There have been quite a few attempts at recreating the 6DoF formula as of late, and none of them really do it for me with their attempts to over-complicate the core elements and make things "modern". NeonXSZ
is the first game of its kind in a long time to really hook me in with its potpourri of elements that we know are fun and addictive, and have withstood the test of time. It combines the freedom of movement and perspective of Descent
and the edge-of-your-seat twitch action of Quake
or Unreal Tournament
with the addictive leveling and persistent loot of increasing rarity of an ARPG like Diablo
, all combining for what is absolutely the most addictive and replayable shooter of any kind in years.
The game places you into a vast and complex computer mainframe with a very open and free-form approach to exploration. There's a great in-depth tutorial to read at your own pace getting you into the motions, but you are more-or-less thrown into this world blind with no hand-holding involved and a great deal of content to discover on your own accord. While there is no hand-holding the game does not ever feel tedious or hard to get into even for the newest of players, as you are always being guided the right way thanks to the Appropriate Hostile function which will highlight on your map the best spot to hit next for your newest dose of weapons and upgrades. This makes exploration of the almost overwhelmingly large Station quick and accessible, as you are still lost but pointed in the right direction.
The objective of NeonXSZ
is discovery and total domination, as you vie for control and power over the various hubs spread throughout the world in all-out territorial war. Despite the open-ended form of gameplay, NeonXSZ
is ridiculously easy to get into for players of any skill level thanks to an approachable and flexible learning curve. This is gained through giving the player full control over which enemies and hubs they tackle on, giving the ability to scan hostiles for their level before deciding to engage or flee. As you fight higher leveled enemies you start to feel more confident, you'll return to bases with your hard-earned loot and become even stronger leading to newer and more challenging areas. The amount of content you have to explore is massive and already offers a minimum of 30 hours of feature complete gameplay with more to come.
I had already drifted around the computerized world for a few good hours exploring, taking on low leveled hostiles, and playing around with early equipment before I discovered the challenge arenas at the center of the Station in a massive sphere. This is where ♥♥♥♥ gets serious. Instead of analyzing and picking off single similarly leveled foes like in the main world, I was suddenly thrust into a large and complex series of challenging areas being bombarded by difficult but manageable enemies. Each lovingly detailed room was blocked off by a shield and every one of these persistent opposing ships had to be exterminated diligently in an intense and explosive battle in order to advance. The loot you get is of game-changing quality (depending on the level of the arena) and in high quantities, and defeating an arena allows you to claim territory on that Station for an allied side of your choosing.
Leveling up your tech level isn't as simple as gaining experience points or grinding mobs of same-y enemies like in other games, in NeonXSZ
leveling up is determined by the quality of parts you're discovering and equipping. In order to grow strong enough to take on tougher foes, you'll need to outfit your ship with a select choice of higher leveled upgrades all dependent on the players' own playstyle. The range of different parts and the effect they have on how the game feels and plays is insane, and allows you to be anything from a slow, hulking tank with tons of shields and firepower to an agile and lightning-quick smaller ship that avoids all damage with ninja-like reflexes in the hands of the sharp-witted.
Weapons are another integral part of NeonXSZ
and just like upgrades add a huge layer of player customization and personal technique to how combat is approached. You start with the standard pea-shooter in classic shootemup fashion, but are quickly presented with plenty of choices in how you take on your combatants. For the nimble and stealthy pilots who like to sneak up and get in close there's the Lightning Gun which packs a serious punch but drains your energy like crazy, and a Flak Cannon which spreads out for a wide shot but shreds anything in its direct path. For the sniper-minded you have the Railgun which requires the the most accuracy but disintegrates enemy ships almost instantaneously. There's Inferno Guns for taking your foes down in a firey blaze and Laser Cannons that deliver a shocking blast of energy from afar, all weapons I've discovered only in my first 25 hours of gametime and with more to be found. The arsenal in NeonXSZ
is remarkable, and will keep the most seasoned action veteran captivated for hours.
The heavy mechanical beats and ambient dronings of the background music do an excellent job of keeping you engaged in the atmosphere of the cybernetic and neon-tinted highways around you. In general the sound design to me is very engrossing with its muffled sound effects and outside explosions giving you the feeling of truly being inside the cockpit. Some people might not be huge fans of the ships speaking A.I. system dubbed 'Betty', but personally I feel it adds to the retrofuture aesthetics of the setting and the authenticity of the interactive and immersive cockpit you become all too familiar with. Perhaps with just a bit more variation in speech, Betty would be welcomed by more players.
If you're looking for lightning-quick combat, huge series of interconnected arenas, and ludicrous amounts of customization then look no further, NeonXSZ
is your next addiction. It's an already feature complete game with many hours of solid content, loads of replayability, and an amazing amount of polish. The games' state in Early Access is merely a sign of the tremendous amount of additional potential for an already mind-blowing shooter experience.