Finnish developer Housemarque has done great things for the PlayStation 4. When the console launched back in November 2013, a small title called Resogun was completely free for PlayStation Plus members.
To this day, it remains one of the best games ever given out on the service and was probably the best launch exclusive, across both PS4 and Xbox One. With it’s incredibly tight controls, addictive arcade-style twin-stick gameplay and stunning voxel graphics (for those of us not quite in the know, it basically means everything explodes into very pretty little cubes), Resogun was a real winner.
So when Nex Machina: Death Machine launched, it turned some heads. The company has seen a few other acclaimed titles on the PS4 in recent years, such as Alienation and Dead Nation, but Nex Machina effortlessly combines elements from them all.
The patented twin-stick shooting is here, fast-paced and frenetic as always, mixing in the top-down perspective of Alienation with the mission of saving the last humans, made famous by Resogun. Nex Machina will immediately strike you with popping colours bursting all over the screen before you even pick up the controller. It’s gorgeous.
Did I mention the game is fast? It’s fast. You’re given no time to take in those surroundings as streams of enemies come at you from all sides. You’re forced to learn on the job, something I quite appreciate. There’s enough hand-holding in video games today. I’m still trying to figure out how to use certain power-ups, and I like that.
Progression feels earned through experimentation, trial and error and resilience. Nex Machina can feel unforgiving – I’ve not even attempted the higher difficulties yet – but the gameplay loop here is compelling. Land on a tight, almost claustrophobic space and shoot, dash and blast your way through legions of speedy hostiles, trying to save wandering humans along the way. Because the game is so quick, everything feels fluid, from jumping into the game to moving through the levels.
Just as they were in Resogun, the boss fights here are eye-melting spectacles. But credit must also be given to Nex Machina’s pounding techno tracks, which help heighten the pressure when hundreds of enemies are bearing down upon you. The score for this game is fantastic and fitting, meshing a combination of futuristic with hopeful as you fight off hordes of foes.
Nex Machina: Death Machine is a game unable to be bound by words. It’s a pure gameplay experience that demands to be seen, a spectacular showcase designed to delight the eyes. It’s damn tough, but rewarding also. Housemarque paved the way on the PS4 with proving smaller titles can be just as exciting to play as the blockbusters (despite this being quite literally that) and Nex Machina once again delivers in terms of fun.
It’s practically bullet hell chaos, but I’ll be damned if chaos can’t be beautiful as well.
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