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May 2022

The Anacrusis

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: Stray Bombay
Release Date: 2022


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XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'The Anacrusis'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 10, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

The Anacrusis is a four-player, cooperative first-person shooter set aboard a massive starship stranded at the edge of explored space.

Cooperative PvE fans will have quite a selection of games to choose from in 2022. Rainbow Six: Extraction is arriving in just a few weeks and brings with it tactical, squad-based gameplay against aliens that are invading the planet. Meanwhile, Summer 2022 should bring Redfall, which brings the concept to a modern open world that's overrun by monsters. The first of the 2022 games to drop is The Anacrusis from a few people responsible for the Left 4 Dead titles; The Anacrusis will hit the Xbox, PC via Steam and Epic, and Game Pass with cross-play in mind.

Much like this game's inspiration, the tale of a space station at the edge of the galaxy being overrun by aliens is told through random incidental dialogue, so you have to piece it together via multiple playthroughs. All four heroes spout dialogue that adds an air of silliness, a nice departure from the mostly serious offerings in the genre.

If you've played a shooter like this, you know how it plays out. Your squad of four — any combination of real online players or AI — start in a safe room where they gather their primary weapon, refill ammo, take a health pack or heal, and open the door to trek to another safe room. Along the way, they face off against humans who have been transformed into aliens and aliens with special abilities, like grabbing and pinning someone from afar, or a giant brute that can absorb a ton of damage. Reach the safe room, and you repeat the process after a brief loading screen until you reach the end of the episode. With all of the episodes available from the get-go, there's less of an emphasis on playing the correct way through the narrative and more of a focus on jumping in wherever you want for fun. There's also infinite replayability thanks to an ever-shifting loadout of enemies in each run.

When compared to other games of this type, you get a back-to-basics feel in The Anacrusis, albeit with a late-'60s/early-'70s vibe. There's no need to fiddle with an economy to buy gun mods. Almost all of the guns have a retro sci-fi theme, whether they're pistols, rifles, shotguns or submachine guns. Almost all of the aliens exhibit zombie-like behavior, so there's no strategy change needed. You don't have a melee attack or secondary weapon to reliably switch to beyond your pistol, and ammo remains a scarcity. With nothing new to learn, anyone with familiarity with the genre can easily jump in.

The Anacrusis introduces a few new elements. In lieu of a melee attack, you have a personal repulsor that knocks back enemies and can be used up to three consecutive times before recharging. You can find regular and incendiary grenades, but you can also obtain goop grenades that slow down enemies when they step in it, stasis grenades that freeze enemies in place, and vortex grenades that suck in anyone nearby into a tidy place for shooting. Shield grenades are probably going to be the most prized ones, since they allow you a safe space to heal while actively repelling anyone else near the constructed dome. You can pick up turrets to help fight the alien hordes, but they turrets can only be placed once; you can find a rare arc gun for chained electrical attacks, but the Matter Compilers grant access to perks for the entire run that range from no recoil to more health and an extra repulsor charge. The perk selection is randomized, so it pays to scour every nook and cranny of a level rather than heading straight for the next safe room.

While most of the aliens already have known counterparts, there are a few that stand out. There's a spiked ball that relentlessly comes after you, made more dangerous by the fact that the balls come in large packs and take a ton of shots to kill. The goop alien might be familiar, but it can quickly cocoon you in slime, forcing everyone to shoot at you to break you free. The most fascinating is the flasher, which bathes the area in sunlight and leaves you to only see silhouettes. The effect looks amazing and stands out from the rest of the bestiary.

Built on Unreal Engine 4, The Anacrusis handles bunches of on-screen aliens, and being flooded with goop and blinding sunshine don't elicit a performance hit. The mod-inspired sci-fi style makes for good-looking environments, even if it can feel a bit too familiar. The audio delivers in this early state, with the vocal performances delivering on charm and the music straddling the line between eliciting dread and being playful even amidst the chaos.

With The Anacrusis eyeing a full release at the end of 2022, there's still plenty of remaining development time for the game. The core gameplay is built on a solid base, and there are some novel weapons and enemies that make this feel a little different from other games aping the Left 4 Dead formula. The game is currently in Steam Early Access, so interested players can checking it out progresses toward a release date.

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