A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Alienation is a downloadable sci-fi shooter viewed from a raised, almost top-down perspective. Players take control of a super soldier who uses a variety of weapons, including guns, grenades, and special attacks against an invading alien force. Successful hits frequently result in splashes of blood and alien bodies coming apart. But neither the blood nor the aliens' bodies persist long after death, and the isometric perspective helps keep the action from becoming especially graphic or intense compared to many other shooters. The story tells a straightforward tale about humans struggling against aliens. The aliens are presented as evil, invasive creatures that must be destroyed for humanity to survive. It's a very difficult game, but players who switch on online cooperative play will likely discover that hard missions are made considerably easier through teamwork.
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What's it about?
Aliens have all but taken over Earth in ALIENATION, and it's up to a small squad of super soldiers to fight back and save humanity. The battle begins with players picking a soldier class and heading to a Hawaiian training facility to learn the basics. Then they'll fly to the frozen wastes of Alaska to start the war in earnest. Combat sees players moving their soldiers about with one thumbstick and aiming their weapons with the other while pressing triggers and buttons to unleash attacks and reload their weapons. Enemies -- a vast variety of aliens big and small -- tend to come in massive waves, madly rushing toward your soldier in an attempt to overwhelm him or her with sheer numbers. As players move from one firefight to the next, they also need to complete simple objectives, such as hacking computers, destroying alien nests, investigating the whereabouts of lost patrols, and clearing out staging areas. As the game progresses, soldiers gain experience that results in ability points that can be spent on special class-specific skills. They'll also find better weapons and salvage parts that can be used to upgrade their gear. If you opt to make your session public, your soldier may be joined by those of other players currently engaged in the same mission.
Is it any good?
This adventure game with fast-paced action is pretty much the definition of mindless entertainment. Its alternate-history extraterrestrial-invasion story is underdeveloped, none of the characters is particularly memorable, and the upgrade system is shallow and sometimes a little confusing. Players looking for a deep, RPG-style shooter with a dramatic narrative and iconic personalities are bound to come away disappointed.
That said, if you're just looking for some addictive isometric combat, you're in luck. Blasting the alien hordes requires no small amount of skill. You'll frequently need to switch weapons as you run out of and replenish ammunition, ensuring that you're using the right gun for the current enemy type. Similarly, each soldier's special abilities -- all slowly earned and upgraded -- take a while to recharge and are effective only in specific situations, but they can really save your bacon if you keep them in reserve for when you're about to be overwhelmed. And systematically exploring the enormous maps -- which are set in nicely rendered locations around the globe and can be surprisingly sophisticated thanks to occasional vertical and interior elements -- to find every nook, chest, boss, and special event is nearly as much fun as the firefights. Alienation isn't going to give us the next Master Chief, but it's undeniably entertaining in its own way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Missions in this game last about 20 to 30 minutes, so how many missions do you think you should play]per session?
Talk about trying to understand your opponents. When you take the perspective of an adversary, you might find you better understand their motives; how can that be the first step toward avoiding conflict?
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