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Matterfall Review (PS4): Old-school, heart-pounding arcade action

Relentless run-and-gun action is the name of the game from Matterfall, an arcade-style PS4 shooter from the developers of Super Stardust: Delta and Dead Nation.

As much as we love a good narrative-driven adventure packed with smart puzzles and a complex plot, occasionally we just need to stagger back from work, poke the PS4 on and collapse on the sofa with a mindless action romp. Something that allows us to blast apart hundreds of foes in a matter of seconds, to relieve all that built-up tension.

That’s where Matterfall comes in. The opening cutscene does attempt to relay some kind of background story, about a deadly smart matter that’s taking over the planet and a secret mission to crush the threat before there’s widespread panic. Thankfully you can skip it, because it’s all meaningless guff. We didn’t come here for narration, we came here to blow everything up and yell¬†hormone-fuelled abuse at the endless opposition.

Matterfall is very much a traditional side-scrolling action platformer, which is exclusively available right now for PS4 consoles. The hero of the piece (whose name we didn’t catch) looks to be straight out of a Metroid game, with similar acrobatic abilities to Samus. You can double-jump and boost around the place like a maniac, all while spraying your endless ammo in every direction. Just as well, because the enemies come thick and fast throughout.

Basic controls are pretty straightforward and work perfectly. The left thumbstick steers you around the screen, while the right thumbstick is used to unleash your weaponry. Just point in a direction and bullets spray out like they’re buy-one-get-a-zillion-free. You can also jump with the R1 shoulder button, with a double-tap equalling a double-jump.

However, Matterfall’s full control scheme is much more complicated than that. You can also fire a secondary weapon with the R2 button, while the L1 button boosts you in whichever direction you’re headed. This can be used to cut through bullets and even certain platforms. Then there’s the L2 button, which shoots out your funky swirly laser. This can be used for all kinds of stuff, from freeing human prisoners to activating mines that pop up occasionally after defeating enemies.

All fine and well, except that all of these abilities are thrust upon you within about three minutes of booting up the game. We’d have much preferred a Metroid-style gradual dishing out of abilities, to avoid any confusion; I’d actually defeated the first boss and made it well into the second stage before finally getting to grips with the scheme.

That said, once you do get the hang of those controls, Matterfall makes you feel like an absolute boss. Sometimes well over half of the screen can be filled with enemies and deadly bullets and missiles, and evading this hailstorm and emerging unscathed will get the dopamine flowing like nobody’s business.

You get a choice of difficulty levels, which is just as well because on normal this game is certainly challenging. Thankfully Matterfall also offers up regular checkpoints and you can replay a stage at any time, to try and better your previous score. Don’t let anything bad touch you and you can rack up quite the high score, thanks to the multipliers which are duly announced by your DualShock controller.

Presentation is solid throughout, although you’ll barely have time to notice as you blast your way through each stage. There’s always something going on in the background, be it machinery chugging away or spacecraft whizzing past at a breathtaking speed. Matterfall’s music is great too, ramping up the tension with some suitably sweeping scores. Although it’s slightly distracting that the opening music sounds more than a little like the Terminator theme.

If you want an addictive arcade shooter with strong replayability, and don’t mind a steep learning curve, then check out Matterfall on PS4 right now.

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