Given its AA-title billing from publisher Prime Matter, I didn’t have huge expectations going into Scars Above. The gameplay videos looked cool and the premise certainly sounded like it’d scratch that sci-fi itch, but after spending hours with similar-looking big budget titles such as Returnal that really wowed me, I firmly had my expectations in check.

You know what, though? I REALLY liked the game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from perfect and some elements of its design could’ve done with a bit more work, but the enjoyable gunplay and intriguing storytelling ensure that there’s more than enough going on in Scars Above to make it worth checking out.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Scars Above kicks off its sci-fi escapade with a strange object known as the Metahedron appearing above the surface of Earth, with a group known as the Sentient Contact Assessment and Response (or SCAR for short) sent to investigate and find out what out what exactly it is. Of course, things go wrong, with the team finding themselves torn away from the Metahedron and sent to a mysterious planet full of deadly creatures. Players take on the role of Kate Ward, a scientist who was part of the team, as she looks to unravel the mystery behind the planet, find out what happened to her team, and finally make her way back home to Earth.

Whilst Scars Above isn’t going to win any prizes for its somewhat lacking cinematic presentation nor will it blow players away with its writing, there was something about the storytelling that just completely pulled me in. It helps that I’m a big fan of sci-fi anyway, but the purpose of the Metahedron as well as the lasting repercussions of SCAR’s investigation offered more than enough intrigue to keep me fully invested right until the end.

When it comes to the gameplay, Scars Above does play things pretty safe for the most part. It’s your typical third person shooting action, with players facing off against a myriad of different creatures that bring with them plenty of hazardous ways to cause you harm, whilst your range of powerful weaponry each have their pros and cons to make them effective in different situations. There is an element of strategy to the action given that certain enemies are more vulnerable to specific attack types, but for the most part there’s just a heavy emphasis placed on running, gunning, and keeping out of harm’s way.

“Outside of combat, there are plenty of neat little puzzles that require some clever thinking to solve, a levelling up system that’ll diversify your skillset, and even some elements of crafting, so there’s plenty to get stuck into.”

What does make things more interesting is the range of gadgets players have at their disposal, with players able to slow down time, create decoys of themselves to act as a distraction, create a gravity bubble to bring enemies to a halt, and so forth. Whilst these gadgets don’t necessarily offer anything you wouldn’t have seen before in other releases, they complement the shooting action and ensure each showdown brings with it some enjoyable variety. And hey, some of these gadgets can be essential when solving puzzles too, so they have more than one use.

Scars Above also has some cool elemental weaponry at play, with Kate able to fire special elemental rounds at enemies to inflict extra damage. As mentioned, some enemies are more vulnerable to specific attack types, so it’s definitely worth playing around with your weaponry to see what works best. You can even exploit the environment to use these elemental attacks to your advantage – wet enemies can be frozen in place with ice attacks or enemies in water will be hurt more with electrical attacks for example, with Scars Above offering plenty of room for strategy with its frantic shooting action.

It’s clear then that there’s a lot going on in combat, and in fairness it’s a lot of fun. However, it was rare that anything would feel particularly unique; whilst there’s a lot going on, no aspect of the gunplay ever felt that original. It didn’t help that some of the limited enemy types could get a little repetitive the longer I played, whilst some of the more defensive aspects such as dodging could feel a little clumsy in places too. But hey, they’re minor complaints and didn’t stop me having fun, with Scars Above more than competent within its combat. I haven’t even mentioned the boss battles, which stand out as some of the game’s most impressive moments and offer some real exciting thrills.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Outside of combat, there are plenty of neat little puzzles that require some clever thinking to solve, a levelling up system that’ll diversify your skillset, and even some elements of crafting, so there’s plenty to get stuck into. It even introduces some interesting ideas of its own, such as how you gain experience points – this isn’t achieved through killing enemies, but instead by earning knowledge through exploration. Admittedly, this did leave combat feeling a little bit redundant in places (which was especially noticeable given that the game introduces Souls-like mechanics with enemies respawning when resting at a checkpoint), but it also puts a bit less pressure on players if they do find themselves struggling in some sections of the game. Personally, I liked the idea, with it not only contextually fitting Kate’s role as a scientist but also emphasising that Scars Above is as much about exploration and discovery as it is about trying to killing an enemy threat.

One thing I really liked about Scars Above was the world design. Whilst the visuals themselves aren’t necessarily jaw-dropping, there was something about exploring the varied biomes and discovering a myriad of alien sights that just kept me in awe of my surroundings. As mentioned, I’m a fan of sci-fi anyway, but Scars Above really delivered all I wanted from a mysterious yet dangerous alien planet. It’s good stuff.

It is worth noting that the game can be beaten in around six hours though, so it’s not the longest adventure you’ll have. In some ways it works to its advantage, with the shorter runtime ensuring players won’t tire of some of the game’s more repetitive mechanics, but on the flip side, some might have hoped it had a bit more meat to its bones, especially since there’s not a lot of replayability to be found here. It’s a budget release with a lower price tag so players won’t feel too short-changed, but don’t be surprised if you beat Scars Above in just a couple of sessions.

Scars Above Review

With its enjoyable combat, compelling storytelling, and slick world design, Scars Above has been a really pleasant surprise. I didn’t go in with hefty expectations given the game’s budget release, but I found myself gripped into the narrative, whilst the exciting action kept me on my toes.

Don’t get me wrong, it won’t win any points for originality as far as its gameplay is concerned whilst some aspects of the visuals and dialogue can be a little lacking, but nothing in the game is bad at all. It can just be a bit by the numbers, but, given the short length, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Either way, those who enjoy a sci-fi adventure should certainly check Scars Above out. It probably won’t blow players away, but it’ll still offer plenty of entertainment as players unravel its alien mystery.

Developer: Mad Head Games
Publisher: Prime Matter
Platform(s): PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC