FFXIV: Storm­blood

Fo­cused, in­tense and hugely re­playable, Nex Machina is the best twin-stick shooter in ages.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Chris Schilling

What the hell just hap­pened? Your first go of Nex Machina will leave you feel­ing pleas­antly dazed, as this ex­hil­a­rat­ing and fe­ro­ciously tough twin-stick shooter from Fin­land-based House­mar­que sucks you in and spits you back out al­most im­me­di­ately. It’s the kind of game to make you shuf­fle for­ward a lit­tle in your seat, as you take a deep breath and pre­pare to dive in for an­other at­tempt.

It dis­penses with the niceties to get you into the ac­tion that much quicker. All you need to know is that it’s some­time in the fu­ture, we’ve all been too busy gaw­ping at our phones to no­tice the ma­chines get­ting smarter than us, and lo and be­hold, they’re keen to as­sert their au­thor­ity over hu­mans by wip­ing us out. As the game starts, your brave lit­tle war­rior rides into the fray on their fu­tur­is­tic space bike, leaps off, and may­hem sub­se­quently en­sues.

The de­fault dif­fi­culty set­ting on the main Ar­cade mode is called Rookie: That name alone will en­cour­age a cer­tain type of player to scoff and start on the next level up, Ex­pe­ri­enced, but Nex Machina tells you this is the ideal place to learn the ropes for a rea­son. You should take that ad­vice—not least since House­mar­que pulls off one of the hard­est tricks in games. Of­ten, with this type of game, the low­est dif­fi­culty can feel slightly pa­tro­n­is­ing, as if it’s go­ing easy on you. That’s not the case here. The ac­tion is still in­tense. The are­nas are still cramped. En­e­mies still march to­ward you re­lent­lessly. The point of dif­fer­ence is that they move slower and ex­plode quicker, so you don’t quite get that why-won’t-you-die hor­ror as you re­treat, fu­ri­ously un­load­ing into a spi­der tank that’s soak­ing up the best you can dish out, and ask­ing you if that’s all you’ve got.

Even so, you’ll still get those mo­ments where your back’s against the wall, and you’re barely a pixel’s width from death when an ag­gres­sor falls, and you yell out in relief and stroll for­ward straight into a bright pink projectile has been float­ing lazily to­wards you for the past sev­eral min­utes (in re­al­ity: Two sec­onds). Com­pla­cency is ruth­lessly pun­ished.

But dar­ing? Now dar­ing can get you some­where. NexMachina is tai­lored to­wards mo­ments of mad hero­ism, as each level gives you a num­ber of hu­mans to res­cue be­fore they’re har­vested. Your high score de­pends on how many you save, but also on the tim­ing of their re­trieval: Af­ter grab­bing one, a combo me­ter will drain, re­fill­ing when you res­cue the next. Then again, wor­ry­ing about your own sur­vival is pri­or­ity one.

Still, even here you’re en­cour­aged to take the odd risk. Rather than hav­ing to con­stantly back away from waves of en­e­mies. You can press the left trig­ger to dash in which­ever di­rec­tion you choose. When all seems lost, this can get you out of the tight­est of squeezes, not least once you’ve col­lected a pickup which trig­gers a small ex­plo­sion for each dash. Pair that with a triple-dash power-up, and you’re laugh­ing.

Voxel nova

There are op­ti­mal routes through the may­hem, but they have to be teased out over dozens upon dozens of at­tempts. Un­til then, you’re adapt­ing, im­pro­vis­ing, des­per­ately try­ing to con­trol the flow of en­e­mies while at­tempt­ing to pri­or­i­tize threats.

It’s a lovely game to watch, too, the dashes adding dy­namism to your char­ac­ter’s move­ment, the bright, color-coded out­lines en­sur­ing the ac­tion stays read­able even when things are ex­plod­ing into thou­sands of vox­els around you. Even the tran­si­tions be­tween stages are glo­ri­ous: The six worlds take place on com­plex su­per­struc­tures, which your hero nav­i­gates by jet pack.

To some, six worlds might seem a shade on the slen­der side, es­pe­cially since a sin­gle run takes less than an hour. Be­yond tack­ling the Ar­cade mode on higher dif­fi­cul­ties, there’s an Arena mode for in­di­vid­ual worlds and vari­ants where bul­lets and en­emy spawns move faster, or where your score only in­creases while your human combo is still run­ning.

For the vo­ra­cious con­sumer, who sees games only as some­thing to de­vour and tick off rather than sa­vor, that might not seem like good value. Ev­ery­one else, how­ever, should buckle up for a breath­less mod­ern ar­cade clas­sic that de­liv­ers more thrills per minute than al­most any­thing else out there.

Nex Machina is tai­lored to­wards mo­ments of mad hero­ism

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.