Analysis of High on Life, a chaotic, strange and funny space odyssey

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They say that tragedy + time = comedy, but in video games the real tragedy is the amount of time we have to wait between quality comic games. Luckily, in the opening moments of High on Life, when my talking gun whispered contemptuously that I was doing great while shooting dancing aliens in the face, I had the feeling that I had struck gold. Although it is buggy and glitchy and sometimes indulges in unimpressive toilet bowl humor, it largely manages to be the kind of wacky space satire I’ve always wanted. Whether I was chatting away shotgun on the merits of science and formulas, covering myself in alien poop to sneak into a security facility, or inexplicably watching a full-length ’90s live-action movie on the nearby TV, High on Life is a game that simply knows how to entertain you.

This delightfully inappropriate first-person shooter puts its comedic premise and characters to the fore and steadfastly refuses to take himself seriously. After Earth is taken over by filthy aliens who abduct humans to smoke as hallucinogenic drugs, you begin a ridiculous space odyssey to exact revenge on the alien drug cartel responsible. In the meantime, you’re joined by the stars of the show: the extremely gross weapons themselves, who serve not only as tools of destruction, but as the most important characters in the story. These animated weapons (called Gatlians) are easily the best part of the adventure, and include Kenny the jittery gun who’s basically Justin Roiland doing his usual Rick & Morty role, Sweezy the foul mouthed sniper rifle who seems to be a reference Halo’s Needler, Creature, who fires using his rapidly gestating children as ammunition, and my personal favourite: Gus, the surprisingly healthy shotgun voiced by Larry David’s JB Smoove. Although it took a while for some to warm up to me, spending a whole 16 hour ride with these guys right in front of my face turned out to be a great excuse to enjoy a lot of fun dialogue and character development. When the credits rolled, I didn’t want to have to holster my new best friends again.

This is due in large part to the solid writing of High on Life, which is stacked with silly jokes, cuss words, and loads of TV screens playing idiotic shows that look like they came straight out of one of the Rick & Morty episodes. One level features an intentionally irritating alien that follows you around and wanders around, seemingly endlessly, until you finally unlock the ability to kill it. Another has you go to a space restaurant and eat a full meal for no apparent reason. You can also find a movie theater showing the 1990 real-world film Wind From Hell, with Mystery in Space-style commentary through some nearby aliens, which you better believe I watched in its entirety. . The campaign only lasts about eight hours if you have the willpower and focus to ignore all these delicious distractions and keep going, so naturally my first game took me over 16 hours, mostly because I was goofing around for much of it. The whole game is full of bullshit and it’s always exciting to spend time traversing it from planet to planet; I never knew when I might run into something crazy, like when I teleported a stretch of highway to a jungle planet and watched the occupants of the cars that had been taken with her slowly turn from a bunch of alien road rage into a demented cult who sacrificed his own to appease the asphalt gods.

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It’s amazing that such a ridiculous FPS also has so much heart.

Many of the jokes in High on Life are cheap, soporific or irreverent, and like almost all comedies, not everyone will like it. But as a fan of classic comedy games like Borderlands 2 and South Park: The Stick of Truth, I’ve loved it. There were times when I found all the swearing and shocking humor to be lame or a bit over the top (and this is being said by someone with an extremely high tolerance), but more often than not the silly parts and rude dialogue work. It’s hard not to laugh when snarling enemies stop in the middle of combat to twerk disrespectfully in your direction. It’s impressive, though, that in a shooter so ridiculous and intentionally frivolous with its setting, High on Life’s story ends up having so much heart. I really enjoyed bonding with Gene, a down-and-out bounty hunter-turned-couch freeloader, and was genuinely motivated to destroy the alien drug cartel, though mostly to get back at my Gatlian friends, not to save the human race.

In perfect harmony with the chaotic environment of High on Life, shooting your teammates’ weapons in gunfights is over the top and at times a bit unnerving. Weapons are a bit imprecise and enemies flit around the battlefield shooting balloons at you, and in the early hours I was worried that the combat was nothing more than using Kenny the peashooter to clear out brainless ants. It doesn’t help that, even on the hardest difficulty, High on Life is almost always incredibly easy to beat: you have plenty of chances to restore your health and shield, and the bullets that come through are almost always slow enough to be easily dodged. Luckily, once you get new tools like the jetpack or other interesting combat options (like the creature’s power to mind control enemies on the battlefield or Gus’s ability to absorb smaller baddies right in front of him and then tear them to pieces), things get a lot more interesting.

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Nevertheless, there are still many things to criticizesuch as the poor variety of enemies, or hostile aliens getting stuck in the environment, or the incredibly baffling decision to make the bottom d-pad button the default crouch button (you can change it in the menu Of configuration). The fun is finding creative ways to clear each area of ​​enemies. For example, you can use Kenny’s balloon shot ability to launch enemies into the air and then juggle them until they explode, or kill enemies that are in cover (or trapped in the environment) using piercing shots. of Sweezy objects. It’s definitely more chaotic and less fine-tuned than your ideal shooter, but it’s a good sandbox for getting stupid and fun kills, and that fits well with the energy of High on Life.

It’s a good setting for fun killings.

When your guns aren’t shooting things, they become faithful allies to get you through each level. using their alternate firing modes, which give them functionality beyond just killing things. Kenny can move obstacles out of the way, Gus can create platforms by shooting his spinning blades at walls, Sweezy can shoot bubbles that slow time in a given area, and much more. I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was to run around looking for collectibles and hidden loot boxes. In true metroidvania style, as you unlock weapons and abilities you’ll access new areas and secrets in places you’ve already visited, making going back all the more worthwhile. Picking up alien money by exploring is also quite rewarding, as you can use that space currency to buy upgrades for your weapons and bounty hunter outfit, giving you useful perks like an upgraded version of Gus’s ability to suck enemies that allows him to rip them out. the armor and give it to you.

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High on Life too has some crazy and memorable boss fights which serve as the crescendos of each level and pit you against an alien criminal. Not only are these fights the only parts where I felt legitimately challenged during combat, but the bosses you fight and the wacky things they make you do are almost always fantastic finish offs to whatever the guy has done. So much so that I was saddened to have to slaughter them viciously. In a boss fight, the bad guy punished me in a way that made me stop for a moment and laugh at his metaphysical humor—it’s the kind of dastardly attack I never would have seen coming.

When you first launch it, High on Life gives you another taste of meta-humour: a warning that “any bugs or bugs you find are intentionally satirical references to other games with bugs and bugs.” That joke didn’t make me laugh very much while playing the game, because it really is prone to crashes and performance issues which, while rarely severe enough to put an end to good times, were a regular irritation. As of this writing, a performance patch has been rolled out that seems to have fixed the worst of the issues, but in times of extreme stress, such as in some of the more elaborate boss fights, I still see some minor drops in speed. frames playing on an Xbox Series X. As far as bugs go, they’re usually minor annoyances, like the time I got locked out of a character and couldn’t progress through dialogue with them until I reloaded my save, or when some enemies they kept appearing as intangible beings after they were killed.

High on Life is an irreverent and absurd shooter that manages to shine thanks to its wacky humor, absurd setting and story, and some really silly, foul-mouthed weapons that make sense of the whole thing most of the time. The combat is a little sloppy, especially in the first act, and the sci-fi adventure has a rough look at times, but once you get your hands on new destruction tools and movement options, it’s up to the task. Not all jokes are funny, but with memorable boss fights, unique shooting and exploration skills, and more terrible movies than I expected, this wacky ride is worth it.