Game Rant's Alex Sebenski reviews Aliens: Infestation
All Aliens franchise video games tend to get a lot of players excited. The series is scary, exciting, and full of action -perfect for a video game. Sega fell a little flat with Aliens vs Predator last year but Aliens: Colonial Marines is shaping up to be a great entry in the first person shooter genre.
However, what about a side scrolling adventure game? It would take a lot to squeeze the frightening feeling of the Aliens universe into a low quality graphic Nintendo DS game. Could Aliens: Infestation actually be a good reason to blow the dust off the nearly forgotten DS? Read our full review to find out.
Aliens: Infestation attacks the player with nostalgia from two different angles. It combines the beloved Aliens franchise and its terrifying xenomorph antagonists with level design and gameplay reminiscent of Castlevania or the Metroid games. WayForward and Gearbox have put together a side scrolling adventure title that stays true to the Aliens franchise with the sights and sounds straight from the movies - including a proper pulse rifle firing sound and a usable power-lifter. The game play delivers a challenging experience which can be frustrating at first due to controls with a somewhat slow learning curve and a sometimes irritatingly difficult enemy attack behavior that ups the ante - but rewards dedication appropriately by moving the game forward and supplying new weapons and access to more areas of the map. It is very easy to become immersed in the game as tension is developed with spooky music and enemies that pop out of nowhere.
The story isn't especially interesting or deep in Aliens: Infestation even though there is more than enough dialogue to read. The player is dropped into the Aliens timeline post-Aliens 3 as a four man marine squad is sent to rescue survivors on the Sulaco space ship. The player can choose which marine to play as - and when a marine is killed in action that specific character is lost forever. The squad can be replenished by finding new (stranded) marines - so it's hard to develop a relationship with squad mates before they're torn apart by one of the few, mostly uncreative, boss battles. The banter between the mission assigning HQ and the squad's point man will vary slightly depending on which marine is selected to lead - but overall these choices do not affect the story.
To be clear, the marine chosen as point man will not affect game play - as they all have the same abilities and weapons available. Losing all four marines in the squad will result in returning to the last communications station (which are used to save). Communication stations are also used to heal, replenish ammo, or switch between playable marines. The perma-death penalty and a maximum of four lives offers a fair but challenging standard of difficulty. Regular enemies focus on the lead marine's health but the sporadically placed health kits found by exploring ventilation shafts or communication stations are common enough to be able to keep most of the marines alive until a boss battle - where players can expect to lose a marine or two.
Other than a pair of missions outside of the ship - most of the game takes place across the large interior of the vessel. Missions often involve traveling from one side of the ship to the other, obtaining passkeys or items such as a flamethrower or a welding torch, which allow players to use a new door or lift to access a new area of the ship. This gives the game a solid sense of realism - by increasing the scale of the missions as they force players to explore new areas of the ship and retracing old areas (which become repopulated with enemies).
Most of the game is spent fighting as a marine - using the same formula for combat but new enemies or a vehicle are used in battle for short instances which fit the game and gives the player just enough of a break between puzzle and exploration heavy missions. The pacing of the missions is perfect - offering enough changes of scenery to keep gamers interested. That said, the difficulty of some boss battles, or the lack of objective points on the mini-map, can be problematic - and cause average players to want a break.
The control scheme of the game is creative and entertaining - requiring strategy adjustments (based on enemies and the weapon being used). A simple cover system makes fighting gun wielding bad guys manageable - even when dodging aliens as well as puddles of acid blood. Learning the controls well enough to use all the weapons, defeat all of the different enemies, and conquer the long exploration missions offers plenty of fun gameplay scenarios - and a rewarding sense of accomplishment.
The story associated to each mission in Aliens: Infestation is limited but the game play is fun - and that's definitely important. By creating an enjoyable game that exists within the deep lore of the Aliens universe WayForward and Gearbox has succeeded in delivering a thin but enjoyable trip into the xenomorph's world. The concentration on game play and pacing allowed them to create a fun game using enemies and weapons from the movies that both fans of the alien's universe and just regular gamers alike will be able to enjoy. A richer storyline would have definitely elevated the title from good to great but the implementation of the franchise enemies and weapons make for a fun experience on the DS.
Aliens: Infestation is out now for the Nintendo DS.