Xenoraid (PS4) Review

Switching out, going in.

I’ve played my fair share of shoot ‘em ups before. From R-Type to Galaga, from Gradius to Ikaruga, I have tried them all. As of late, it seems that the genre has made a slight resurgence, but games usually come with some special twist to change up the formula. It kind of has to be this way, because if there is no deviation, it will be the “same old song and dance.” Xenoraid is yet another game in this genre that brings a special hook to the table and makes for a rather enjoyable experience, granted, it does still only offer the limited amount of fun a shoot ‘em up can.

Players take on the role of different factions and races as they try to defend Earth from an incoming alien invasion. Starting off with humans and their newly formed space combat unit, they must hold off the invaders while trying to figure out what is actually going on. Luckily, it is not one lone maverick that has to take on the enemies, but rather a squad of them that all start off wet behind the ears. This is the actual hook of the game.

Platforms: PC, XB1, PS4
MSRP: $9.99
Price I’d pay: $9.99

I’m going in.

Players take control of one ship in the squadron at a time, blasting away with guns and the occasional limited rocket. At any given time, players can switch to a different ship in the squad by pressing a corresponding face button. During this switching time, their ship is invulnerable while showing an outline of the incoming ally ship which players can maneuver around enemy fire or obstacles in the way. This is the best way to get out of a hairy situation without pilots kicking the bucket. Much like the roguelikes of the day, if a ship blows up with the pilot inside, that pilot is killed and the player must recruit a new one to replace that one after the mission is done.

Along with that, the actual battles play out a bit differently in Xenoraid. Yes, enemies are coming from the top of the screen down towards the player’s ship (usually), but the way it is handled is interesting. Everything is wave-based, so if I were to miss an enemy, it will leave the screen and eventually come back down for another pass before the wave would be over. The big thing here is players must manage their guns’ heat levels. If they overheat, they must wait for the entire bar to deplete leaving them vulnerable for all attacks. This is another nice reason to switch out ships. The shooting itself is different as well. When moving the ship left or right, the top of the ship tilts. This means wherever the top of the ship is facing is where the bullets will actually travel. So aiming takes a second to get used to, but once I did, it offered up some pretty fun situations that felt really satisfying.

Strap on another machine gun.

That, along with pilot progression is the main draw that separate Xenoraid from other shmups. The more a player uses a certain pilot, the higher their rank will be. Earning money from missions as well as picking it up while fighting can be taken back to the base for upgrades to both the ship as well as the overall progression for passive abilities. It’s a fine balance that really helps keep things fresh, knowing that next upgrade is right around the corner. Keep in mind, if players’ ships were damaged in the previous fight, the damage remains and some currency must be spent to repair the ships.

As the story progresses, players take over as different factions in the war, essentially seeing new ships and technology. The issue I really have here is the fact that when I take over a new faction, I’m back to square one in many of my upgrades, granted, I keep a lot of my passive things, but I worked hard on ranking up my pilots and I have to do it again.
A shmup is a shmup.

Visually, the game is serviceable, but it won’t knock anyone’s socks off by any means. The music is about the same. Presentation wise, it’s decent, but nothing to write home about. It’s really the gameplay that takes center stage, and it feels and play really well. Of course, after a couple of hours it does get rather repetitive. This is a shmup after all.

Xenoraid is yet another shoot ‘em up that brings something new to the table. While it has aspects of a roguelike and the progression of an RPG, it still sticks to its guns as a shooter. It works and works well in that part. The shooting is tight and when learning the proper way to aim, it felt very satisfying. It has a few issues here and there, and while the look is not really fantastic, it offers up a rather fun experience, if even for a few hours.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Good feel
  • Nice mechanics
  • Lots of upgrades
  • Bland presentation
  • Some progression issues
  • Can get a bit monotonous
Written by
Drew is the Community Manager here at ZTGD and his accent simply woos the ladies. His rage is only surpassed by the great one himself and no one should stand between him and his Twizzlers.