PSX 2016 – Nex Machina Preview – I’ll Be Back (PS4)
Housemarque is known for their extremely polished twin-stick shooters and the power of the PlayStation 4 has afforded them the opportunity to make games with relatively simple mechanics while opening up processing power for massive spectacle, such as the insane explosions of voxels (three dimensional pixels) in Resogun — which, for the record, is still one of the best games on PS4. With Alienation recently released, and Matterfall still without a firm launch date, it was surprising to see another Housemarque game take the stage at the PSX showcase, though Nex Machina wasn’t a bad surprise at all. I mean, come on. This is Housemarque we’re talking about. It has to be good.
The staple of any Housemarque game is polished, fast-paced shooting while bullets and explosions fill the screen. I don’t normally like bullet-hell games, but somehow Housemarque manages to cut past all of that, to where I not only like their games, but they become some of my favorites, regularly coming up in my gaming playlist. What I really wondered was how Nex Machina would retain the signature Housemarque fundamentals while being a new and different game. I knew that the only way to get the answer to that question was to get my hands on it.
At its most base level, Nex Machina is a twin-stick shooter. At first glance it looks and plays like a cross between Resogun and Dead Nation. The top down shooting plays like Housemarque’s zombie title, yet the explosions of voxels and robots strikes the familiar notes of that early PS4 release. Unlike either of these two games though, Nex Machina is more chaotic than either of those games. Instead of exploding and falling off the screen, the voxels remain on the playing field, and the player or enemies running through them cause them to move around, like playing in an explosive voxel ball pit.
Nex Machina’s got a pretty classic story. Humans are getting lethargic and technology dependent, robots are taking over the world, and a shiny hero appears to combat the threat that the rest of humanity is too lazy to stand up against. Each level is made up of a series of small arenas that have enemies to kill and humans to save (yup, just like Resogun), and though I didn’t find any of them, there are apparently secret areas and alternate pathways on each level that result in much higher scores than just taking the traditional path. Some of those paths shift gravity and take place on the sides of levels, which plays with the voxel carnage uniquely. They told me that this is an early build and that they are working on improving the physics of these gravity shifting moments.
Even with this being an early build of the game, it was amazingly polished. I died plenty of times, but death is not the end. It just limits the score that you can receive by the end, and there are still some insanely fun arcad-y mechanics that promote a need to keep playing. My demo ended all too soon, and I looked wistfully at the back of the line, realizing that I didn’t have the time to hop in and play again. Nex Machina is showing an immense amount of promise, and when it releases, it’s sure to be yet another runaway Housemarque hit.