Aliens: Infestation

Lead a squad of Colonial Marines through a Metroidvanian planet infested with Aliens.
boyward - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Aliens: Infestation is rated Teen for "Blood, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Violence." Occasional mild profanity appears as text (no audio). Aliens can be shot and set on fire. They bleed green and may break into pieces when killed. Aliens attack humans (usually no blood), grab onto their faces (no blood), and burst out of their chests (with blood). Humans kill other humans. Lots of dead human bodies everywhere. Suspenseful atmosphere.

At the end of the movie Aliens, audiences breathed a collective sigh of relief as Ellen Ripley scrambled aboard the spaceship that took her out of the nightmare and far away from the alien-infested planet LV-426. Aliens: Infestation is the video game follow-up to the 1986 movie, which now puts gamers in the boots of the Colonial Marines who went back to investigate the crashed warship Sulaco and the surrounding areas on LV-426. As a direct sequel to the 1986 movie, this 2D platformer manages to combine the macho shoot-em-up bravado as well as the sense of dread that few, if anyone, in this squad will survive. As a video game, Aliens: Infestation is most similar to non-linear platformers like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid (Metroidvania).

But sorry, Metroid and Aliens fans– this isn’t “Ripley Meets Ridley”. There are some noteworthy differences between the adventures of Samus and those of a Colonial Marine. Since you stay in regular video contact with your commanding officer you never quite get the sense that you’re all alone on this planet. Far from it. In fact, you land on LV-426 as a squad of 4 Marines, all of whom are playable, and any of whom you can use until they die. And since dead Marines stay dead in this game, there are 14 other Marines hunkered down planetside, any of whom can be recruited to replace the dead ones. It’s a bit deceptive to say that you’re actually “leading your squad mates into battle” because they don’t actually go out there with you. They only show up when you duck into a save room, where you can swap your weapons, reload on ammo and health, and, of course, touch a Marine’s portrait to switch characters.

The box art showcases the story’s emphasis on its human characters.

Having these extra characters on your roster is pretty cool because each Marine has his/her unique personality. So even though you’re getting the same core story every time you play, developer WayForward went back and re-wrote the script for 19 different Marines. Director Adam Tierney reminds us that “players will get that classic, hero dialogue when controlling John ‘Duke’ Cameron. But assuming control of Zoe ‘Cutter’ Kennedy (our dark emo chick) replaces all of Cameron’s lines with moody, morose chatter. Mei-Lin ‘Beta’ Chau (our tech head) speaks almost exclusively in ‘1337 Speak.'”

Whichever Marine you control, the goal is to explore LV-426 without getting killed by the Aliens that are still crawling around down there. Since WayForward is the maker of Contra 4 you might expect a full-on action game, but here there’s more of an emphasis on exploration. Like Metroid, there are secret rooms to discover and winding paths that lead to ammo stashes and weapon upgrades, but half the time the secret pathways don’t loop back into the main route so you’ll find yourself having to backtrack from a very lengthy dead end. Also, the “secret” rooms aren’t very secret since they are marked with yellowish grates that can all be blown off with a basic grenade. If this is “Metroidvania”, it’s a very simplistic one.

Instead of exploring one huge interconnected world (Super Metroid), the map is broken into smaller sections of ships and planetary research labs. Once you complete an area you can’t go back to it, unless your commander (who holds your hand almost the whole time) tells you to backtrack that way. Aliens: Infestation is about as linear as Metroidvania games can get.

This becomes even more clear when you realize the limitations of a Colonial Marine. In Metroid or Castlevania, a more acrobatic character might swing from a grappling hook or turn into a bat to ascend to a tower. The whole world became a playground. In Aliens: Infestation it becomes The Home Depot. Instead of acquiring any really cool gadgets, your Marine gets tools like the “welding torch” or “wrench”. These tools amount to little more than buttons on the touch screen that open up new areas. Walk up to the locked door, tap “weld” to open the door, and you’re done. These “tools” function fine but there’s no way to experiment with them in fun new ways.

There is a good deal of suspense on your first time through the Sulaco and LV-426 because, as in the movies, these Aliens specialize in hiding in the shadows and ambushing us at the worst possible moments. Initially, it can be thrilling to enter a dark room and realize that your motion tracker senses an enemy that you can’t see. But in a most unfortunate misstep on WayForward’s part, enemies re-spawn from the exact same place every time, by your 2nd or 3rd trip backtracking through any given room you will know exactly where the monsters are hiding. This is a most unfortunately blow to the game’s replay value.

