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Level Zero: Extraction Review: Promising, But Rough Around The Edges

Level Zero: Extraction has a lot of promise but isn't quite ready for a full release.
Level Zero: Extraction Review: Promising, But Rough Around The Edges
(Picture: TinyBuild)

TinyBuild's Level Zero: Extraction has an intriguing premise, especially for fans of multiplayer horror. It's a PvPvPvE title pitting teams of mercenaries against one another, and those teams against player-controlled alien opponents whose weakness is light. It looks like a mix of Lethal Company and Alien: Isolation, and, as a fan of both games as well as of asymmetrical horror titles in general (like Dead by Daylight), of course I wanted to dive right in and try out the game's closed beta playtest.

Needless to say, I wanted to love Level Zero: Extraction, and in some ways, I did. I love the atmosphere, the lore, the character and monster design, and the clean UI. I even loved the in-game voice chat, which was seamlessly implemented and worked perfectly - something that unfortunately can't be said of all multiplayer games, especially in beta. 

In premise, the game was beyond promising, but in practice, the game felt extremely incomplete, and the gameplay loop felt uneven. Even for a beta release, I found myself wishing that the gameplay was a little more fair and a little smoother around the edges. To really get a feel for the game, I tried out a few matches as both a mercenary and alien, both by myself and with one friend.

Playing As Mercenary

mercenary level zero extraction
Mercenaries start out with numerous items in their inventory, which can be added to their loadout. (Picture: TinyBuild)

After loading into a few games as a mercenary, one thing was clear: as a beginner mercenary, you will die. A lot. As a solo player, there's very little you can do to fight off any aliens that may cross your path. You have flares and some weapons at your disposal, but they're scarce, while aliens have a wide variety of attacks that are available to them only at the cost of a slight cooldown.

With friends, you can organize your defence against opponents and use your items a little more efficiently, so you're somewhat less at risk - but it still feels like the aliens will always come out on top for a few reasons.

Mercenaries don't have strong vision like aliens, making it difficult to find your way around the maps and get to know them. Aliens are also faster than mercenaries, with less clunky movement. Aliens no doubt have the advantage when it comes to mobility and agility; as a mercenary, you might even be unlucky enough to spawn in next to an alien and die in seconds before you're able to think of fighting back. The mercenaries' flares and tools just don't feel like they pose a real threat against alien players, especially against groups of aliens.

In other words, if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself switching over to the alien role pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the game discourages that by design.

Playing As Alien

alien level zero
Aliens have a variety of abilities to choose from. (Picture: TinyBuild)

In games like Dead by Daylight, there's equal incentive for playing killer and survivor roles: you'll earn Bloodpoints no matter what side you choose, and you can spend those Bloodpoints on any character you'd like. In Level Zero: Extraction, though, there's no reward for playing the alien role except for the satisfaction of knowing you've taken down the mercenaries.

You can't stockpile your own loot, earn points for taking down mercenaries, or even upgrade your loadout. In fact, you can't even customize your character. Progression on the alien side just doesn't exist yet.

It's fun to explore the maps as the alien, since you're able to swiftly move around and your vision is greatly improved. It's sometimes easy to take down mercenaries, and sometimes more challenging; the alien role has a much more diverse gameplay loop than the mercenary side of things. Yes, it's fun, but it just isn't rewarding.

I found myself disappointed that the game's most fun role offers no rewards and no progression whatsoever. Alien customization and progression is on the game's roadmap, and it can't come soon enough.

Optimization Issues

When playing both alien and mercenary, I got the feeling that the game was definitely not well-optimized at this point; this is a beta playtest, so it makes sense that not everything is perfect, but it surprised me that I found myself crashing quite this much. Crashes proved to be frequent even at Medium or High settings (the game started me out at 'Epic'), and I found myself experiencing more lag than I do in other similar titles. Frustratingly, when you crash, you can't re-join your ongoing game and the game will instead require you to create a new one.

Hopefully tinyBuild will iron out the issues with optimization before the game's full release; thankfully, like the lack of alien progression system, they've noted fixing optimization issues as a future update in the game's roadmap.

Level Zero: Extraction Closed Beta Verdict

Overall, Level Zero: Extraction has a lot of promise. The game's unique premise blends some of my favorite aspects of great games like Dead by Daylight and Alien: Isolation, and the developers have done an excellent job with implementing many core gameplay mechanics and features.

That said, the game is still a little rough around the edges, with crashes remaining frequent and the gameplay feeling a bit unbalanced and, at times, utterly unrewarding. The game is still in beta, so developers still have time to make adjustments to the game and patch up these issues before its full release, which we can't wait to jump back into.