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CVG
3 Reviews

Aliens: Infestation

Game over, man, game over!

They say in space no one can hear you curse. The screen of the DS is too small to incite yelps, so screams are out anyway - and fat, juicy swears are in. Infestation lays it on thick, you see.

Xenomorphs drop from ceilings, freshly hatched morphlings scream along floors and face-huggers leap around the gap in between. That's a triumvirate of pain right there, for starters. Add screen-tall alien queens into the equation and you've got a... well, an equation that rips off your head and lays eggs in the stump.

Creators WayForward are no strangers to alien hives. Contra 4's brutal xeno-gauntlet plays like an audition tape for this grander 20th Century Fox-endorsed outing. But Infestation is subtler than Contra. Like the best Aliens games - Alien on SNES or PC's Alien vs Predator, for instance - it values the quiet beats between action payoffs.

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Abandoned dormitories, gloomy air vents, the telltale bleep of a motion scanner - all calm perfectly set up for an alien storm. Or indeed, a well concealed moggy. WayForward are not above the hoary old 'fooled you, it was just a cat' chestnut.

In fact, they do it twice. Forget Weyland Yutani's naughtiness - just who exactly is squeezing all these flipping cats into air vents?

LARGE WEAPON
Time served in the Contra trenches means WayForward arrive battle ready. Combat flares up quickly as aliens ambush from off-screen and eggs hatch their lethal cargo (with a horribly gooey animation). Both can trigger instant kills at close range - prevented with button-mashing - turning combat into a matter of suppression.

Luckily, weapons hit with an oomph far beyond their millimetre-long sprite art. M41 pulse rifles push attackers back, shotguns evaporate on contact and flamethrowers send victims scurrying up walls coated in flickering flames. Meatier weapons won't be found on DS.

Not all of it works. Human enemies are deeply tedious in comparison. They hide behind crates, popping up for split seconds. So you hide on the other side, popping up for split seconds.

Occasionally the split seconds align and someone gets a bullet in the face. Until then it resembles the old Police Squad! sketch with the shootout on either end of a short wall. Worse still, the troops respawn. Miss an important pickup and you have to Frank Drebin it afresh.

There's cool motivation to fight well. Infestation has a smart take on Aliens' typical cast of expendable marines: they're expendable. So instead of lives you have back-up marines. A full squad of four means near-invulnerability; a lone solider is one health bar away from a proper game over.

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What's more, the story adjusts. Nothing major, mainly dialogue, but enough to warrant replays. Best of all, when a grunt falls he's taken to an alien nest for impregnation. Race to his aid in time and he may live to fight another day. Although some will carry on fighting with complaints of a tummy ache...

PRIME SUSPECT
Structurally, Metroid is the clear influence. Play splits between the free-roaming Sulaco and linear ground missions. Both conceal hidden rooms behind destructible panels, but the latter never strays far from straight left-to-right progress.

While the Sulaco has the Metroidvania scale, WayForward never quite let you off the leash. Access is regulated by item pick-ups - welding torch to open doors, key cards to access lifts - that feel too regimented to generate the frisson of 'ooh I shouldn't be here' excitement felt in Metroid's darkest crannies. The more you play, the more you notice how straightforward it is.

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