Cubed3 Nintendo gaming, Wii and DS

Aliens: Infestation (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for Aliens: Infestation on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

It is becoming increasingly difficult to know what to expect from a game that has been created only because of the existence of a certain franchise. There was a time that tie-ins and spins-offs were viewed in the same way that you might inspect milk which is a couple of days beyond its best. They were titles that spiked suspicion and intrigue but always seemed to disappoint. However, it now seems that the tables are starting to turn. What Batman: Arkham Asylum started, several others have been able to follow; licence holders seem to have become more comfortable in making brave decisions to produce quality content. Aliens: Infestation is a game that needs to be taken seriously, not just as a franchise title, but also as a game that proves Nintendo DS isn’t quite dead yet.

It is a fair question to ask why SEGA and developers WayForward, in cahoots with Gearbox Software, chose to ignore the still-burgeoning 3DS market and develop a brand new title solely for DS. Certainly the newer technology would have given them more options, more power and clarity to present their vision for the franchise. It is only when you start playing Aliens: Infestation that you realise that it’s possible that they purposefully wanted to avoid the new mechanics of 3DS and make an experience that relies entirely on the console it is played on.

After a few hours you begin to appreciate that Aliens: Infestation would struggle on any other system than the one it was tailored to suit. The cramped screen, tight controls and awkward difficulty mirror the atmosphere and intricacy of a title that is designed to be a tough and at times an uncomfortable experience.

Taking place after the film Aliens, Infestation puts you in control of one of four marines tasked to explore several familiar locations including LV-426 and the Sulaco. As the story develops you repeatedly visit the same areas, uncovering more about a sinister plot to spawn the xenomorphs as biological weapons. It is up to your small team of marines to fight off the ever-increasing swarms of enemies and stop a desperate situation worsening.

There are no overt references to the films in Aliens: Infestation, but their influence can be seen in every inch of the design of the sprawling levels. You’ll run past the clinical silver tables where the crew gathered to eat in Alien. You’ll be thrown through familiar looking holes and vents and sent to explore locations covered in eggs waiting to hatch. It’s a pleasure to see such diligence and respect paid to the films by referencing them by location rather than by character or narrative.

Exploration is the key mechanic of Aliens: Infestation, and with your team making your way through the ship battling xenomorphs you’ll soon discover that not all areas of the environment you land on will be available to you on first visit. It’s an old Metroid mechanic, but in Aliens: Infestation it feels fresh because of the effect it has on you as a player. Unlocking areas is an experience filled with dread, not relief, as you begin to doubt if your worthwhile exploration will achieve success by finding a precious item or breed misery in discovering a horde of xenomorphs. There were numerous times when I found myself wandering round in circles, not because I was blind to the way forward but because of the threat posed by a possible deadly encounter ahead.

Aliens: Infestation is a tough game, and the paranoia you’ll feel before heading down an unknown corridor is only further exacerbated by the fact that when your selected marine dies, that’s it; they are gone for good, with play moving on to the next character in your group. There might be a slim chance of rescuing a downed marine from an alien nest or stopping a xenomorph before it delivers a gruesome forced C-section, but often you don’t get the chance and you will have to contend with losing members of your team forever.

At times it can be genuinely crushing to lose a marine who you have become particularly attached to. However, there are other times where it can feel infuriatingly unfair, with aliens and human opponents able to strip your team from four to one in a very short space of time. WayForward do try and balance the situation, though, because at times you’ll be able to recruit other marines that you find whilst exploring the different locations. The sense of terror that permeates Aliens: Infestation is only ever matched by the relief of seeing a marine to add to your team. Each of the nineteen marines in the game that you can discover all have their own unique personalities and lines of dialogue, meaning that finding and meeting new characters is an effective way to break the tension - for a while.

The prospect of losing a team mate is something that will hurt the first time round, but unfortunately the combat in Aliens: Infestation makes it too much of a common occurrence. There is not a wealth of tutorial or instruction to go through when you first start the game. Therefore, through no fault of your own, marines will tend to feel more like cannon fodder in your attempts to find a way to get through lengthy battles or understand the intricacies of the combat mechanics. It’s a shame, but fighting in Aliens: Infestation is sometimes counter-intuitive to the whole experience of the piece.

You do have a wealth of fire power at your disposal, from the recognisable pulse rifle to the indispensable flame thrower, but your enemies often exude more clout than your puny guns or seem impervious to your attacks. Xenomorphs are some of the most aggressive enemies I’ve encountered in a DS title. Their swift ranged attacks and tenacious nature make them fearful opponents. However, it is the human adversaries in the game who often feel the most resistant to your combat. They attack in a way that means you can’t recover without being shot again and the only way to defeat each single encounter is to blind fire from behind a box. Losing a precious marine to this type of bad design and combat is cheap and one of the severe blots on Aliens: Infestation.

It doesn’t help, either, that enemies respawn as soon as you move past them on the screen. It’s an old mechanic to add a bigger challenge to an already tough experience. However, with the threat of a losing a marine always lurking, it feels like some situations are not worth exploring if it means facing xenomorphs or humans twice over. Health, ammo and items also have a habit of respawning within an instant, resulting in some circumstances not feeling as perilous as they should.

At no point will you ever feel under-powered in Aliens: Infestation, but there are times when you’ll feel badly treated, all for the sake of creating a challenge. Checkpoints are few and far between; combat is ill explained and, in some cases, badly implemented. Boss battles can also be confusing saps of time - and, more importantly, marines. However, there is no getting over the brilliance and dynamics of a game designed for the limitations of a dying console. WayForward have picked their moment to bring DS back into the fore and in one single swipe almost overshadow its younger brother.

Gameplay

For all the gripes and confusion with combat and certain mechanics, the overall atmosphere and delivery of Aliens: Infestation captures a moment and emotion that is hard to replicate with such a limited engine and design.

Graphics

Aliens: Infestation is simple but reveals so much within its uncomplicated presentation. It’s not the best looking thing on DS, but everything is intended to create and add to the mood and fits in perfectly.

Sound

Some sound assets can become overused from time to time, but the hiss of a xenomorph and the punch of a pulse rifle sound as chilling and impactful as they should.

Value

Aliens: Infestation provides a tough challenge, which will leave you bashful and bolshie at times, but it will keep you hooked. There are plenty of areas to discover and finding and keeping all the marines alive makes it a game that is worth more than one play through.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

It speaks volumes that Aliens: Infestation is a brand new release for a dying console. I firmly believe that its message and mood could not have been delivered on any other device. Infestation shows that a game is more than a cartridge and its box; the controller and screen used for play add something invaluable to the experience. WayForward take advantage of capitalising on all of DS’ limitations and have created a title that has genuine affection and impact.

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15.10.2011

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Developer

WayForward Technologies

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Run and Gun

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Sep 2011   North America release date Sep 2011   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Nice review Smilie. Been looking forward to it ! Looks like a nice original take on the Metroid formula. As a fan of both Metroid and Aliens, I definitely might pick this one. Plus... it's Wayforward ! They know how to make good 2D games, and I want to support them for that.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

What Kafei said, pretty much. I'll be picking this up today (Sunday) before heading off to my rehearsal. Those'll be three long hours waiting to get back home, hehe =3

~Getting on C3's massive tits since 2K5.~

I've always enjoyed the Aliens games on Sega, even AVP for PS2. I guess there really are some good game/movie combination. ;3

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

WayForward strikes again - can they do no wrong? Good review, Sam - thanks Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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