Scars Above review (PS5)

Available now for Playstation, Xbox and PC, Scars Above is a brand new IP from Prime Matter. A sci-fi narrative that unfolds as a third person action shooter, it was developed by Mad Head Games and we checked it out on a PlayStation 5.

When we first saw Scars Above in action, it was during Gamescom, where it was unveiled. We also had a brief hands-on session with it at that time, and came away thinking it could be a nice mix of Mass Effect’s story-driven approach and the visual design and gameplay of titles like Returnal. Fairly high and perhaps unreasonable expectations then, but for a first entry in an original IP we had a good time with Scars Above.

Part of that is that you get to explore a whole new alien world, which has been home to an ancient civilization whose secrets you can try to uncover while at the same time dealing with dangers in the present. Things start much closer to home though, when a massive object called the Metahedron appears near Earth and you’re part of the first response team as scientist Kate Ward. Events then quickly spiral out of control, and you’re whisked away to the aforementioned alien planet.


Because she’s not some kind of well-trained space marine but a scientist who happens to be caught up in all this, Kate is a likeable and relatable protagonist and it’s easy to get caught up in the story, which is interesting and mostly well-written. Some of the dialogues could have used a bit more polish and the cutscenes do the game a disservice because they look like a ten year old game at this point, but look past that and you’ve got a entertaining narrative-driven adventure here.

The world you traverse is made up out of several different biomes, filled with creatures that are often unique to its environment. As you come across snow, jungles and even caverns during your journey, this means there’s a nice variety of enemies and other lifeforms to uncover, and as a scientist Kate is eager to scan her discoveries. More than a gimmick, this will also unlock perks, adding to the worldbuilding through journal entries as well as giving you access to supplies and upgrades.

But despite being a scientist at heart, Kate quickly has to get comfortable around weapons, and there’s a good selection of them in Scars Above. You can equip four weapons at once to the D-pad, and many of them offer opportunities to strategize mid-combat. You have a kind of freeze ray to temporarily free enemies and water surfaces for you to travel across, and this can allow you to get a few easy shots in or perhaps move across a body of water towards relative safety. It’s a bit like the elemental powers you sometimes see in more fantasy-oriented titles, but put to good use in a tech-oriented setting here.


In addition to your main weapons, you can also employ secondary weapons and gadgets, giving you additional options in battle (such as a decoy). There are a lot of mechanics working at once here, but as soon as you get comfortable with them combat becomes a lot of fun as you use your knowledge of your enemies and their weaknesses to put your arsenal to good use. And if you fall in battle, you’ll just respawn at a nearby “Pillar”, giving you a fresh supply of ammo and health – though it also brings back the enemies both in your current region and the regions you previously passed through.

And while Scars Above is an action shooter at heart, it also features a couple of very well-designed puzzles. Far from being afterthoughts or padding, these often have multiple steps to them. While we can see action purists finding these bothersome, we really enjoyed them, and felt like they tapped into Kate’s scientific brain well.

All in all this made Scars Above a very entertaining adventure with some interesting gameplay mechanics that fit its premise well. It’s mainly held back due to some lower production values compared to bigger titles, but that doesn’t make it any less worth playing.

Score: 7.5/10

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