Alien Infestation Review

Aliens: Infestation is a 2D Platformer that fits comfortably into the “Metroidvania” subgenre. It is a thoughtful homage to the classic 1986 sci-fi thriller, Aliens – the second in the original trilogy.

It’s setting is remarkably realized for a DS game. Almost every element feels lifted right off the set of the timeless Cameron film, and every major prop and setpiece is represented. From the VTOL space craft and the mech-like Power Loader, to the Flamerthrower and Pulse Rifle weapondry.  Heck, even the back of the game box exclaims “Game Over, Man!”  referencing Lt. Hick’s famous line from the movie. It was clear that the creation of Aliens: Infestation was a labor of love for the developers.

You play as a Colonial Marine, a team of them actually (more on that below) sent to investigate what’s gone wrong on LV-426, the “shake-n-bake” terraforming settlement from the movie. Sorry to spoil the surprise, but it’s infested with Xenomorphs.

During your playthrough of Aliens: Infestation, you will infiltrate a series of installations and starcrafts (USS Sulaco, LV-426 and a genetic research station on Phobos), to perform tasks assigned to you by Sgt. “Stainless” Steele. *groan*


The Right Tools for the Job
Each weapon in Aliens: Infestation fits right in with the established lore. You begin with the M41A Pulse Rifle. A standard machine gun that does minimal damage but requires little thought to operate. Soon after you will pick up a  shotgun with a 12 shell capacity. The shotgun requires the most strategy to wield effectively. By pressing it’s icon on the bottom screen you can stop and reload it shell-by-shell. Reloading  was an appealing addition and a mechanic that is rarely seen in a 2D game (Can you imagine reloading the Spread Gun in Contra?). The shotgun is an extremely powerful weapon but reloading during a fire fight is an an exercise in futility as the animation is interrupted each time you take damage. You will also gain the iconic Flamethrower which has infinite ammo if allowed to recharge and doubles as one of the “keys” required to navigate the environment because it burns away theGiger-esque “resin” that seals some of the doors. Finally you will eventually attain the M56 Smart Gun which tears through enemies but has a short “wind up” time before firing.

Each weapon can be upgraded up to three times by collecting Weapon Upgrade Kits scattered around in out of the way places. During my playthrough I found exactly 12 upgrades, so every weapon can become fully upgraded if your willing to crawl through some vents.


Movement and Combat

Your marine has a number of actions they can employ during play. This is a list I found in theDeveloper’s Diary compiled by Gearbox Community Manager, Chris Faylor:

  • Walk
  • Run
  • Crouch
  • Crouch walk
  • Backpedal walk
  • Backpedal run
  • Backpedal crouch walk
  • Fire during ANY of the above actions
  • Fire in seven angles
  • Lock body position to fire freely without having to move
  • Leap
  • Catch platforms from a leap (Prince of Persia style)
  • Climb up into hatches and onto boxes
  • Take cover behind objects
  • Climb onto objects from a cover position
  • Blind fire over an object from a cover position
  • Dodge forward with a roll
As you can see, there is a wide array of ways to approach a situation, making the game play far more tactical than just firing continuously to the right.
What sets this game’s action apart from other similar gun wielding sidescrollers (Contra, Mega Man and Metroid) is the ability to sustain fire while backpedaling. This allows you to move forward until an Alien reveals itself from hiding, and continue firing while you cautiously backing away, keeping a comfortable distance between you and it.
However, movement isn’t without it’s limitations, its difficult to turn around quickly and fire off shots because the character wants to keep facing its current direction if not at a complete standstill and there seems to be an overlooked glitch with the shotgun, if you are struck in combat while reloading, even though you see and hear the character cock their weapon, they will cock it again before firing. This might not seem like a big deal but when an eight foot tall Alien with concentrated acid for blood is baring down on you the last thing you want to hear out of your gun is an empty “click”.

ACMT Club?*

A Team of One

While playing you have the option to swap which character you control between a series of marines whenever you are in a Save Room. Each one looks slightly different but all control the same.

“…if the marine your controlling dies they are gone for good”

In Aliens: Infestation if the marine your controlling dies they are gone for good and are replaced by one of your existing team members. So when you have a full team of four it basically means you have four lives. During your playthrough you will discover other marines who have been separated from their squadrons. If you have a free slot they will decide to join you. Because death is permanent you counter-intuitively choose to play as your least favorite marine for fear of risking the others death in battle. It’s not uncommon to lose one or two marines during a boss fight, so the cast will likely change during the course of the game.

“It’s an impressive amount of personalization they gave each character, it isn’t necessary but it’s certainly appreciable.”

It is interesting how the writers managed to incorporate whomever you are controlling into the narrative. For example, your commanding officer will respond to you in surprisingly specific ways. If you are playing as the “old marine” he might tell you to: ”Move out, you old codger!” and if your a hot tempered lieutenant  he might say something like: “Get the lead out and no back talk!”

Rank is also taken into consideration. As you discover other surviving marines some may outrank your currently controlled character and that character will refer to them as “Sir”
Even during conversations with the “Company Man” (basically a replication of Paul Reiser’s character in the film) he will address you with surprisingly specific lines.

It’s an impressive amount of personalization they gave each character, it isn’t necessary but it’s certainly appreciable.


I Shall Return

Like any Metroidvania game, you are presented with obstructions in your path that when first encountered cannot be bypassed but during the course of the game you will gain items to help you overcome them. In Aliens: Infestation these come in a variety of flavors.

Some doors are welded shut which require a Welding Torch to open (and optionally resealed, though I never made use of this tactic). Others are covered in the aforementioned Alien “resin” and need to be burned off with the Flamethrower. A Wrench is needed to turn off vents spewing hot steam and trigger detonated C-8 (in the future it’s twice as powerful?) is used to blow away piles of refuse that have somehow gotten heaped together.

Should I play it?
If you enjoyed the movie franchise and own a DS you should definitely play Aliens: Infestation. It’s remarkably well crafted, however it is short. Clocking in at under 10 hours of gameplay. But in those couple of sittings the Aliens universe is well represented. It’s especially strong considering it may well be the last significant game on a system that theoretically will be passed over in the future in favor of the 3DS .


Final Word
Aliens: Infestation is a well crafted game with a very evocative style behind it. It’s easy to enjoy and can be surprisingly challenging in spots, but never punishing. What it lacks in game time it makes up for in heart. It’s locations are closely tied to the franchise but it could have benefited from a little more diversity.


Why so high? It successfully fuses a subgenre I really enjoy with one of the finest sci-fi movies ever made.
Why so low? It’s too short and there isn’t much of a story other than the “man in the sky” barking orders at you.