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Preview: Starship Troopers: Extermination

26 May 2023

You know, there was a time when it was a safe bet that the release of a licensed game from nearly any franchise would be met with skepticism. Call it a relic of decades past, but there are some that still vividly remember seeing a game from your favorite franchise turn out to be a forgettable low-effort shovelware effort that coasted by on name recognition alone. The 80s and 90s were chock full of these kinds of games getting pushed out the door, though there were instances where a licensed game ended up becoming a diamond in the rough that was actually worth playing.

These days, the quality of such titles is definitely a stark contrast to decades past for the most part. While there is most definitely shovelware out there, it’s the app stores of smartphones and tablets bearing the brunt of such an assault. With the likes of games like Scott Pilgrim, Shredder’s Revenge, and so on gracing modern gaming platforms; the uptick in quality has definitely not gone unnoticed by me.

With Offworld Industries’ Starship Troopers: Extermination gracing PC platforms via Steam Early Access on May 17th, fans of the cult film franchise as well as fans of cooperative shooters are now able to put boots on the ground and lay waste to some deep space bugs. With the number of hours I’ve sunk into similar titles like Deep Rock Galactic, I’m hoping that the allure of a niche property is on top of what I hope to be a better experience in comparison to Offworld’s other releases. The PC version was played for this preview.

Buggin’ Me to Do My Part

Those waxing nostalgic about couch co-op Halo sessions with their buddy years ago might have to temper their expectations a tad. While online co-op is by no means a scarce experience these days, games like this have a specific vibe that most like to stick to most of the time. Instead of a limited amount of campaign missions, the focus is mainly objective-based. With Extermination being released in Early Access, it doesn’t feel kosher to give it a full-on review at this point for that reason alone. That said, with a game like this, sometimes it’s just best to go ahead and let the masses get their hands on it to get a feel for how things will work from all angles.

Compared to Offworld’s other projects like Beyond The Wire, the player count is a lot more focused in scope. Pared down to a player maximum of 16, you’ll slot yourself into one of several fireteams before choosing the class you’ll use for the Deep Space Vanguard’s operation at hand. Really, the only difference between the three classes is the unique abilities between them. Hunters use a jetpack to fly out of danger, Bastions are considered a bit tankier and can use deployable cover, and Operators are considered the healers of this game. While you’re going to have to wade through the leveling system in place to unlock new equipment and abilities, starting from scratch any class will look about the same.

Right at this moment, there are two modes available. AAS (Advance and Secure) is your bog standard point capture mode, while ARC mode is more of a resource-gathering type of affair. Regardless of what you’re choosing, you’re going to see plenty of Arachnids. Given the source material, the amount of bugs on the screen is not surprising in the slightest. Some might be a bit surprised by how easily they’ll squash you, but proper teamwork and spatial awareness should help you win the day.

While you’re going to be taking the fight against the bug menace with your buddies, there is a base-building/repair mechanic here as well. Limited to specific spaces (and more towards the end of the round in AAS), you’ll use resources to build up a base of operations while you collect data about the Arachnids using the ARC that you’ll have to defend against those very same bugs. Regardless of what mode you choose, gunning down Arachnids will serve as a means to an end. They’ll absolutely overwhelm you at times, but you can bump down to a lower difficulty if you find that you can’t hang with the big bugs for the time being.

Most of the gameplay is usually pretty straightforward and brisk when it comes to the objectives, and sometimes you need that when you have that many players round after around. Since most co-op experiences are usually focused on smaller groups, it makes sense to simplify things. That’s not to say that it’s not fun, though. Slightly repetitive at times, yeah. But still a pretty fun experience overall.

This is one of the things that some people might forget about when they dive into any title emerging onto the scene via Early Access. It’s not a finished product, and you’re part playtester and consumer as part of the process. This obviously means that more content will eventually come down the pike. Even with the limited amount of content that’s currently available at the time of writing this, it’s engaging enough in its current state for me to feel that this might be a fun experience to see unfold if you decide to drop the $24.99 on a work in progress like this.

Sweat and Devotion

I’m sure that when most folks hear about this franchise, the first thing they think about is that weird uncanny valley from the first movie that felt like it had a budget, but didn’t feel entirely low-budget. For some, I’m sure that was the draw with it being a pastiche of fascist governments and overly militaristic vibes throughout. For Extermination, some of that does bleed through into the presentation. This is mostly accomplished through the pre-round “video feed” roll and radio dialogue, but it is there. Unfortunately, things do get a bit repetitive in that department.

Though the graphical presentation does hold true to finding yourself in a desolate and depressing location. With most games, this isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. But the overall performance isn’t something I could say is low-effort or anything like that. Environments generally fit the vibe they were going for, and most of the time gamers with even semi-modern builds will be able to run this decently most of the time. There were occasions where the performance took a hit when the bugs started to flood the screen, and I have a relatively modern GPU/CPU setup in my gaming PC. Because of that, it feels like some further optimization is in order.

Offworld immediately (and cheekily) lets you know that you may (and sometimes do) run into game bugs of both varieties. Thankfully, these were mostly things that didn’t directly affect gameplay. Most of the time it was just graphical oddities or just silly things that the engine might end up doing on occasion. I’ve seen this sort of thing in AAA titles before, but I’m hoping that these silly little oddities end up getting squashed in the development process.

Audio-wise, I guess some would consider it “good enough” for where it currently is. Voice acting isn’t anything to write home about, but it gets the job done. Radio conversations actually feel like there’s some effort put into it, and I’m hoping that further development will give us some more variety down the line. Music definitely fits that franchise-specific vibe as well. I guess some fans might feel a little pandered to here, but I don’t think people are going to mind as much when all they’re focusing on is squashing some bugs.

Given where we are in development, it does feel nice to say that the presentation isn’t particularly loathsome. The developers understand the love that some fans have for this particular property, and it definitely feels like they had that in mind with how they’ve handled things here so far. While it might not please everyone, I’m happy to see that what’s already here should do enough to please fans.

Wanna Live Forever?

I’ll admit, I’ve always been a fan of getting a sneak peek of something I really want to play before it’s officially released. But with Early Access games, it kind of takes the luster out of the excitement for such a thing. Based on what I’ve played here, I think fans of the franchise and co-op shooter fans, in general, will find a lot to like here.

I’m hoping by the time this goes to some form of official release later on, the overall package will be a lot denser in content in comparison to what we currently have access to at the moment. It’s not awful by any means, but some might wait for more content before they pull the trigger on what’s already a fun experience.

I think the allure of the franchise is already compelling enough for some to dive right in, though. Because of that, it was not hard at all to jump into a match and mow down some bugs. Given the last Offworld project that I covered was anything but populated, I was rather satisfied to see so many players jump in with both feet. Here’s hoping that the momentum keeps up down the line with constant updates and a more robust experience once we hit the finish line for this game. I’m liking what I’m playing so far, and I’m sure others will as well.

Preview copy provided by Offworld Industries for PC. Screenshots taken by writer. Featured image courtesy of Offworld Industries