Actually, in terms of value it’s kind of hard to recommend this game at full price simply for the fact that it ends so quickly. Expect to spend no more than 5-6 hours on this mission before it’s over. Sure, you could go back and play as a different set of Marines just to read some new dialogue, or you could tackle a harder difficulty setting. But since the Aliens don’t have any new tricks the second time around, most gamers will just stop after beating it once.

As a bonus feature there is a mini-game inspired by a scene from the 1986 movie where Bishop does a knife trick with his hand. The mini-game is quite simple: using the stylus like a knife you tap around your fingers as fast as you can without stabbing yourself. I enjoyed the reference to this scene and I played for a high score but it didn’t hold my attention very long.

Positive Elements
These Marines have to deal with all kinds of challenges but they do it with courage and a “can-do” attitude. A lot of the Marines you talk to out on the field dutifully refuse to leave their post. (They won’t join you unless there’s a vacancy on your 4-man roster.)

Blood and Violence
Early on, your enemies consist of robots and human soldiers. The robot enemies spark before exploding. Regardless of whether you use guns or explosives, your human enemies simply fall down and die before disappearing (no blood).

The most graphic violence is committed against the Aliens, all of whom let out a death scream when you kill them. All eggs and smaller Aliens (chestbursters, facehuggers) collapse into a gooey mess when killed then immediately disappear from the screen. The adult Alien enemies have a variety of death animations that change based on their breed and how you kill them. If you use an assault rifle or machine gun on an Alien he will bleed green blood before his body explodes into chunks that fly off the screen. If you torch him with a flamethrower his heated skin will glow reddish brown as he falls to the ground, twitching, and finally disappearing.

What the Aliens can do to the humans is slightly less graphic. Adult Aliens viciously attack with slashing claws, tail-whipping, and foot-stomping. Regardless of what kind of attack was used, the Marine will fall backward, bloodlessly, before getting back up again. The non-playable characters who appear from time to time don’t have it so lucky. In the background of one battle sequence I saw Marines grappling with adult Aliens who were holding them down and biting their faces off (with blood). I also saw a few chestburster Alien larvae exploding with a small squirt of blood from their human hosts. I saw dark liquid (blood?) splattered on the walls of an area where the Aliens had slaughtered human scientists. There are lots of human bodies scattered around the floor all throughout the game. In other areas I could see humans helplessly cocooned to the wall by sticky Alien secretions.

When using the flamethrower (my favorite weapon because it so easily engulfs those nasty little facehuggers and chestbursters) I accidentally roasted some of the dead human bodies that were lying on the floor. These bodies burned for a moment and the flesh glowed red before returning to its natural color. It wasn’t really that gross and I hardly noticed it at first.

Mild Language
Expect to read occasional salty Colonial Marine language (hell, a*s, d*mn, and b*stard), all of which which appear as text (no audio). Each of the 19 playable Marines has his/her own personality and dialogue so the amount of cursing you’ll read may depend on which playable character you’re using. Regardless, your non-playable Commanding Officer, Patrick “Stainless” Steele, will use occasional mild profanity when he radios you.

Partial Nudity
To retrieve a necessary item, we have to visit a locker room where a man is finishing up his shower. We briefly see this man’s backside before he covers himself.

One Alien boss spews green vomit at the player.

Aliens: Infestation falls short of being a great game, but it is still a very good one that fans of the franchise will enjoy for the short time that it lasts. WayForward’s 2D animation reminded me of the way Marines and Aliens moved in the movies, and the sounds of gunfire and screaming Aliens seem like they’ve been ripped straight from the films. I got to pilot a cargo loader, drive an APC, and as the storyline developed I was given yet more reasons to distrust the greedy Weyland-Yutani Corporation. With this many Aliens references it’s clear that WayForward loves and understands this franchise. Even the new Alien breeds they made for this game logically fit within the Alien universe. To me, that was the game’s appeal– it picked up where Aliens left off, and it did so more than competently. If you didn’t like the movie or found it hurt your relationship with God in some way, then you probably won’t like this either. But fans of the movie will have a hard time being offended by the game’s content, which eliminates the strong profanity and reduces the buckets of blood and gore to little more than a squirt.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Answers Network.

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