It will come as no surprise that 2011’s Aliens: Infestation has a heavy Metroid feel. In fact, it’s inevitable, given how much the Alien franchise has influenced the Nintendo series. Even so, it also carries its own distinct atmosphere and themes as well, setting itself far apart from the adventures of Samus Aran. While Metroid tells a tale of survival and victory at any costs in an alien climate, Infestation is instead a story of gradual attrition- many may, and many will, fall at the hands of the xenomorphs, and there is nothing to be done to stop it.
Even against this odds, can a small, plucky band of marines defeat this menace and save many worlds? The answer isn’t in this review, but hit the jump anyway!
The basic premise of the game is simple: aboard the infested ship Sulaco and in several other environments, your four-man squad of marines is tasked with destroying the alien menace while simultaneously uncovering and halting a plot by Weyland-Yutani to use the xenomorphs for their own porpoises.
Of course, their plans go awry, unleashing horror upon the unsuspecting crew of the Sulaco, and when I say horror, I mean it. By the time your weapons are completely upgraded, aliens might fall like flies, but even then, they’re threatening. You will get hurt, there’s no question about it. These enemies are actual hunters, dropping in from anywhere and everywhere to ruin your day. Their attacks have incredible range, they can run faster than you, they can even open doors, and if you find yourself in a small space, you better pray to god that you have a grenade, or you’ll be ripped to shreds. At times, sadly, the aliens can be too overpowered, and cheap shots, all with knockback on your end, can leave you unnecessarily trapped.
Bosses now, those are a whole other story. Besides the somewhat disappointing final fight, they are tough, able to wipe out an entire squad before you can even say Sigourney Weaver (not appearing or mentioned in the game). They are fast, they are strong, and they take a helluvalot of ammo to take down. Despite how well these fights were made, I often found them difficult to enjoy due to audio glitches involving missing or incorrect music and/or missing sound
For the entirety of the game, you will only encounter three types of xenomorph: drones, warriors, and gorilla-based brutes that can blitz you from nowhere, but the unpredictable and predatory nature of their attacks keep them feeling fresh. Even so, you’re too busy frantically running and shooting to notice this lack of variety. Running is important in more than one sense, because the acidic bloodspray of a xeno can drain your health incredibly quickly.
Your men and women will die. Rather than a standard life system or a simple game over, you will be forced to undergo a strategy of recruitment. Throughout the game, you will encounter stray marines sprinkled across the map (for a total of 19 playable characters), waiting to fill a gap in a squad low on soldiers. While not all of them may hold the same quality of character, there are many, many charming characters featured in the game who infuse cutscenes and dialogue with their own attitude. It would be an understatement to say that I became attached to many of my squadmates. When a beloved marine falls (which they most assuredly will), it can hit home hard. Thankfully, you often have the option to mount a rescue, going to a location marked on the map and clearing an alien hive to save your comrade before too much time has passed. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to recruit unless you actually have an opening, leading me to, on two distinct occasions, instigate a suicide mission or letting time run out in order to rope in a promising recruit.
Though their personalities may be different, each marine is functionally the same, drawing from one communal armory, made up of four weapons discovered throughout the game. In the end, weapon selection comes down mostly to personal preference (though the always-present pistol is never useful for anything other than a backup), but it is annoying when certain segments require the use of the flamethrower for progression to continue, requiring a long trip back to the save room in order to swap out gear, and here is where I wish that Aliens: Infestation could have followed Metroid a bit more closely.
Throughout the game, the flamethrower is the only item that you pick up that will actually help you in ways other than strict progression. Other than this one instance (and that of plastic explosives, which are useless against the speedy foes), every pickup is strictly for the porpoise of aiding progression, gaining firepower, or replenishing supplies, and never the twain shall meet. None of the necessary upgrades are even very far off the beaten path, so the only reason for exploration is to find the generic upgrades applicable to whatever weapon you currently hold. Truth be told, the number of vents leading to hidden explorable areas is so much larger than that of vents with anything useful. Often, the increasingly labyrinthine yet vacant vents only contain simple health and ammo pickups that you could have easily found anywhere else in the game. It’s a form of padding and false depth which quickly becomes tiring.
Were it not for the atmosphere of the game, I would have likely tired of the ventilation shafts much earlier, yet the feeling created by the dim, foreboding construction of the ship and surprisingly subtle and fear-injecting score compels exploration and at the same time fear, letting you know that xenomorphs could be anywhere, and you need to find and destroy them, yet also that xenomorphs could be anywhere, ready to mess you up. The sprite work, as well is fantastic. The xenos move fluidly and frighteningly, and you can easily get a glimpse at a marine’s personality simply from his or her standby animations in safe rooms or upon discovery.
As they are wont to do, Wayforward has created a fantastic sidescrolling experience with Aliens: Infestation, pitting you and your gang of marines against some of the most threatening and mobile enemies I’ve seen in a Metroidvania of its type. Despite wishing to give it a higher score, there are far too many issues, both in design and from glitches, to award the game with a top score.
[+Great combat] [+Creepy atmosphere] [+Excellent enemies, memorable characters] [+Atmospheric music] [-Semifrequent glitches] [-inconsistent pacing] [-Not enough depth of collection]