‘Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop’ misses mark on originality

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Photo Courtesy of Steam

A screenshot of the video game “Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop” is shown above. The game released on April 20, 2017.

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

As we enter September and the adrenaline rush of starting a new year of the college journey wears off and students come to the sobering realization they are now stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, surrounded by endless cornfields, despair and discount-liquor stores, it seems like the ideal time to kick back and play some relaxing video games with your new buddies. A perfect title to completely miss that mark is “Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop,” the very opposite of a chill, relaxing gaming experience. 

“Alien Swarm” is a multiplayer top-down shooter developed by Valve. Like a shockingly high number of Valve titles, it is a remake of a mod, originally for “Unreal Tournament 2004.” The original development team was hired by Valve, able to create their envisioned video game from mod to full-fledged PC title. Not only that, but release the whole package for free. In 2017, an expansion/rerelease came out, “Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop,” that took the original title and added more content, as well as enhancing the base experience. The whole package, base campaign and endless community expansions, is completely free to play on Steam. 

The game came out of a recommendation and was a free alternative to what I initially set out to review this week, “Aliens Fireteam Elite,” an AAA-priced horde shooter sporting the iconic “Aliens” license. Sold not just on not having to pay for anything, but being a playthrough with companions sounded like a much more enjoyable gaming experience. 

If only it were that simple. 

From the get-go, “Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop” does not hold your hand. The game has virtually no tutorial and leaves the user to adapt to its simple yet complex system of juggling combat and team management. The premise is simple, you are four dudes and need to shoot invading aliens that are not Xenomorphs for strictly legal purposes, on a linear mission to detonate a nuke in the alien hive, fly out and roll credits. So derivative of the 1986 “Aliens” film, it’s hard to notice anything genuinely unique about the game, until quickly finding teammates all dying of alien disease, while a good 50 or so aliens buggers bursting through the door in full sprint. 

“Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop” is in the vein of the “Left 4 Dead” games in how the setting and aesthetic is nothing special, completely plagiarized from the inspiration material, ala “Dawn of the Dead” and “I am Legend.” Yet in its execution, and completely realized effort in emphasizing the necessity of teamwork, that elevates the game it finds its own iconic identity. Where L4D succeeds in carving out its own zombie-slaughtering identity, the Alien Swarm games run with its plagiarized of “Aliens” and presents a tight, nightmarish shooter channeling the same feelings of panic and dread the film possessed. 

A session had my character get infected with a parasitic alien (legally not a facehugger), and with any medkits left I decided to accept my fate and die. To my horror, upon my death, a violent explosion of ore and tiny, baby parasite aliens erupted, leading everyone behind me in the condensed corridor to become infected and die in a matter of seconds. I was genuinely in awe of how such chaos erupted so fast, a more sincere reaction than my friend’s frustration in having to do the level again.

The free-to-play nature led to the game’s population still flourishing to this day, so we were able to put together a team in quick time. The team members are all assigned roles, and unlike the L4D games, your role is necessary for progression past certain obstacles like computer terminals. Everyone is a jigsaw puzzle piece in a successful mission, one goes MIA then the whole thing falls apart. It demands not just coordination, but good coordination, no slacking on anyone’s part, as there is no holding back once things get heated. It’s a must-have not to just have friends to play with, but to have frineds who actually know what they are doing. 

It’s a horde shooter, so the main campaign time wraps up in only two hours, but the nature of such games is for repetition and experimenting with different classes/load-outs and companions. It being free and capable of running on even the most low-end laptops makes it a very easy recommendation for anyone looking to go on a bit of a bug hunt. 

Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop is available on PC. 

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