Developer: Confused Genius | Publisher: Spawn Point OSK | Release Date: 2015 | Genre: Action / Top Down Shooter / Indie | Website: N/A | Purchase: Steam
Bloodthirsty aliens have invaded and it appears that they are hell-bent on killing you. If you want to survive their assault, then you are going to have to grab a gun and spill some blood. That about sums up Xenocide, a top down shooter from Confused Genius. Recently we have seen some very good games in this genre, such as Nation Red and there are also plenty of classics, such as Crimsonland, which means this game has its work cut out for it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take very long to realize that although it is a competent enough shooter, there really isn’t much to it.
Xenocide is fairly straightforward and only offers you five different arenas in which to play. These levels can be played in local co-op with a friend, but that’s it. There’s no story, no campaign, no other types of modes, nothing. Just five levels where you have to survive for as long as possible while killing as many waves of enemies as possible. This would still have been forgivable if the game gave players a reason to come back beyond beating their own high scores, but once again Xenocide disappoints in this regard. Instead of perks and unlocks that make some of the best games in this genre such a blast to play, you will have seen everything that Xenocide has to offer in a matter of minutes. You simply pick a level, choose from three primary weapons, two secondary weapons and three types of grenades, before selecting your power-ups. There are eighteen power-ups to choose from, split into three tiers, but you can only pick a handful of them. These power-ups will then randomly spawn during the level while playing. This means that apart from the shotgun, SMG and rifle, there are no other guns that will appear while playing. You can switch to the mini-gun or laser gun until their ammo dries up, but the lack of weapons really counts against Xenocide, especially considering the vast arsenal found in Nation Red. At least the ammo for your primary weapon is unlimited, but then again these guns are so underwhelming that it hardly matters.
The power-ups consists of things like fire bullets, electric bullets, mortars, nukes and leaching life from your enemies. Instead of making a selection you can also let the game choose a random selection for you, but unless you want an impossible challenge it is advisable to take along some type of health power-up. Although Xenocide only features five arenas, we have to give Confused Genius some credit for at least trying something different with each one. Your basic goal on each level is to stay alive for as long as possible, but each level also features a different type of gimmick.
For example, on the train-yard level there is a train that drives through the middle in regular intervals and fires that you have to keep lit to keep the amount of enemies manageable. You can lure enemies on to the tracks to let the train take care of them, but watch out that you don’t get run over as well. Another level sees you trying to cover the most distance in an endlessly scrolling city while killing the waves of monsters. There’s even a level where you can power on fairground rides to take down zombies and one where you have to destroy alien teleporters. As interesting as these gimmicks are the first few times, once you’ve seen them all the game can become really repetitive.
Xenocide is powered by the Unity Engine, which means it looks very generic at times. Video settings consists of setting the resolution, enabling or disabling vertical sync, choosing the shadow quality, level of detail MSAA level and whether or not you want FXAA. You can also choose between playing in window or full-screen mode and whether or not you want the film grain effect to be on. To be honest, none of these options really make the game stand out visually, but overall it looks decent enough. Since the game seems to follow some type of alien invasion theme, your enemies appear to consist of aliens, drones and strangely enough, flaming skulls that can explode. Shooting enemies leaves a nice splatter of blood on the ground and since the visuals are 3D, it means that blowing up enemies means that they can actually fly up into the air, which looks rather neat. The five levels on offer are very different from each other, but none of them really stood out as anything special and overall the game could really have benefited from a couple of additional levels.
In terms of audio, Xenocide allows you to adjust the volume of the music as well as the sound effects. The sound effects are all rather generic, but the music at least sounds good. None of the tracks are particularly memorable, but they are definitely a step above the generic tunes found in many other games. Xenocide can be played with either a keyboard and mouse or an analog controller. If you want to play the local co-op mode, at least one of the players will have to make use of a controller. The controls are straightforward and responsive with the usual left-click to shoot and right-click to throw grenades scheme. Xenocide also has a “dodge” button, which hurls your character in the direction you have chosen. It looks very unnatural, but at least it is quite effective for avoiding damage. The power-ups that spawn on the map automatically activate when you run over them and disappear after a while if you don’t. The game does feature a “killstreak” bar that fills up as you kill enemies, but overall the scoring system is fairly basic.
At the end of the day it is really the lack of variety that hampers Xenocide the most. It has none of the gun variety found in Nation Red and the lack of unlockable perks, items or power-ups means you will have seen everything it has to offer in just one or two rounds. Trying to beat your own high-score is fun and so is playing with a friend in co-op, but there is just nothing that makes the game stand out from the crowd. It does try to make the levels a bit more interesting than what you would normally find in the genre, but with only five to choose from the boredom soon sets in. If you are a fan of the genre, then you might be able to squeeze a few hours of fun out of this one, but everyone else would be better off playing Nation Red.
- OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
- Processor: Intel / AMD 2.0 GHz CPU
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia 8800GT or equivalent
- DirectX: Version 10
- Storage: 400 MB available space
- OS: Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
- Processor: Intel / AMD 2.0 GHz or higher CPU
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVidia or ATI-based graphics card
- DirectX: Version 11
- Network: Broadband Internet connection
- Storage: 400 MB available space