Piles of new games have pushed their way onto the intimidatingly vast Xbox Game Pass library, including the anticipated indie title The Anacrusis. The debut title from studio Stray Bombay, The Anacrusis joins the growing modern revitalization of online co-op shooters with a unique, '70s-themed sci-fi twist. The Anacrusis is an Xbox console exclusive, and initially released in Game Preview to give players a hefty taste of what they can expect from the full launch expected later in 2022.
That gave me a chance to check it out, intrigued to see if my initial interest would be met with exciting potential and a solid foundation. While the overall aesthetic of The Anacrusis is appealing and a worthy setting for this kind of video game, in its current state, the game suffers from a variety of flaws and issues that touch every facet of the gameplay. While it can't be said the potential isn't here for a fantastic co-op shooting game, the experience as is encourages players to take a "wait and see" approach with future updates and developments.
What is The Anacrusis?
The Anacrusis is a co-op shooter that pits teams of up to four players against hordes of aliens. Equipped with a small variety of weapons and equipment, it's up to you and your team to navigate the retro-futuristic spaceship in search of your next objective while simultaneously battling a myriad of enemies. Players familiar with recent releases like Aliens: Fireteam Elite and Back 4 Blood will immediately understand what The Anacrusis is trying to accomplish.
On paper, the foundation is certainly here for a great addition to the genre, with gameplay variety reinforced by special enemy types scattered among the "basic" aliens you'll encounter most of the time. The player is then tasked with learning how to identify and battle each one. The Flasher gives off an incredibly bright light, for example, which makes it difficult to track down and attracts veritable armies of alien hordes. The Brute, on the other hand, crashes onto the battlefield with overwhelming strength and a devastating "rush" attack.
At the moment, equipment and weapon choices are severely limited, but this can be forgiven due to it still being in Game Preview. Elsewhere, however, similar shortcomings can't be overlooked, as a plethora of design elements and flaws prevent The Anacrusis from being an enjoyable experience.
Promise marred by lackluster gameplay
The Anacrusis boasts an alluring aesthetic, a colorful throwback with sci-fi elements, but it's not enough to redeem the game in practically any other area. Immediately when starting The Anacrusis, the performance issues, poor visual presentation, and incredibly awkward controls make it a chore to get anything done.
Inconsistent performance harms the experience, as The Anacrusis constantly loses frames, stutters and misses input, suffers from poor network stability, and much more. I witnessed deaths at the hands of teleporting enemies, lost connections, and game crashes all in my short time playing The Anacrusis.
It's difficult to enjoy the design language a game is attempting when it's bogged down by its own execution, which is the case in The Anacrusis. Even on Xbox Series X, the game looks bland despite being technically colorful, and appears grainy and low-resolution even when standing still. Generic enemy designs, especially the basic aliens, fail to excite, while boring, convoluted level design makes it far too easy to become turned around. Nothing beyond the premise of aesthetic in The Anacrusis feels unique.
Controls in The Anacrusis wraps up a generally disappointing experience. Even basic movement and controls feel sluggish and delayed. It's almost impossible to be accurate while aiming, as your aiming momentum deviates constantly while moving. When you do pull the trigger, there's a lack of tactility and reaction with the guns' animations and sounds, causing shooting to feel incredibly mundane. There are very few positive things to say about The Anacrusis in motion. I was able to improve things a little by tweaking the default settings. Removing the "Sticky" option that causes aiming to slow while passing over enemies, raising the base sensitivity to combat sluggishness, and lowering the aggressive look acceleration to make aiming more manageable all helped, but couldn't completely fix the experience.
Fundamentally, The Anacrusis is flawed and difficult to enjoy. That isn't to say this game can't live up to its full potential, but there's a lot of work ahead of it to make The Anacrusis a worthwhile competitor for other recent releases like Back 4 Blood.
Wait before playing on Xbox Game Pass
The Anacrusis is currently in Game Preview, meaning it's still early days and could change significantly before release. Stray Bombay has committed to a Season 0 launch sometime in the second half of 2022, and a lot can happen between now and then. As it currently stands, though, The Anacrusis simply doesn't deliver an enjoyable experience in practically any way, a disappointing reality given its honestly interesting premise.
Xbox Game Pass makes it incredibly easy to play The Anacrusis, but this may end up being detrimental to the game in the long run given its current imperfect state. If you're interested in The Anacrusis, it may be worth waiting a while to see how future updates improve the experience, before you jump in and start blasting aliens. The Anacrusis may not join the best Xbox Game Pass games right now, but there are other great recent additions to the service, like Spelunky 2.
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Is the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate the best value in all of gaming? It's possible. Ultimate bundles your Xbox Live Gold subscription, Xbox Game Pass for Xbox consoles and PC Game Pass for Windows devices, and Xbox Cloud Gaming for on-the-go fun. The Anacrusis is easy to experience through Xbox Game Pass, but it may be worth waiting for future updates.
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Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.