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Old 11-03-2011, 02:37 PM   #1
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Please rate this review: Aliens: Infestation

HIGH Burning facehuggers with a flamethrower.

LOW A platforming segment where the camera is locked on your character, even when jumping, and thus the platforms are impossible to see.

WTF Xenomorphic gorillas?

Aliens: Infestation Metascore: 76

Metroid: Other M Metascore: 79

I suppose Other M wore its dildo a bit too proudly. Since gamers were largely left confused and uncomfortable by that game’s treatment of Samus’s character (or, her actually being treated as a character for the first time in the series) they are apparently all too willing to slip into bed for a quick and dirty night with look-a-like rather than the girl they thought they knew… even if that look-a-like is a six foot space Marine with a smoking problem and a penis.

Quick and dirty really is the best way to describe Aliens: Infestation. It’s basically a slightly above average “Metroidvania” game with the Aliens film license slapped over it. This is painful to say. The prospect of the Metroid series inspiring a video game set in the Aliens universe is mind-boggling, fascinating, and pretty badass. Just think of the implications! What does this say about our modern “remix” culture? Does it legitimize video game design as a craft on par with filmmaking? Uh…

In all honesty I found this game more similar to the 2010 film Predators than I did Aliens. Not in content, of course, but in style and execution. Predators was a cult classic by design, an attempt to emulate not just the glory days of the Predator series, but of the ’80s action film in general. It was also a slickly (relatively cheaply) made 21st century digitization of what producer Robert Rodriguez finds “cool.” (I.E.: the F word and lots of cool shots that were edited on an iMac.) Basically, it was a clash of interests and felt a little empty for it. It definitely did have cool shots, though.

So, Aliens: Infestation. It certainly looks cool. Amazing pixel art—the greasy green and grimy grey interiors of the U.S.S. Sulaco actually made me feel like I was eight and playing Flashback: The Quest for Identity again. But what else to expect from WayForward Technologies? Those guys are certainly no strangers to 2D sidescrollers, what with Contra 4 and their Shantae sequel on the DS, but when it comes to the intricate and painstakingly precise world design that these backtracking-extensive sorts of games require, they clearly were either inexperienced with the genre or didn’t give their best effort. That, or they clearly aren’t Japanese. Whatever the case, the game comes across as somewhat amateur; its strongest point is that it feels like it was made by guys who love Aliens and Metroid. Fandom is hardly a bad thing, especially when it’s for your source material, but when that’s the best thing about your game, it feels, well… empty.

For instance: When I finally started the game and gained control of my first space Marine I noticed something unsettling. On the DS’s bottom screen there was what appeared to be an inventory menu consisting of my weapons. Pictured were a standard assault rifle, a pistol, and what looked like several different kinds of explosives. I quickly did a run through of the DS’s face buttons. At this point, there appeared to be a jump button, a roll button, and a shoot button. Alright. So how am I supposed to change between all those weapons? Then it hit me: the game actually expects you to touch each one in order to switch. “What horrid design!” I thought. We’re basically working with a Super Nintendo controller here—surely a satisfying weapon cycle system could have been implemented. The saddest part, though, is that there’s never any need to switch guns. The pistol is there solely for your protection for when your primary gun runs out of ammo, but save rooms and ammo boxes are so plentiful that this is never an issue. Adding insult to injury, since none of the game’s four main weapons (assault rifle, shotgun, flamethrower, minigun) offer any tactical advantage over the other, this makes switching between weapons an entirely aesthetic affair. As is switching between the game’s 19 playable Marines, which is a quintessential case of quantity over quality if there ever was one.

This cyclically empty design extends to every facet of the game. Weapons upgrades act as the game’s pickups, but unlike missile expansions in Metroid (the more the merrier), each weapon can only be upgraded three times. Again, though, none of the guns play any differently from each other, so it’s a waste of time to upgrade all of them. Besides, it’s impossible to switch between guns in the middle of the game anyway(this can only be done at save points), so… wait, what am I doing? Why did I just find every pickup in the game? Well, this is, like, a Metroid game, isn’t it? Yeah… I mean, it looks like one. It even has the map. It even highlights the areas you’ve been to. I can’t leave any corner of that map unexplored, that’s not how you play Metroid!

Sounds fetishistic, doesn’t it? I suppose it is. It’s safe to say that Aliens: Infestation is a game of fetishes. I also suppose it’s safe to say that Hideo Kojima was right: video games really aren’t art. They’re services. Why are Other M and Infestation virtually identical in Metascore? Because one, while sporting incredibly satisfying and fun controls and a gameworld designed by seasoned experts, is ultimately the realized vision of a single man and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, while the other, which features awkward controls and level design barely held together with tape and glue, sets the bar low and plays to favorites. The standard video game format does not in any way lend itself to creative vision or expression. Compared to the team at WayForward, Yoshio Sakamoto is fucking Federico Fellini. (That’s not really fair. Sakamoto is kind of a nut job. Then again, I’d easily watch Aliens or The Terminator over 8 1/2 on most any day, so I guess that point is moot.)

Anyway, the real crime here, especially in such a fan-oriented game, is that WayForward totally missed an opportunity to create one of the single greatest game over screens of all time.

Game over, man! Game over!
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