The last few months have seen several sci-fi action games released with Dead Space remake and The Callisto Protocol, and now there’s a new kid on the block with Mad Head Games’ Scars Above, a sci-fi third-person action game. Mad Head Games have previously worked on award-winning hidden object games like Adam Wolfe, Maze, and Nevertales with Scars Above being their first major action game. So is Scars Above out of this world? Find out in our review below.
Scars Above – Story
Some things were not meant to be discovered…
A colossal alien structure has appeared in Earth’s orbit called ‘The Metahedron’. The Sentient Contact Assessment and Response Team (SCAR), consisting of scientists and engineers, are sent to investigate this enigmatic structure.
Naturally, things don’t go as planned and the Metahedron hauls the team across space onto a mysterious extrasolar planet. You take control of Dr. Kate Ward who wakes up dazed, and alone in a strange, hostile environment. Now she must fight her way through this bizarre planet to find her missing crew members and unravel the mystery behind what’s happened.
Scars Above takes every sci-fi cliché and crams it into the 7-10 hour story it presents. While I was engaged for most of my playthrough, it was still your typical astronaut stranded alone on a planet story. I think the issue I had most with the story was the lack of world-building throughout the journey. The game would have benefited from more dialogue or even collectibles that give some lore to the world that Dr. Ward is stranded on.
Scars Above – Gameplay
While the story was lackluster for me, I fell in love with this game thanks to the gameplay elements many of which look like they were inspired by some of the biggest games of the last few years. The internet has been comparing Scars Above to Returnal, which I’ll admit, does have some similarities, but I think a fair comparison would be if Dark Souls and Dead Space had a baby.
Throughout the exploration of the strange planet, Kate is armed with an arsenal of guns, plus a handful of unique gadgets that can be the difference between life and death in a fight. Most enemies have a glowing elemental bulb on their body which indicates a weak spot. Damage bonuses are also granted in the right circumstances, i.e. if you shoot an enemy in water with the electric gun, or if you freeze an enemy and then shoot it with fire. This added a lot more depth to the combat and kept it feeling fresh.
You can upgrade weapons by exploring the world and progressing through the story. These upgrades aren’t just tacked on, they are more than noticeable once applied, and some even grant a whole new way to use the weapon.
An action game these days is not complete without a skill tree and Scars Above doesn’t deviate from that. The Skill tree is split into two sections, each with four tiers. By the end of my playthrough, I had all of the skills unlocked which made me feel unstoppable going into the final boss fight.
Scars Above – Music and Audio
The soundtrack has contributions by Kortiko, Milos Nikolic, Dimitrije Cvetkovic, and TheDooo and sounds exactly what you would expect in a sci-fi action game. Most of the tracks on the soundtrack feel very eerie and compliment the environments well.
Award-winning voice actress Erin Yvette who has previously garnered roles in games like The Wolf Among Us, Telltale’s The Walking Dead, and Horizon Forbidden West has given a profound performance as Dr. Kate Ward in Scars Above despite the mid-ground story. Supporting actors also include Cassie Ewulu (Fire Emblem Engage), and Todd Haberkorn (Natsu / Fairy Tail).
Graphics and Performance
First and foremost, Scars Above’s graphics aren’t going to wow you. Being Mad Head Games’ first mainstream release, plus the price tag of $59.99, you aren’t going to get a AAA gaming experience. That said, the graphics were really good for what you’re paying for. I also had a stable framerate throughout my whole playthrough on PlayStation 5 which made my overall experience with the game even more pleasant.
Scars Above has been a pleasant surprise that has cemented an already fantastic year in gaming. While it has its shortcomings with it’s uninspired story and weak world-building, it redeems itself with its fun and engaging gameplay.
Scars Above is now available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.