PS4

Review: Mars Alive – PSVR

Mars Alive, from developer Future Tech and publisher Winking Entertainment, is a PSVR survival game that focuses on your escape from the red planet. Although it starts with a great idea, it’s often buggy and downright boring with design choices that confused and frustrated me. This is not a time to get your butt to Mars.

Mars Alive opens with a terrorist attack. As the survivor John Moon, you will work with another survivor named Jane to live long enough to go back to Earth. Although nothing really happens in the game, there is a story, and it’s sufficient to provide a rationale for the missions.

You can see the entire area and mission objectives by pulling up your map. You can manually add waypoints, but I had an error that kept me from removing waypoints I added to the map. Make sure you really want to mark something.

Since it’s a survival game, you will need to be out in the unfriendly Martian waste collecting materials. You can find items for food, water, oxygen, and raw materials, such as ore. You can locate them by scanning the area with a pulse which highlights the items close to you. The items and placement is mostly random.

You can check your current status by opening the inventory. The food, water, oxygen, and temperature gauges show your condition and allow you to grab something from the inventory if you are low. There is no gauge for sleep, so check your level at the nearest bed. Being tired will make your food and water resources less effective.

The rest of the materials are used for crafting at the 3D printer inside the working habitats you find. You can make upgrades, food, and process raw materials according to the recipes. Later areas allow for more improved versions of those upgrades. Depending on your habitat, the other items include a teleporter to move yourself or items to other explored locations, a storage chest for items, and an agriculture area for growing crops.

You will collect items, but the survival part of the game is generally boring. Most of the time, I had enough food and water to stay alive as long as I kept searching. It’s random, so the one time I couldn’t find anything, I was dead. It doesn’t reward any strategy except going outside to grab things that might be there. Even though there were more upgrades, I didn’t need them or didn’t want to waste time trying to find the necessary materials.

Movement speed outside is OK, but, inside the habitat, prepare to move like molasses in January. Entering the habitat requires going through two hatches, one of which is visually pulled through your character’s head and body every time. Walking speed inside is painfully slow, but you can adjust how sharply you turn in the limited menu.

There are two vehicles for you to use. The MMR is a large transport vehicle, and the MER is an unmanned exploration vehicle. Both can be upgraded and can be recharged on pads at a habitat. Even with a couple of upgrades, it moves about as fast as you can walk. It just saves you food and water and keeps you warm. The MER can find a few extra supplies with more upgrades and runs through different waypoints you set.

The visuals themselves are a little blurry, but there is almost non-stop pop in. Mars Alive is a sandy and rocky environment with mountains and cliffs. The ground level near you will pop in to raise or lower as you walk. The shiny seams of the world are frequently visible. Turning my head back and forth would cause mountains to appear and disappear and appear again. The cloud level would click upward into place as I walked. The more you look, the uglier it is.

There are visual problems everywhere. Some supplies in the environment were suspended high in the air. There is a watering can in a habitat next to a sack of flour. You can pick up the flour, but you have to make a watering can. Since finding the right angle to interact with something can be a real chore, I would have to move back and forth repeatedly to make the indicator show. Sometimes, I would be locked out of the habitat or MMR I exited a minute earlier. Restarting the game would fix some of these issues.

My MMR interior would disappear. The inner part of the MMR vehicle shows monitors and gauges. Most of the time, I would enter it and none of the cockpit would be visible. I had to remember where to look to exit the vehicle and go to the back to check the battery level. I also had to make sure it was charging inside the habitat, because that froze often. One time it froze during an upgrade, and I lost the upgrade and materials.

Mars Alive has almost no sound at all. I would hear the crunch of my feet when I was walking and a few other occasional sound effects, but most of my time was spent listening to the exhaust fans of my PS4. The music is nice, but incredibly rare. If you can hear them at all, the tracks repeat frequently.

The automatic save system is another thing that frustrated me. You cannot manually save the game. If you are dying of thirst and the game saves as you run around looking for liquid, you will have to start the entire game over from the beginning to get a save point that doesn’t have you already dying. It keeps you from experimenting with the survival systems in the game.

Mars Alive is not a bad game through any malicious intent or desire to be a cash grab. Its design choices and bugs result in an experience that’s not enjoyable for me and keeps me from replaying it for the multiple endings. It ranges from boring to frustrating with the small bits of enjoyment being even rarer than the musical soundtrack.

Mars Alive PSVR Review
  • Overall - Bad - 4/10
    4/10
4/10

Summary

Mars Alive is built on a good idea that is poorly executed. The numerous bugs, frustrating design, the limited sound and lack of music, the visual issues, including heavy pop in, and weaker survival elements hold back what could have been a much better game.

Pros

  • Great concept
  • Has a story with multiple endings for replayability
  • Plenty of upgrades and items

Cons

  • Game has a lot of bugs
  • Heavy visual pop-in for near and far objects
  • Almost no music and infrequent sound make an often silent game
  • Survival elements not fully fleshed out

Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy. 

Reviewed using PS4 Pro.

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