Aliens Infestation Review

 

I like WayForward, even though their games tend to be fairly hit or miss in my eyes.  And I enjoyed both Alien and Aliens, even though it has been years since I have seen them, due to how I only watch films quarterly, if that.  So their merger was not something that’d set my world ablaze, but seeing as Halloween is coming up, I have it unplayed on my shelf, and this is the second closest thing I’ve played to a horror game, let’s dive on in!

Aliens Infestation Review
Release Date: 11/10/2012
Platform: DS
Developer: WayForward
Publisher: Sega

I’m going to assume that everyone knows about cuttlefish-like face huggers laying eggs in humans’ chest cavities, which becomes a worm can burst out of the chest, and grows into a big black agile hunter that people call a Xenomorph, which would be a better title that just Alien.  If not, now you do, cheers.

Storywise, the game plays it by the notes more or less.  You are a group of interchangeable space marines who are led by a commanding officer and you explore a few spaceships, always going back to a bigger one.  And, of course, you start running into Xenomorphs, who now die after one explosive is lodged at them.  Yes, it has been 3 years since I saw either, yet I recall them being a bit tougher, but hey, gameplay balance and whatnot.  Except, someone wants to betray you and use the aliens as weapons, people call this a bug hunt, say its game over, and you fight a super sized bulky alien at the end.  Part of me is tempted to say that it plays it comic book style, and it does if the artwork is any indication.  It really isn’t trying to tell a lasting story, and instead tries to make a large cast of characters within this pretty formulaic plot.

You see, there are 19 different playable marines, yet you can only get 15 hidden ones if you both find them and have one of your marines die and have someone take his or her place.  From a gameplay perspective, they are different colored suit of armor.  However they all have different dialog, but with so many, you would need to let your guys drop like flies if you want to hear their quips, since you can only recruit more members if you lose one of your first four.  I wouldn’t mind this so much, if not for the fact that the 15 others lost their teams, and don’t want to move from a little corner they made for themselves.

So until you lose a guy, mine was the boss battle with the giant dog alien, which is a long story involving a line of Xenomorph toys in the 1990s.  Which was at least 60% of the way through the game, enjoy the four that you have, who I can’t help but feel that they’re the least interesting.  The normal grunt, who calls himself that, the black guy with a cigar, who I intentionally chose to be the one who died, the sassy girl who grew up in the space ghetto, and the cowardly guy who can unsurprisingly play identically to the other guys.  Despite having four weapons and multiple tools, every marine is just the same guy repeated with a different hint of green, grey, red, pearl, or black.  With several different weapons, I’m surprised they didn’t make the railgun harder to use for female marines, while they have, say, more health or accuracy.  I am the kind of guy who likes minor stat variations, so I am more than a tad disappointed by their absence, since it would give them all a different feel outside of the few bits of dialog there are.

Although, going to the actual gameplay, it has been compared to Metroid and contra, even though it doesn’t have a lot in common with either.  Yes, you are in a spaceship and there are secrets to get.  However, the only upgrades other than new guns, of which you can only equip one at a time along with a pistol you’ll never need, are weapon upgrade boxes.  You only have five guns and there are about 20, more likely 19 boxes, and you only need 15.  This is probably done since you do go to certain areas once and can never return as far as I know, and if you miss upgrades, your guns would be less powerful and the game would be a bit harder, I guess.  Even though the upgrades are pretty obviously hidden, assuming you remember the spot.  They even try to help you out by giving you flares, but you can’t pick them up when you are done, and can only have about five out at a time.  I certainly appreciate it, but it feels pointless in them end.  Despite the whole importance placed on keeping your Marines alive, I only lost two of them, both during boss battles, since they spawn where the other guy left off, and that was due to how much health they had, and how much the roll eats up your stamina.

But during normal gameplay, where you are monitoring your map with a motion detector and shooting Xenomorphs as they come out of vents, there are also health and ammo kits hidden away, or just in plain sight, so you are not in a ton of danger.  Even then, save rooms are well placed more often than not so you don’t lose a lot if you really don’t want to have to look for more marines, or are like me and think that the game will give you a better ending if nobody dies.  This, along with a very fitting soundtrack of ambiance creates a very tense game where you are trying to move as strategically as possible that I very much enjoyed.  The Xenos respawn, and killing them doesn’t give you anything, it makes the prospect of running away sound plausible when you are near low health, and don’t have a very powerful weapon or just have an assualt rifle with no explosives.

In the thick of things, the game can be a great gamble with discovery and death, trying to select the right weapon and deal with the crappiness of a flamethrower until it become the best weapon in the game, and not just because you lack fuel.  I would have liked to see more growth in power, but the fact that you can actually get overwhelmed if you decide to book it through a room, and you can have a rail gun and not feel overpowered, the game is clearly doing something right with the whole survival aspect that fits in perfectly with the series.  And it is just damn fun trying to out stealth some giant acid bleeding bugs via a stream of fire.

However, I also realized one thing about WayForward’s design philosophy, and that is that they follow some variation of modular design, which is a fancy way of saying that they cover their bases before anything else.  This results in their games all having a slight feeling of being a bit devoid of certain features,  And I can understand why exactly.  Making games are expensive, and there hasn’t been a game produced by them that I beat and felt more than a little underwhelmed.  In this game, it brings back the fairly basic array of weapons, lack of major upgrades for anything else, identical nature of the characters.  And how despite their being a good handful of Xenomorph variations, they only have a total of 5, not counting the face huggers and chest bursters.  It does not make the game bad, but it paired with a final 50% that I beat in about two and a half hours, and the game feels a bit stripped down.

And even though I still find the game to look very good, it is not the same wow factor I am accustomed to from WayForward.  This could have been due to both the license and the artistic direction being less vibrant, but my eyes feel like they just gloss over the marines as I crouch through the space station, looking at the bleeps on the map so I can ambush more aliens.  This could be due to the fact I played it on my 3DS, since sprites are smoothed over, but I have not played a WayForward game that used sprites and wasn’t on the 3DS.  It still looks nice, and the world actually looks like it was not a very bad place to live before all the scientists became pray for face huggers.

Unfortunately, when the visual highlight is when you enter a save station and all your marines enter an idle animation that gives them more personality, you probably are not doing something quite right as a company who could get by solely on personality.  Yes, other than that I can only complain about the fact that Marines can use an assault rifle to get Xenos off even if you have a flamethrower.  By the high standards I have for WayForward, it passes.  But by itself, it is still a lovely looking title.  Could use a bit more color, but I’m the guy who wants 25% of games to be cel-shaded in some form.

As a whole, there is not a lot to dislike about Aliens Infestation.  The story is pretty by the notes, but is at least doing something original, although irrational.  The gameplay is wonderfully tense, yet a bit on the easy side, this from a guy who couldn’t finish Bayonetta.  The visuals are fitting for the setting, but not quite what I was expecting given the pedigree of WayForward.   Unfortunately, the game feels like it is lacking something.  It takes a fairly bare bones approach to the idea, only doing what it needs to, and does it well.  But through the end of something that I can most certainly not refer to as bad, I couldn’t help but feel a bit let down.

30/40
Good
It’s held back by certain flaws, it manages to be a competently executed and fun product that is worth playing.

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