Housemarque’s roguelike sci-fi shooter Returnal was a critical success when it first launched as a PlayStation 5 exclusive in 2021. With Returnal’s positive reviews, it’s no surprise that others would look to emulate the game’s style. That’s exactly what Scars Above seems to have done, but while the game looks like Returnal at a quick glance, it is nowhere near the quality of Housemarque’s game.
Scars Above may have taken some inspiration from Returnal with its aesthetic and setup, but it plays much more like an extremely linear Dark Souls with guns. Players visit Scars Above’s equivalent of Dark Souls bonfires to replenish their health and make all enemies respawn, and dodging attacks mainly consists of rolling around. The game lacks Dark Souls’ deep gear system and trades melee weapons for guns, but otherwise, it’s very clearly attempting to ape the Souls-like formula in a Returnal skin.
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It may go without saying, but the most important thing in a shooter game is that the shooting is fun. Unfortunately, Scars Above botches the shooting completely, with the cursor flying wildly around the screen when first aiming down the sights and requiring players to either adjust the way they play accordingly or fiddle with the sensitivity to get it to a manageable state.
As players explore Scars Above’s generic alien world, they will come across a small selection of enemy creatures to practice their shooting on. There are only a handful of different enemy types in the game, all driven by predictable AI that makes each encounter play out exactly the same. There are the acid-spitting enemies that burrow underground and always pop up behind protagonist Kate. There are gorilla-like creatures that protect the weak point on their chest, then rear up for an attack and expose it. There are monsters that look like a mix between the abominable snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the creature from John Carpenter’s The Thing that…