Scars Above is the latest release from Mad Head Games and published by PLAION and Prime Matter, and it’s safe to say this is a far cry from the studios previous releases like Adam Wolfe and 100 Doors. Following the SCARS team into outer space on a mission to find intelligent life, the game starts just as the team are planning to land on an alien planet with the hope and intention of meeting and greeting potential alien lifeforms. Everything quickly goes wrong, the team are scattered and possibly dead, and the ship is destroyed and scattered across a hostile and terrifying alien landscape.
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That all sounds like standard fare for a sci-fi third person shooter, but Scars Above is anything but. There’s no open world to explore with Scars Above, but the openness of the linear world and semi-returning to the same place gives it an open-world feel, and it will be said that the character models (especially our protagonist Kate Ward) are average in design and certainly in lip-sync to the so-so voice acting; but the main character of the game is the world itself and it is gloriously brought to life, both graphically and the immersive feel of it being lived in. There was never a point I grew bored of looking around or exploring, finding new species of animals and plants alike. I was always wondering what was coming next, and very rarely disappointed by the result.
The gameplay itself is simple to learn and understand, yet difficult to master in those split-second firefights. There are four basic elemental weapons/guns found as you progress – the standard fire, ice, electric and acid/poison -, which are used to combat various different mutated animals and enemies. Various gadgets will help you accomplish this including the ability to throw a ‘holo-lure’, which is a human-sized and shaped distraction, a ‘gravity trap’ which slows down enemies to a crawl, allowing you to get in behind them and really punish them, and many more. To the game’s credit, the enemies and their weaknesses are varied enough that I wasn’t relying on just one particular gadget throughout, although the gravity trap is by far the most fun.
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Scars Above – Just Run!
As well as the standard enemies scattered throughout the levels, the game throws some truly disturbing and fun bosses at you intermittently. Once you unlock the skill to allow scanning, these bosses become infinitely easier, but all are a surprisingly comfortable level of difficult, and two in particular are the most fun and rewarding boss battles in recent times. More than just simply shooting them, you’re required to think outside the box and put what you’ve learned so far to good use… you’ll know which boss I’m referring to come the time.
The levelling up system of Scars Above is cleverly disguised behind a knowledge system, where our protagonist Kate is attempting to figure out where she is, where her team is and what’s happened, whilst piecing it all together as to why they’ve been ‘summoned’ to this alien planet. Simple yet different. The same could be said for the story, which won’t be winning any awards, but it did keep me entertained for the six or so hours it took to go from start to finish, and I’ll gladly be going through the experience again. That’s what Scars Above is – an experience. An incredibly fun, well-crafted and clearly lovingly designed experience.
#ScarsAbove is a mutated child of Alien and Returnal, and one of the most fun and entertaining games I've played this year. You won't regret playing it. Give me a sequel @MadHeadGames. pic.twitter.com/ezp8rjjfqN
— Luke Addison (@callmeafilmnerd) February 28, 2023
If Alien, Prometheus and Returnal were to have a child, you’d get Scars Above, and it’d be remiss to ignore how fun, terrifying and intriguing that sounds.
Scars Above is a AA game in development only, with the finished product being bigger and better than the sum of its parts, and the game coming across as a far more polished and fun experience compared to that of it’s AA compatriots.
Scars Above was played and reviewed on a code supplied by Premier Comms.
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