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Xbox Live Indie Game Review - Xeno Arena

xboxboxartXeno Arena, to me, has the elements needed for a good game. Twitchy gameplay, randomly generated levels, and a decent atmosphere. Unfortunately, it utterly fails in the most important thing. It's just not fun.

It's a twin stick style shooter, and plays a lot like an overhead first person shooter. All the story you get is that you delve as deep into the levels as you can go before you die. Thanks to the ludicrous control, better weapons being few and far between (I've played this over and over and the only other weapon aside from the default I've ever gotten is the shotgun) it's just no fun at all like a game like this should be.

It tries to incorporate a "fog of war", which, if you've played realtime strategy games like Red Alert or Warcraft 3 you'll know what is. But basically, it puts a fog over much of the screen so you can't see around corners. Which wouldn't be so bad except for the enemies. Unless you see them coming from all the way across the screen, they WILL score a hit on you. And being that you have to be aiming dead center on them, they may score multiple hits on you while you're trying to line up your sites to blow their guts across the map.

Graphically, the game has some neat ideas. Namely the fog of war that obscures much of the level. But in the end, all it does is help to hide the fact that the graphics just aren't all that good. The levels, although they're randomly generated, don't look all that great and it gets tiresome seeing the same thing over and over. The enemies are pretty boring looking. Your character, while the movement is smooth doesn't have that much detail to him. And it's pretty easy to walk right by some of the ammo and health pickups because they're a little hard to see. The first time I saw the shotgun, I almost walked right past it because it blended in so much with everything else. Apparently there's a flame thrower at some point, but thanks to the constant cheap enemy hits, I never got it. The look of the enemies just blowing apart in a puddle of blood and guts looks pretty damn cool though.

The sound, well the music is actually quite good and kind of reminds me of the music in the old Beetlejuice movie. And really helps with the twitchy atmosphere. The sound effects are pretty boring though, the guns just sound like guns with nothing special about them, the enemies have a constant "nya nya nya" sound too them and remind me of those irritating little bastards in Halo everyone hates. And the sound of your character getting hit gets old fast, and there's not a whole lot you can do about it.

The game only has one control scheme, and whoever thought this would be a good control scheme ... I don't know what was wrong with them. You move and look around with the analog sticks, switch weapons with the triggers and you fire with the right bumper. Who the hell thought this would be a good control scheme and offering no way of configuring it? What first person shooter using the right bumper to fire the main gun aside from Gamerbots? The aiming, while smooth, is problematic since, like I said before, you have to be aiming dead center on the enemies to kill them with the default gun. And you'll probably be using that a lot because the randomized levels don't see it fit to give you different weapons all that often. One thing it does get right is the minimap up in the corner showing you the entrances and exits and whatnot as you come across them. Though it doesn't show weapons, ammo and health.

4.0 - The lack of variety and the constant cheap enemy hits is ultimately what kills it and sucks the fun out of it. Randomized levels and a fog of war system do not make a good game. The atmosphere is decent enough, and that fog does hide enough of the boring graphics to help the cool music do it's job. But in the end, it's boring and frustrating. It's only single player, it doesn't save how far you've gotten into the facility, so there's no reason whatsoever to replay it. At first, I actually kind of liked the game ... then I got to playing it more and found out that I was better off just playing the trial and washing my hands of it.

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Comments (1) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Thanks for the review, you’ve saved me wasting time on this. Fog of war is kind of an interesting idea, but the control scheme sounds like utter madness.

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