Nex Machina vs. Matterfall: Which Shooter Should You Buy?

Spoiled for choice.

Nex Machina vs. Matterfall: Which Shooter Should You Buy?

Housemarque has really been pumping out video games over the past few years. The developer has spoiled us with six titles since 2014, and they’ve all been utterly brilliant. From the eye-popping visuals of Resogun’s cylindrical world to decimating hordes of creepy zombies in the atmospheric Dead Nation, Housemarque has proven themselves masters of adrenaline-pumping shooters. For many, that all culminated in Nex Machina (you can check our review here), a title that had many critics gushing, lauding it as the pinnacle of the developer’s esteemed catalog.

Now, just two months later, Housemarque is back with a new spin on twin-stick shooting, Matterfall. It’s a complete shake up from their typical formula, blending together genres with a slick combination of side-scrolling, twin-stick shooting, and pacey platforming (our Matterfall review can be found here).

Both games offer intense action, a futuristic sci-fi setting, and eye-popping visuals, but if your video game shelf (or PS4 HDD) is only big enough for one of these two Housemarque specials, which one should you go for? The top of its class traditional twin-stick shooter, or the bold genre mashup that offers something a bit different? Here’s our breakdown to help you decide.

Story and Graphics

Nex Machina vs. Matterfall: Which Shooter Should You Buy?

Housemarque games typically aren’t too heavy on narrative, and both Nex Machina and Matterfall are no exceptions. The plot for both of their latest titles is pretty thin and really only serves as an excuse to throw you into the action. Both follow a similar beat, essentially boiling down to saving humans from cyborgs hell-bent on destroying Earth. Given that both of these titles are based primarily around the gameplay, there’s really no reason to choose one over the other based on story alone.

While the narrative offering in these games only serves as a barebones motivation to get you going on your mission to start blasting, there’s been no half measures put into their aesthetic beauty. Housemarque games are well-known for their visual flair, and both of these titles boast jaw-droppingly gorgeous graphics.

Nex Machina’s voxel enemies explode like glowing radioactive cereal when you really start getting stuck in. Similarly, Matterfall’s futuristic dystopian levels glow decadently in neon colors, going into overdrive when the full spectacle enemy encounters turn the screen into an entrancing laser light show. Particularly running on PS4 at 4K in 60FPS, these are some of the prettiest stylized games you’ll play on your console. It’s hard to pick a clear winner out of both of these games in terms of graphics, as they both use a similar palette and benefit from PS4 Pro support. If we had to, though, Nex Machina’s use of voxel enemy composition creates some utterly mesmerizing explosions, with enemies shattering into thousand of pieces, and so it just nips ahead of Matterfall visually.


Nex Machina vs. Matterfall: Which Shooter Should You Buy?

Housemarque games are all about challenging, intense gameplay. Both Nex Machina and Matterfall combine twin-stick shooting and swarms of enemies in frantic bullet hell action that requires superhuman reflexes and plenty of hand dexterity. Doubly so in the case of Matterfall, which is especially demanding with its addition of platforming to the equation. Playing either of these games, you might find yourself pausing the intensity, if not to take a breather, then possibly to stop your hands from cramping mid-level.

Nex Machina puts a greater emphasis on fast-paced, arcade-like high score chasing than its previous top-down shooters. Game designer Eugine Jarvis worked closely with Housemarque during the development of the game, and it was his experiences with iconic eighties titles (Defender, Robotron: 2084) that helped to shape Nex Machina’s distinct arcade flavor. As a result of this collaboration, it certainly plays superbly and just feels immensely satisfying to obliterate waves of enemy droids. Mid level power-ups constantly change the ebb and flow of battle, altering your weapon attributes for more power or spread. There’s also a neat dash mechanic that serves as a vital defensive ability to quickly buy yourself more time and space. The intensity of gameplay is further added to by the urgency of saving humans throughout each stage, which is more or less optional but adds to your overall score.

