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Nex Machina: Death Machine PlayStation 4 Review

I remember walking into this arcade when I was a kid, it must’ve been around 1991 or so? I was living in Brisbane at the time, a suburb named Camp Hill. Carindale Shopping Centre had this new arcade, it had gone through a retrofit, so everything there was brand new and the arcade carried the biggest, newest arcade games. In the corner stood “SMASH TV”, a twin stick shooter like I’d never seen before. This is what Nex Machina reminded me of while playing, a great, fantastic homage to SMASH TV and games of its ilk. The frantic paced, hectic twin stick shooting, the overwhelming hordes, the inevitability of dying over and over, yet feeling like ‘just one more go’ and that sweet feeling when you conquer just one more bit and progress further. Nex Machina, coming to us from developers Housemarque, captures all of that and more in one rather triumphant, if ever so slightly repetitive package.

Gameplay:

I was a little hesitant at first when I heard the name ‘Nex Machina’, but when I realised this was the dev that brought me Super Stardust HD, Dead Nation, Reso Gun and Outland? Those fears scooted aside faster than they developed. This secured my interest, but I made sure to displace any bias, even good developers can produce a bad game… so how’s it play?

Oh… so good. So damn good.

An overhead, twin stick shooter, Nex Machina literally hits the ground running, as you find yourself thrown into some nightmare fuelled Tron/Bladerunner-esque world, where everything is essentially out to kill you, while you must rescue the little green humans who exist on the screen, before the enemies can kill them. Simple, effective, to the point. Adding to this, the game is *fast*, jetting along at a hyperkinetic rate, with you eliminating the enemies with your 360-degree fire arc, ability to dash through enemy fire, as well as some obstacles, as well as the ability to upgrade your weaponry via pickups which you’ll promptly lose as you die *over and over*. Don’t bother trying to blame the controls though, these are some of the smoothest I’ve used in years, they’re excellent, minimalistic and feel ‘perfect’ for the kind of game it is. Did I mention you’ll die frequently? It’s frustrating, sure, but it never feels cheap or unfair at least, you’ll have that feeling you JUST missed dodging that bullet, or you KNOW you just missed moving out of the way.

As the levels progress, you’ll lose yourself in the action that populates the screen, but never feel overwhelmed to the point of not being able to play. You’ll marvel as the screen spins FEZ style, with levels rotating as you progress to the next arena, then the next, to rescue humans from the robot captors. You’ll dodge, weave and curse as you die. The gameplay is simple, effective and so much goddamn fun. Enemies swarm in their dozens and seem to sometimes populate up to a hundred (I swear, the screen seemed that busy at one stage). It was hectic, beautiful and chaotic all at once. Though the levels do get a little repetitive as you progress, if you play this in 1-hour bursts, you won’t find yourself tiring of Nex Machina any time soon.

Visuals:

Holy Jesus on a pogo stick this game is a visual treat. Lasers flying everywhere, energy beams populating every corner at a second’s notice, enemies exploding into shards and flying all over the screen, laser blasts careening past you, humans dissolving into puffs of energy and more… all at once. The chaos never lets up, yet the visuals are all the better for it. So much happens all at once. It’s not that the graphics are overly detailed, they’re nice but not brilliant, it’s that everything *fits* together so well, everything works together in unison, unlike some other games I’ve reviewed, to produce a visual ballet that perfectly complements itself, creating something that’s bigger than the sum of its parts. Nex Machina is one of those games you could *almost* call ‘art’ in how chaotically, beautifully explosive it is in the end. The game runs at a beautiful 60 frames per second, rendering everything buttery smooth, with no slowdown even when the action hots up and the textures, though simple when zoomed in at times, look basic, but still add to the overall atmosphere of the game. In this sense, Nex Machina absolutely nails its visuals in every manner.

Sound:

The music, the explosions, the sound is fantastic. Put this through an amplifier and a decent set of speakers, or a decent headset and you’ll not regret it. Now here’s the strangest comparison you’ll read all day. This games soundtrack is comparable to the newest DOOM game. At certain times, the soundtrack will be playing low and subtle, you’ll be going along shooting a few things (this lasts all of 2 to 3 seconds mind you…) then when the action kicks in, exactly like in DOOM, the music pumps up and so do you. DOOM captured me in its note perfect metal audio, as does NEX MACHINA, with its pumping techno/rock soundtrack. Every time the music picks up, you know it’s about to hit the fan, and hit the fan it will. As for voiceovers, there’s a commentator who speaks about your shield, tells you about pickups and the whatnot, nothing overly crucial, but the music, the explosions and sound of weaponry in the game all combine into a beautiful symphony of carnage that cannot be called anything other than superb.

Value:

Priced at $29.95 on the PlayStation Store, or $19.95 on Steam, Nex Machina presents fantastic value either way. With an extensive campaign and excellent replay value, multiple difficulty levels that are just *insane* as well as many, many secrets to be found, this pricing point is more than fair. The visuals, controls and audio all represent something from a Triple A studio, giving the player a delightful experience. I can’t compliment the developers enough, they’ve really put out a quality product here, I’ve had so much fun with Nex Machina and I can’t wait to play it more. If you’re going with the PS4 or with the PC, you’re going to get decent value for money here.

Conclusion:

Nex Machina represents indie gaming done right. An excellent production, solid gameplay, fantastic graphics and awesome sound come together in an addictive packaged, that while it can get a tad repetitive, keeps drawing you back for more, over and over. Priced fairly on both PS4 and PC, Nex Machina again hits that sweet spot of Indie gaming, offering the complete package, rather than the overpriced one, rubberstamping itself as a ‘must buy’ rather than a ‘wait and see’. Based on this, it’s really no question of what score it deserves, now is it?

Pro’s:

  • Great use of sound
  • Excellent graphics
  • Chaotic as hell!
  • Retro feel in all the right ways
  • Masters that ‘one more go’ feel
  • Cheap price on both ps4 and PC
  • Controls are buttery smooth

Cons:

  • Slightly repetitive

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