Despite a setting and premise that all but laid the foundation for video game sci-fi shooters for decades, Starship Troopers: Extermination is the first multiplayer, squad-based, objective-driven shooter we’ve seen from that IP in almost two decades. Sahil and I played through a dozen rounds over the last month (up to the 0.31 update), while Lynley spent some time trying it out on the Steam Deck. You can read our individual thoughts below.
As someone who’s always had a preference for cooperative PvE shooters, there’s a lot to like in this early build. At its core, it’s a competent if unremarkable horde-style shooter with three classes to choose from: the mobile Hunter with a jetpack, the sturdy Bastion with deployable cover, and the Operator that can restock and heal others.
Missions feature iconic Federal Network briefings that add some flavour to proceedings, before your squad – with up to 4 other squads for a total of 16 troopers – makes landfall and commences with aggressively liberating Planet Valaka. That involves some basic coordination to claim strategic points, use the build tool to construct or maintain bases and refineries, repair and defend research platforms, and finally extract to dropships – all the while bug hordes increase in size and intensity over time.
With a higher payer count than most PvE titles, it makes for an overwhelming experience if you don’t continuously coordinate with your own team through voice coms or the ping system, but even then you need to keep an eye on what other squads are up to if you want to effectively tackle multi-part objectives or cover all angles of attack. The result is a weird combination of tightly coordinated squad play coupled with the inevitable chaos that comes from working alongside other squads or randoms with their own agenda.
After a dozen games as a Bastion – promoting them several times and unlocking new gear – I’m looking forward to the final release but there are a few issues I’d like to see addressed.
My first suggestion would be simplified squad and objective markers to minimise the visual noise when fighting alongside other squads or close to mission objectives. The second would be to reduce the insane weapon spread and pick another parameter for balancing. Finally, I’d like to see full dropships take off immediately during the extraction phase, maybe circling above to provide cover from the air. At present, most players reach the extraction zone well within the time limt and it quickly devolves into a mass of jostling troopers trying to rack up extra kills, explosions and smoke obscuring your vision, and plenty of blind-fire more likely to hit allies than a bug.
Starship Troopers: Extermination is rough around the edges but still an extremely fun squad-based FPS. It game puts you into the boots of one of three soldier classes in the Federation’s forces and thrusts you onto an alien world filled with bugs. Players have to build up their bases and fend off foes while they complete objectives. Matches are surprisingly brisk, rarely lasting more than 15 minutes depending on how well you work together, and it’s pretty darn fun.
Being able to team up with up to 16 other players spread across 5 squads is quite an adrenaline rush since battles can become quite chaotic. That said, having so many additional players around to cover your back makes things a lot easier and it really feels as if you’re on the front lines facing down the insect hordes just like in the movies.
Graphically, the game looks fine but it certainly could use a lot more polish in some areas and it suffers from stutter and performance issues in its Early Access state. The animations of enemies and teammates need some work and there’s a layer of jankiness prevalent throughout – think clipping geometry, fiddly interaction prompts, and iffy hit detection – that needs to be addressed throughout development.
With that said though, the game is extremely fun and the teamwork factor really cannot be discredited. Placing building plans and then watching as your squad mates help you to build up a base is a lot of fun. So too is holding the line and defending the base that you just built.
Even this early into development, Offworld Industries have successfully recreated what made the movies so great in the first place and if you were a fan of them back in the day, it’s like a dream come true being able to play as a soldier taking on the bugs.
Lynley’s Steam Deck Impressions
Starship Troopers: Extermination is such a good idea it’s a wonder it has taken so long to make it. The setting is quite simply perfect for a co-op Horde shooter. But maybe you want to know how it fares on the Steam Deck?
Now it’s worth noting upfront the game is in early access and, as such, it’s not fully featured or fully optimised at this point. That also means that playing it on Steam Deck is down to the commonality of code and luck, rather than intentional development effort for that platform at present. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that the current build is not “Steam Deck Verified”.
The good news is that it’s still very playable on the deck. It is not perfect by any means, and the building mechanics aren’t particularly suited to a controller layout (there’s official “partial support”), but the general shooting works as well as any FPS does using a controller.
Stability-wise, the game was pretty solid I didn’t experience any crashes, but I did experience low framerates at times, so tweaking the “default” Steam Deck settings is a must. Connectivity-wise, a good WiFi connection is required just like in any other online game. I did try using my phone as a hotspot out of the house for one session and, as might be expected, it was horrible.
All in all, Starship Troopers: Extermination works well enough on the Steam Deck that, if the developers plan to optimise it for the platform, make it worth looking at once it drops as a full release.