Scars Above review | You are excused if you can’t name a single game from Scars Above’s developer Mad Head Games. They created over 60 game experiences since 2011 but most of them are small and unknown. With this latest Sci-Fi game, they rebranded the studio and start their journey of Mad Head Games 2.0! The studio starts this exciting new adventure in a genre that’s swarmed with top-notch games, a cinematic third-person shooter.
Scars Above is their first “large” game and they succeeded in making something that stands out. It has a few noticeable shortcomings but throughout my gameplay, I was constantly looking forward to learning more about the story’s series of events. It reminds me of Syfy channel TV movies or series, they never matched the quality of for example Stargate or Star Trek but easily attracted my attention. I spend a lot of hours watching that channel intrigued about aliens. That exact same feeling unleashes while you play Scars Above.
|Developer||Mad Head Games|
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What we Liked!
- Visual awesome alien architectures | I love video games that allow you to explore alien worlds and structures. You might immediately think about Mass Effect but I always found that they didn’t really take advantage of the possibilities of all the species. Better examples are Scorn or Outer Wilds. The awe of alien-looking landscapes is what motivates me in many Xbox games and Scars Above isn’t any different. The apartment-sized alien structures floating impressively over the environments really add to the visual experience. Scars Above cannot compete with others in the genre but they have created their own realistic look, which occasionally wowed me. The enemies themselves inhabiting the mysterious alien environments sometimes seem straight out of dead space. From spider-like monsters to bear-like creatures where a giant razor-sharp tongue emerges. They are not the most original monster design but they do bring fear and they are clearly not cuddly. First and foremost, they are beautifully rendered with enough detail and together with the environments make Scars Above a visually engaging experience.
- I kept on playing for the story | The mystery and discovering what’s going on during Scars Above is largely why I enjoyed playing. Now what on earth is that big object in Earth’s atmosphere and where are Kate’s colleagues who have suddenly disappeared? More seriously, where did Kate end up while observing that unknown object? It’s a rollercoaster of theorizing! It has been a long time since a story managed to captivate me so hard. No unnecessary side stories that distract from the main story. No hundred pointless side-quests. Just a strong story that makes you want to solve the mystery.
- Combat | Kate has a nice arsenal of weapons and gadgets. It has an element system of fire, poison, ice, and electricity. It is ferm fun to get to work with these, for example, when monsters are on water you do extra damage with your VERA (electricity rifle). If monsters are on the ice, you can use your Thermic charger (fire) to thaw the ice so it falls into the water and freezes. There are many such things, especially during boss fights. Kate, therefore, has a handful of gadgets that help her. Things like a body shield, an object that draws monsters towards it, or slows down time in a restricted environment. All cool but Kate is far too powerful and soon the fighting gameplay becomes predictable and too easy, even boss fights are simple. The game then also gives you all sorts of upgrades for the arsenal and far too many health potions and ammo. So the balance is a bit off, which is a real shame.
What we Disliked
- Scars Above’s protagonist Kate Ward | Kate is part of a scientific task force that has to investigate an alien object near Earth’s orbit. Having a great voice actor (Erin Yvette) it is a shame that the character is generic and boring. Hardly any emotions with facial animations and her character design seem to come from a free open-source tool, absolutely nothing original about it. Over 90% of the story is told through her eyes and a bit more character depth could have meant so much in the overall storytelling. Engaging voice work and seeing the lifeless puppet-like animation of the character is a weird mix that often provides (wrong) comedy. I could not connect with the main character or any other character. And I’m sure you won’t be able to either. The game has no moment of depth or never takes the time to give a moment of backstory or emotional connection.
- Performance issues | Unfortunately, the game does have some scars. (Pun intended) For instance, the game does not always run smoothly. This is especially noticeable during the cutscenes. There is also a big monster that opens its belly and then a giant tentacle comes out, Scars Above had regular problems with this. Also, if you use one of Kate’s special abilities to spray an environment with fire acceleration, it does occasionally happen that the game has huge delays with the frame rate.
How long to beat the story | 10 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 10 hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Dead Space
With some extra polish and attention to gameplay balance, Scars Above could have been a top-notch game. I still think it’s a worthy purchase, with its flaws. I am curious to see what comes next from Mad Head Games, I have become a fan of their work!
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