Can you handle the tension and terror of Wayforwards intense 2D side-scrolling action-adventure?
Aliens: Infestation nestles neatly between the moment the credits roll in Aliens and the opening scenes of Alien 3. Set following the events of Aliens, you control an elite squad of four Colonial Marines sent to investigate a reconnaissance team that boarded the The U.S.S. Sulaco. The setting and timeline of the game almost acts as a bridging story between the two Hollywood blockbusters, so having an understanding of the plot and characters is advantageous but many of the nods and winks are little more than fan service.
The marines themselves are fairly well defined characters, though for all intense and purpose the individual marines symbolise four lives, with extensive back-stories and lengthy character specific dialogue throughout the main story. Unique character conversations with computer controlled characters is an interesting broadening of the storyline but each individual marine mainly just adds their own characteristic inflections to a rigid story.
You needn’t, or shouldn’t, get particularly attached to any one of the potential 19 marines. With only a limited ammunition supply and realistic fragility of characters, death is almost a formality. Take one too many swipes from an Aliens tail and you will find yourself running for the nearest door.
Aliens: Infestation has all the hallmarks of being a “Survival horror” game. But to pigeon hole the game into one genre would be foolish as the game manages to cover many gaming conventions, the game for short period’s even masquerades as a competent platformer.
That said at its heart Aliens: Infestation is a gripping action-adventure with exploration rewarding the brave. Venturing off from the main corridors and into tight ventilation system, where you must crawl to proceed, may reward you with valuable ammunition or powerful weapon upgrades. But all endeavours will be in the face of adversity as upgrades and survivors are located in the furthest reaches of the maps some distance away from the sanctity of save points.
The sprawling corridors and labyrinth like air vents feature some amazingly detailed 16-bit styled sprite work, which even with repeated visits never feels stale.
Aliens: Infestation builds its intense, prolonged terror and impending doom firmly on the foundations of its exceptional sound design. Musically the game is muted with music only playing a minimal role in cultivating atmosphere. The game evokes a welcome familiarity with the cinematic Alien universe, most apparent during high action moments, where the game echoes James Horner’s militaristic score from Aliens. Conversely the game is undeniable terrifying when its making little to no sound at all. The rhythmic ultrasonic clicks and pulses of the motion tracker, a staple in any Aliens game, drives you along corridors and into air vents. This ever-present proximity sensor isn’t just an aide to keep you alive it’s the beating heart of the game. With-out it a Xenomorph gracefully unfolding and pouncing from an air-vent wouldn’t have that heart stopping impact.
However an Aliens game wouldn’t be an Aliens game without the iconic weapon arsenal all of which have all been accurately recreated to extraordinary detail. The pulse-rifle, with its ear-drum blowing ferocity, screeches as bullets tear apart anything that stands in the line of fire. It is a little disappointing that each marine is limited to a choice of one primary weapon and a sidearm. However it’s the same limited arsenal and the essential necessity for conservative ammunition use that allows you to feel vulnerable and not a fearless ultimate bad ass.
Sadly the game isn’t perfect. The game makes a poor first impression, with the first 30 minutes neglecting Alien encounters totally, to the point where you’d be forgiven for believing you were playing any 2d action game. It isn’t that the game needs Aliens wall to wall to make it exciting it is that you are faced with rigid humanoid enemies. These repetitive gun fights require you to exercise patience as you crouch behind crates waiting for them to stand and fire towards your vicinity. With nimble fingers you can quickly pop out of cover and shoot them but with annoying frequency you will find yourself blind firing over your cover.
WayForward have created not just the best Aliens game on a handheld platform but possibly the best Aliens franchise game of all time. From opening titles to the closing credits the game is incredibly fun. True the game does feature fierce boss encounters that can feel incredibly frustrating if you find yourself equipped with an underpowered gun or an incomplete squad but endeavour to progress and your efforts will be rewarded with a hugely satisfying experience.
A must buy for fans of the Aliens universe and a game all DS owners should seriously consider purchasing.