Matterfall, by comparison to Nex Machina’s arcade lineage, couldn’t be more alternative from the traditions of the genre’s in which much of its gameplay is based. As both a twin-stick shooter and a platformer, controls require you to rewire your brain somewhat. Jumping is controlled with the R1 button, which frees your thumbs up to control the sticks for precision aiming. There’s a lot to think about, and there’s a lot moving about on the screen, too, because, at times, Matterfall feels as much of a bullet-hell game as any of Housemarque’s top-down titles. It is, then, a pretty inventive blend, and when you get on a good run, it’s a huge amount of fun.

‘Smart matter’ is one of Matterfall’s key mechanics; transparent walls that are dotted around each level at key choke points. Unlike enemies, players can pass through these walls via the dash mechanic, and can shoot through them, too. They provide handy shields or platforms to access different areas, and employing ‘smart matter’ tactically is a core part of Matterfall’s moment to moment gameplay. It’s innovations such as these in combination with Matterfall’s blend of different genres that make it quite unique. Sadly, though, the combination of platforming, shooting, and negotiating waves of enemies never quite chains together all that cohesively. It’s certainly not a drag to play, but it isn’t on the level of Nex Machina’s stellar gameplay.


Nex Machina vs. Matterfall: Which Shooter Should You Buy?

High-score chasing is the crux of Nex Machina’s long-term replayability. Because it’s such a joy to play, you’ll find yourself wanting to hang in areas longer and survive the chaos of combat just that little bit longer for extra points. Saving humans along the way, too, forms a neat optional challenge, adding extra incentive to replay levels and tick off each objective, challenging for a position on its online leaderboards in the process. Beyond those singleplayer challenges, Nex Machina also has co-op multiplayer, so you can have a buddy drop in and join the madness. So while there might only be five stages, there’s plenty to keep you amused beyond playing through its main campaign.

Replayability is where Matterfall is unfortunately lacking, as the game runs out of puff before it really turns into something worth writing home about. The main campaign is extremely short, clocking in just about three hours, and there really isn’t much else with respect to other game modes, including any multiplayer offering. There is high score chasing, but some frustrations with Matterfall’s platforming means that replaying levels often feel like a bit of a chore. Ultimately, the incentive to dive back into levels to tick off optional challenges- Matterfall has its own share of humans that need rescuing – isn’t as enticing. The game’s sheer challenge and intensity certainly push concentration levels to the extreme, but it’s a stressful experience, lacking the elegance and flow that makes you want to just hop back in and play for the joy of playing.


Nex Machina vs. Matterfall: Which Shooter Should You Buy?

Ultimately, both Nex Machina and Matterfall are quality titles that are going to entertain with Housemarque’s signature intense twin-stick shooter gameplay. Which one you pick up will likely depend on what you’re looking for. Nex Machina is a streamlined culmination of everything the developer does best, and as a total package, it stands tall as one of the very best games they’ve ever made. Matterfall is a bold, inventive mash-up that is a unique spin on the genre, and though it doesn’t quite achieve everything it sets out to, you won’t find anything else like it on PS4.

Our main gripe with Matterfall is that it feels a little rushed and incomplete next to Housemarque’s other games. Its gameplay only comes together sporadically. When it does, Matterfall has you dialed in, rocking along to its funky beat. The issue, though, is that there just isn’t enough to get you into the groove for long enough. If there was more depth to its content and more polish to how its blend of genres translates to actual control input, Matterfall would have been better. But where Nex Machina feels like it constantly maintains or exceeds the developer’s high benchmark, Matterfall only realizes it in brief flashes.

In the end, Nex Machina’s addictive gameplay will likely ensure a long-term spot in your PS4 library, while Matterfall provides an entertaining but brief distraction.

About the author

Alex Gibson

Alex was a Senior Editor at Twinfinite and worked on the site between January 2017 and March 2023. He covered the ins and outs of Valorant extensively, and frequently provided expert insight into the esports scene and wider video games industry. He was a self-proclaimed history & meteorological expert, and knew about games too. Playing Games Since: 1991, Favorite Genres: RPG, Action