a masterpiece to behold
+ Soundtrack is superb
+ Twin-stick shooter action is very polished and sharp
+ Difficulty is sufficient enough to satisfy shooter aficionados