By Chris Picone, 3 November 2023
Startship Troopers: Extermination is an intense online co-op multiplayer first person shooter that really nails the feel of the combat scenes in the movies (especially the Outpost 29 scene!). I can be pretty fussy when it comes to shooters, especially multiplayer shooters, and Starship Troopers is one of my all-time favourite movies. So when I say this title impressed, it's a big call. The game's still in Early Access at the moment, and there are definitely some weird decisions and a few issues that still need ironing out, but overall I've been having a great time with it, I'm very much hooked.
Because I've already put the game on a pedestal, I'm going to make a point of acknowledging there are definitely a few strange decisions made by the developers in order to fit a square peg into a round hole. For example, the team have opted for Team Fortress-style character classes, which is probably an obvious decision in terms of desired gameplay but does come across as a little odd lore-wise. The classes are Hunter, Bastion, and Operator. Hunters are reconnaissance - probably the closest to default infantry in the game, with access to sniper rifles as you gain experience and level up between missions. Except they all have jetpacks, crucial for escaping bugs when you get swarmed, or for setting up safe fire positions on high ground. Bastion's the "heavy infantry," starting with machine guns and the ability to set up a bizarre defensive position with tiny little hip-high walls that somehow stop the bugs (which are often taller than you are) from being able to hit you. I find this particularly jarring but it is very fun to play. Finally, the Operator, a support class, which I found very under-utilised. They're equipped like normal infantry but double up as medics and also have an ability to carry fuel canisters (used to power your base) - an ability I've never seen actually used because of the way the pumps work but which might be more useful in some sort of competitive play. Also, when they level up they get access to a grenade launcher for some reason. Weapon options are somewhat limited at the moment but there are more coming, still in development.
Extermination is an objective-based game with multiple game modes. Advance and Secure (AAS) is the "default," which involves your squad aggressively taking control of territory on the planet, then building a base, and defending it until extraction. It's exciting and the layers of gameplay really make for a great mission. "Defend" (ARC) is a strange mode - it's very similar to AAS except with resource collection instead of the initial conquest phase. I love the idea but currently find this mode lacking. The other two modes, however, are also awesome. Horde mode is a pure base defence where you must hold out against wave after wave of bugs with short repair phases between waves. Hive Hunt's exactly what it sounds like; a small squad, blasting their way through a hive in order to plant nukes and then a frantic escape. My favourite feature, however, is an unusual one. Because it's a co-op game, instead of using a ladder for matchmaking, you're able to select a difficulty level. Start with easy while you're learning but I highly recommend putting the game on hard mode as soon as you can, it really adds layers of challenge and complexity to an already intense game.
The verdict? Although huge chunks of the game don't make a lot of sense canonically and some gameplay decisions are cheesy or jarring, the game experience overall is so damn good that it's easily forgiven. Extermination really does a fantastic job of letting you experience the frantic intensity of fighting off massive bug hordes, the constant threat of being overwhelmed as you try to protect your base or get to the extraction point. I wanted to hold off until the game was a bit closer to end state before continuing but honestly I'm hooked, I can't put it down.