Housemarque are back with their second entry on the PS4. Nex Machina is a voxel-based dual-stick arcade shooter set in a universe where humans are scarce and robots are out to get you. It blends the style of all their previous titles namely RESOGUN and Super Stardust HD, so it can only be good right?
The idea behind using volumetric pixels or voxels has been around for decades, but for some reason it never took hold. Voxels allow for incredibly fast rendering and place little strain on the GPU. This means you can throw millions of them on screen and experience no slow down whatsoever. As you’d expect, this is the case with Nex Machina, it runs at a silky smooth frame rate and has a unique art style. Mixed with bright neon lights and a techno / synth based soundtrack you can’t help but be drawn into.
You can select 3 main game modes; Arcade, Single World and Arena. The first 2 are what you would expect and have co-op and 4 difficulty settings.; rookie gives you infinite lives and is perfect for those who want a stress free play-through and just want to have fun. However, those wanting a challenge can try the hardest difficulty that reduces continues to 5 and increases and speeds up the enemies.
There is no tutorial to speak of and no story, you are thrown into the first level and you will need to figure out what the buttons do, luckily all you need are the sticks and shoulder buttons to get you started. Levels are broken up into areas and once an area is cleared you are literally rocketed into the next in a super-quick fluid motion with no loading screen in between. I was initially worried that it would be more like Dead Nation and slowly paced, but it all moves very quickly and there isn’t a boring moment. The moment you are dropped into world one, “Techno Forest,” enemies begin to swarm around you. After clearing all the areas/levels in world one you have the classic Housemarque boss fight and every single one of these is great.
There are a total of 5 worlds; Techno Forest, Crystal Mountain, Fire Cavern, Machine City and Future Labs. Each have distinct looks but clearly belong in the same world. Enemies vary from stage to stage and you will quickly find the ones you hate the most; definitely the laser turrets for me! The goal is to save dozens of humans, destroy beacons and ultimately obliterate everything on screen. Within this there are multipliers to earn and tonnes of secrets. All of which are there for the hardcore score chasers and if you want that, this is the game for you.
Arena mode is a little different, but grounded in the same rule set. You select stages, each with a specific goal, mostly beating a high score. This in turn awards you tokens that you can use to unlock more stages in this mode.
The weapons are the biggest factor in Housemarque games, and throughout you will be using your main gun with up to 5 others. All can be upgraded as expected, but once you lose a life this is all reset, so the stakes are high. Sadly none of them feel quite as thrilling as the gold melter from Super Stardust HD, but they get the job done.
Nex Machina can be finished in under an hour, but this has never been the goal with arcade shooters. It is all about learning the nuances of the multipliers and how to maintain it. It is the most complicated shooter they have ever made and it is full of hidden layers that I can tell I have only scratched the surface of. If you need an arcade shooter in your life, make it this one.
- Replay Value