When working on a game that revolves around the Aliens license, the result can go either way. You can either end up with a kick-ass action game along the lines of Konami’s classic Aliens arcade game, or wind up with a mundane side-scrolling experience, like Alien 3. (And say what you will, the way the game plodded along – and suddenly ended – left us unsatisfied.) Now WayForward takes a turn with the franchise with Aliens: Infestation. Though the results won’t exactly be to everyone’s tastes, it’s fully catered to those who like a whole lot of adventure to go with their action. Think of it as Metroid, but with nasty aliens filling in for the Metroids.
The game puts you in control of a group of four Marines as you investigate a spaceship overtaken by a horde of Xenomorphs. At first, they don’t appear all too dangerous, with smaller specimen crawling about. However, it isn’t long before you run into some big, ugly mothers that want nothing more than to finish you off, saving you for harvesting other aliens, as in the film of the same name.
Aliens: Infestation goes with a very realistic tone, as each of your Marines is quite expendable. In fact, when you lose one, the only way to get them back is to start from that point again, rather than saving at the next checkpoint. Other Marines can be picked up along the way, rescued from the confines of the ship and ready to help you battle the aliens. Each one has their own weapons, style of walk and personality, adding further to the game’s replay value. Just make sure you keep them all in one piece, as these aliens mean business – especially the bosses. Yikes.
WayForward manages to produce a vibe similar to Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night with Infestation. Exploring is a huge part of the game, as you’ll carve out your own map, pick up additional members and weapons, and find neat, little secrets hiding in the darkest of places. They also managed to bump up the intensity to the same level of the film, which is absolutely brilliant. Do yourself a favor and play with headphones on – you’ll be surprised what kind of long-lasting effect it leaves. The only thing missing is Hudson screaming, “GAME OVER, MAN!”
As for the gameplay, it’s not flawless. Shooting controls take a little bit of getting used to, as you can only aim in one direction during combat. Once you figure things out, however, you’ll love what the game has to offer. Also, the number of Marines scattered throughout can help you change up your strategy – and perhaps try going a different way in a second playthrough.
One other little bonus worth mentioning is the Bishop mini-game. This is, like in the film, a game where you try to stab between fingers as quickly as possible. This alone makes the DS touch-screen worthwhile, and you’ll be shocked at how well the game comes across. (Again, though, we miss Hudson’s screaming.)
We often wondered why Infestation wasn’t made for the 3DS, but after seeing the game in action, it didn’t matter much anymore. WayForward has nailed the visual aesthetic of the game, from the design of the Aliens to the dark, foreboding atmosphere you run through in each stage. The attention to smaller things is excellent too, particularly the elevator lights and the glow coming from your scanner. It’s just like the film. The sound effects and music are awesome as well, and make sure you listen all the way through the end credits. A nice little surprise is waiting.
Aliens: Infestation’s high level of challenge and imperfect shooting controls make it a game best suited for the more patient, adventurous type, rather than those who blew through the Aliens coin-op in an hour. That said, it’s still a wonderful follow-up to James Cameron’s 1986 classic, and yet another reason to consider WayForward one of the best “sleeper” studios in the business. Can’t wait to see what these guys do next.