I’ve spent several hours playing through the Early Access version of The Anacrusis and there is a hint of something that I think people might be able to latch on to.

Anyone who’s played Left 4 Dead will instantly be at home — the concept of The Anacrusis is go through each chapter with three teammates (human or competent AI) while shooting possessed human enemies and fending off special aliens that have the standard ‘spitty’, ‘grabby’ and ‘bullet spongey’ variants. There are also familiar setpiece areas where players will need to activate something and then fend off waves of attackers.

While the concept may be familiar, the swinging ’60s/’70s retro-future look of this four-player co-op, first-person shooter is the thing that stands out. Instead of a gritty, grimy look to everything, the enemies, locale and the guns all have have an upbeat color scheme. It’s a good aesthetic to lean into — all the weapons are laser guns that pop satisfyingly, the hordes of alien-infected enemies are all bright, screaming weirdoes and the environments look like the set of Austin Powers.  

The Anacrusis also attempts something interesting by bringing back the concept of an ‘AI director’ and per-run upgrades. This means that there are no difficulty levels — the game gets gradually harder until a team struggles, and then it gets easier.

There is some promise with the way The Anacrusis tries to address some problems present the genre. For example, when swarms spawn, it’s easy for players to get swamped with low-level enemies surrounding them. The Anacrusis provides a knockback ability instead of traditional melee, and this will push everything in a 360-degree area away from the character and provide ample breathing room.

Another past problem was downtime — when a player was taken out, they would have to wait for the survivors to reach a preset point in order to be returned to the game. The Anacrusis allows for the rest of the team to respawn downed teammates at-will anywhere in the level, with the cost being the risk of also spawning a horde.

While what I’ve summarized here is full of promise, The Anacrusis is still an early access title. There are performance issues that still need ironing out and the connectivity isn’t always stellar. Also, some sort of progress or pacing needs to come into play. Shooting aliens alongside GameCritics contributor CJ Salcedo, we played an hour of the first chapter only to end our run with no reward, nor any checkpoint for us to return to later. His verdict was that it was ‘fun’ but there was little enthusiasm to return and start again. The idea of the game being infinitely replayable did not seem realistic with the current implementation of lengthy run times and no persistent progress.

The Anacrusis seems to be on the right path towards creating its own identity, and it’s now on Game Pass — it makes a lot of sense for players interested in the genre to try it out. However, only time will tell if this co-op horde shooter will be able to make its mark.

AJ Small
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