Arguably Housemarque may be the most consistent developer in games. Each of their releases may not have the budget of AAA titles but are always accompanied with the same quality and anticipation. Their newest project, Nex Machina is no different. Partnering themselves with arcade pioneer, Eugene Jarvis, they have successfully crafted a slick, beautiful, challenging twin stick shooter. If you were in any way a fan of their previous effort, Resogun, than there is no doubt that Nex Machina will be of interest and in my opinion surpass. Proving once again in today’s market that frustratingly addictive but challenging fun arcade games are still not to be looked over.
Since I had already participated in the closed PC beta for Nex Machina I knew for the most part what to expect from the game. With that beta it was obvious that Housemarque was onto another stellar twin stick shooter to add to their catalogue. Taking the role of a hero tasked to “fight the machine”, Nex Machina is a top down shooter with an ever present flow of attacking enemies. Throughout your campaign to survive and kill everything in site you are rewarded with upgrades to your weaponry and pickups for alternate heavy weapons. It would be a disservice to label the objective of the fast paced gameplay to simply clear the levels or make it to the end. What is setting Nex apart from the last arcade classic Housemarque is responsible for is variation. Aside from the excellent gameplay mechanics that they have come known for, the level design here is top notch. Each distinct world seems to be competing with the one before it to see how far the theme and player can be pushed. The introduction of new environmental elements,small sections that switch up the traditional gameplay and secret areas keep things exciting as well as keeping the player’s anticipation of what’s next high. Within these worlds is where the gameplay and controls really shine. Far from the open cylindrical spaces of Resogun, often times the almost claustrophobic areas force your hand when it comes to player movement. Manufacturing sharp turns and boosts through the narrowest of openings to escape death by the skin of your teeth. This risk versus reward style of playing is dominant throughout the duration of Nex Machina. Finding the methods that lead to success are ultimately gained through death, and then followed by nerves of steel and sharp reflexes. There is no question that this is an arcades game arcade game. Along with the obvious Arcade mode, there are two others to round out the experience, Single Level and Arena. The first two being self explanatory, Arena is the mode that adds a little something new. In Arena you play to complete challenges which in the end net you gold coins to unlock more challenges as well as bonus items for customization.
From the outside looking in it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the game is slim on content with only 6 levels to blast your way through. Although depending on what your motivations are and where your skill level lies is what grants the core experience plenty of longevity. I found that chasing high scores wasn’t the end goal that led to the most fun for me. In most part due to my aging reflexes as well as the rage inducing skill gap. If there is one criticism I had of the game it is the difficulty spike that occurs between “Rookie” and “Experienced”. As a seasoned gamer hopping straight into the “Experienced” difficulty level left me hitting a wall by the end of the second world and being humbled by my own skillset. I’ll say there is no shame in playing on the “Rookie” difficulty first because it is still very hectic and challenging, as well as punishing and rewarding. After completing the game what will keep many coming back are the leaderboards yes, but also the “Feats”. These are challenges that task you with playing back through the levels with certain objectives in mind, for example, beat Techno Forest without saving a human. With 222 Feats available at launch there is plenty to keep you busy after completing the core Arcade portion of Nex Machina. As well as the almost forgotten local co-op that accompanies Housemarques arcade shooter. Unfortunately online co-op is not available but there is word that it could be added in the future, which I think would add a tremendous amount of replayability to this game on top of its current content.
With this title I personally think we can crown a new arcade shooter king. It outshines what I believed the previous title holder, Resogun, in every way. Heads and shoulders, the best looking game of its kind with gameplay that only the folks at Housemarque can deliver. It is obvious that they are evolving and growing when it comes to these arcade titles. If Nex Machina is evidence of what they can accomplish I can’t wait to see what comes next, until then I’ll be fighting the machine.
Verdict: Day 1 Purchase
Developer: Housemarque Games
Publisher: Housemarque Games
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Available on: Playstation 4 & PC (Steam)
This review was written based off of the PC version of Nex Machina.