Last summer, Curve Games and developer Neon Giant released their cyberpunk twin-stick shooter/RPG The Ascent on Xbox Series, Xbox One, and PC to mixed acclaim. Many enjoyed the game but it also suffered from numerous bugs and performance problems that hurt the experience. Well the game has just now released on PlayStation platforms and with this version including all the fixes and content that have been released to date, there is no better time to jump into this beautiful world.
The Ascent has a lot of strong points about it but the story wasn’t really one of them to me. The game takes place on an alien world with you playing as someone known as an indent which is essentially a gun-for-hire. You get handed contracts left and right and have to see them carried out. The corporation that oversees everything called the Ascent Group has had something happen to it though and certain other factions take this opportunity to try and take over. Over the course of the game you’ll fight with these people, find out what exactly is going on with the Ascent Group and more. Outside of the story that is presented to you through cutscenes there is also quite a bit of background lore that you can delve deeper into should you want.
While the story wasn’t that captivating to me the gameplay, music, and visuals absolutely were and are the highlight of this game. First off, you can play the game either solo or with up to three other players either locally or online. What isn’t great is that the game isn’t cross play on PlayStation with the other platforms but Xbox and PC players can play together. Further, PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 players can’t play together either currently which is really a letdown. For this review I played mostly solo but did dabble with another player locally and online for a bit. I enjoyed it both ways so no matter your preference there is fun to be had here. When you first get into the game you’ll go through a short and pretty basic character creator before jumping into the world. The controls will be very easy for anyone who has played a twin-stick shooter as the left stick handles your movement while the right one handles where you’re aiming. There is a nice array of guns you can get your hands on to fire with the triggers whether they be shotguns, rifles, rockets and more but sadly there is no adaptive trigger support on the DualSense. There is haptic feedback though and it feels good as you are unloading rounds and blasts on your foes. The game runs at a mostly smooth 60FPS on the PS5 too even when there is a lot of bullets on-screen ripping through foes.
Weapons can be acquired by looting them off the dead bodies of your foes or buy purchasing them at the store. You’ll spend a ton of time running through the world, carrying out side-missions, and blasting foes and while I had a ton of fun playing, there were moments of downtime where I got a bit bored going back and forth through areas. As you play, you’ll also gradually be upgrading yourself with XP that you earn. These upgrades include giving yourself more health or increasing your damage output all of which will make you more effective during gunfights. During these fights though I found the enemy AI to be a bit hit-or-miss as sometimes they would try to flank me when I was hiding behind cover and other times they would make themselves very easy targets and seem to not want to fight back. Overall though, I enjoyed the gameplay for the 15 or so hours I spent on my playthrough and may even jump back in on New Game+ soon.
As I said earlier, the visuals as well as the music score are outstanding in this game. Fans of things like Blade Runner are going to love the atmosphere that the environments in this game creates. The neon lights, the wet streets, the run-down locales, everything just has a pristine sci-fi feel to it. The synthwave soundtrack further adds to the atmosphere and fits this world perfectly. What isn’t so great on the PS5 are the load times as the initial load and restarting after dying take quite a bit of time. There aren’t really load times in most other cases while playing but in those rare moments you’ll be waiting long enough to pull out your phone and look at it. If you’re wondering about the trophy list, you’ll get 47 trophies including a Platinum. Most of them will come as you work to complete everything in the game and you can earn most of them while playing solo too.
The Ascent is a highly enjoyable sci-fi twin-stick shooter with outstanding visual and audio presentation. It is let down at times by some boring downtime while moving through areas and some inconsistent AI but the overall gameplay is a blast whether you’re playing solo or with friends. Fans of twin-stick shooters and cyberpunk worlds will want to have this on their to-play list for sure.
*The Ascent is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and PC. PlayStation 5 version reviewed. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
- Richly detailed cyberpunk world
- Responsive and satisfying gunplay
- Lots of fun to play solo or with friends locally and online
- Fantastic synthwave musical score
- Downtime while moving through areas can be boring
- Inconsistent enemy AI
- Load times are disappointing for a PS5 game