Nex Machina (PlayStation 4) Review

By Az Elias 19.06.2017 1

Review for Nex Machina on PlayStation 4

Housemarque has developed quite the reputation since setting the PS3 alight with planet-roaming shooter Super Stardust HD, followed by one of the highlights of the PS4 launch in the slick and vibrant Resogun, and more recently scratched the arcade shooter itch with Alienation. Whatever the Finnish developer churns out, it is guaranteed to turns heads, and Nex Machina is no exception.

Departing from the lengthier levels and character progression-based design of Housemarque's previous title, Alienation, Nex Machina pulls elements from not just the company's past works - particularly Resogun - but with the help of famed designer Eugene Jarvis, also draws inspiration from the likes of classic shooters Defender, Robotron: 2084 and Smash TV.

A true arcade action shooter experience, Nex Machina focuses little on plot, with knowledge that the premise is a dystopian future where AIs reign supreme, intent on wiping out the human race to prove their dominance, only found through the likes of the game's official website and YouTube channel. The slightly customisable hi-tech soldier is thrown into the shoes of hero, and must blast their way through five levels of intense bullet mayhem.


 
Five stages may sound small, but the arcade experience can last a respectable 30 to 40 minutes, which isn't bad going at all for a shoot 'em up. Each level is designed in such a way that they will garner countless reruns, and the focus on leaderboards, with the ability to watch users' video replays to learn from the best, adds to the competitive edge and need to always improve on personal bests.

Playing akin to the top-down antics of Smash TV or Hotline Miami, the twin-stick gameplay of fast-paced shooter Resogun returns, ditching the shoulder button-based firing found in Alienation, allowing for a much more focused and lightning quick game that rewards sharp reflexes and the perseverance that dying, respawning and replaying brings to the table.

Screenshot for Nex Machina on PlayStation 4

What will become immediately clear to anyone that has played Resogun is the underlying mechanic of rescuing humans. Not just content with sending in swarms of mechanical good-for-nothings out for your blood to take down, the very clear-cut green-hued humans act not only as a collectible secondary objective of sorts in each stage, but as score multipliers that the most skilled of players will learn to utilise to their advantage in trying to achieve as high an overall score as possible.

The score multiplier refills and slowly drains with each human saved, so a strategic approach to every single area and room of a level quickly enters the mindset. In order to go for the best possible score, it's no good simply rescuing every human in an area before all the enemies have been taken out, as the multiplier will be zero until being warped to the next section. Instead, careful and methodical play is needed so that humans are picked up in an efficient manner so as to keep that multiplier going, all the while keeping the robot hordes at bay, and dodging lasers and bullets at the same time.

Screenshot for Nex Machina on PlayStation 4

Each stage is littered with secret areas and one-time only opportunities to take out certain enemies that tuck themselves away or scurry and fly about before quickly disappearing, adding to the growing number of things to keep an eye out for. Blasting walls and suspicious sections of the beautiful voxel-built arenas often rewards in secret humans and exits being found, as well as secondary weapons that cause destruction to anything standing in the way, such as bombs and lasers. The cooldowns placed on the ability to dodge and zip through enemy fire adds an extra layer of tactical gameplay to proceedings, as well, where the perfect dash can be the difference between life and death - for either the hero or a human under attack.

This is what sets Nex Machina apart from your average top-down action shooter. There are so many other factors to account for on top of the need to dodge and shoot every enemy robot that comes your way, and whilst it's possible to just forgo the humans and secrets and simply blast your way through to the end bosses of each stage, there is far more to this game than that. The thrill comes in keeping that score multiplier going, seeking out every possible human and exit, and gliding through the bullet hell being thrown in your direction, all in the most effective and speedy way possible.


 
It is taken to incredible new heights when upping the handicap, too. With each increase in difficulty, there are more enemies, all moving faster than before, and even firing bullets after being destroyed. Just when you think you have mastered the game, the unlockable difficulties throw a spanner in the works, causing readjustment in how to approach each level.

In addition to the Trophies, there are a plethora of in-game feats that will make many of the former look like child's play. Fancy yourself a shooter pro? Try 1CCing arcade mode on Master difficulty… The higher difficulties are where Nex Machina truly comes alive, and it can be incredibly overwhelming with the bullet hell that wastes no time in making its presence known, but by Jove is it addictive…

Screenshot for Nex Machina on PlayStation 4

Local co-op adds to the fun tenfold, although it is a disappointment that online co-op isn't possible. Hopefully, this is something Housemarque considers adding in a future patch, even if only to play with an invited friend instead of strangers, as it would certainly keep the longevity going. Perhaps the need to ensure the frame rate retains its stability is a factor, not wanting to include potentially unfair lag-induced online scores in rankings, but separate online co-op-only rankings could be feasible.

Luckily, there are still incentives to return to Nex Machina, with the slightly more unique challenges provided that must be unlocked through achieving high scores in others. From being asked to scores as high as possible in a stage in four minutes, to surviving faster enemies, to only being able to score whilst under a human combo bonus, there are a number of options to test your mettle in. Essentially, the mode options only consist of these arena challenges and the core arcade, with the five stages being available to play individually if desired, so it can seem like there isn't much to go on, but, again, it is the leaderboards that ensure these modes will retain their worth.

It should go without saying that the whole thing looks the part, with the Resogun engine being taken to a new level entirely, as voxels and flashy neon particle effects spray and bounce all over the arenas when enemies and objects are blown to bits. It's almost become a signature style from Housemarque, but it continues to look fresh and appealing. The team certainly hasn't rested on its laurels here, with what looks to be a more realistic approach to the surroundings, but retains its magic with the upgraded tech. Of course, Ari Pulkkinen returns to deliver the audible goods, with another quality synthetic electro soundtrack befitting the intense shooter action going on.

Screenshot for Nex Machina on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

A highly intense arcade shoot-fest, the combination of the talent at Housemarque and the expertise of Robotron and Smash TV creator Eugene Jarvis has come together to deliver another exemplary title in the Finnish developer's catalogue. The faster paced gameplay and tighter areas over that of previous game Alienation pile the pressure on, whilst the strategic edge of trying to keep score multipliers going for as long as possible adds another layer to the bullet mayhem on show. One or two extra levels and online co-op really would have iced the Nex Machina cake, but either way, this is not to be missed by any shoot 'em up fan.

Developer

Housemarque

Publisher

Housemarque

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I was about to say it looks intense...and then saw your concluding paragraph. Intense indeed!

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
K-Pop Korner - The Best of Korean Music
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Renan

There are 1 members online at the moment.