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Game Over Online ~ Infestation

GameOver Game Reviews - Infestation (c) Ubisoft, Reviewed by - Dave Kujan

Game & Publisher Infestation (c) Ubisoft
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium 166, 32MB Ram, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 63%
Date Published Sunday, August 27th, 2000 at 09:36 PM

Divider Left By: Dave Kujan Divider Right

The visible division between genres has slowly been fading away in recent years, as developers are eager to bring something fresh and exciting to the table. Hybrids that attempt to combine the best elements of different genres can result in unique, if not peculiar, gaming experiences. Infestation, from Frontier Developments (V2000), is one such title. But while it's outer chocolaty shell might appear novel, it offers up the same generic chewy centre that we've all become accustomed too over the years.

The storyline behind Infestation depicts the routine sci-fi staple of aliens at war with mankind. The year is 2237 and mankind has devised a network of space gates, which link human colonies on several planets in space. Enter the universal alien race, which have come to discover the warp gates and have decided to hijack mankind's colonies. Can you guess what comes next? That's correct, you've been cast to spearhead the counterstrike against the alien forces. A hero is waiting to be born, are you that lone ranger?

(Cue sci-fi musical score)

Infestation is best described as a vehicular combat and exploration game. The single player experience consists of a mission-based campaign that will take you through 22 different worlds as you attempt to secure the human colonies. As the hero, you're relegated to drive a futuristic morphing vehicle with tremendous abilities. The rig features five vehicle modes to switch between when necessary, including Buggy, Armoured Truck, Multi-Terrain Hovercraft, Helijet and Super Fast Skimmer modes. At the beginning of the game, the vehicle only sports the buggy mode. New modes for the vehicle are obtained as power-ups, purchased in your factories. Each of the modes feature unique handling characteristics, such as the ability to move at ridiculous speeds (Skimmer) or the ability to negotiate high-reaching mountains (Helijet). Despite such characteristics, you'll probably find yourself defaulting to the buggy, a mode which is by far the easiest to handle and most efficient in combat. In fact, outside of the training mission, you'll find that the special abilities that the other modes possess don't come in handy that often.

Infestation is a third person vehicular shooter at its heart. Many of the missions' objectives revolve around destroying the many enemies populating each planet as well as eliminating various establishments. It's not always intense action though, besides the oncoming onslaught, you'll also have to collect coloured crystals scattered conveniently around mining facilities. These crystals are later used to purchase power-ups, which include new vehicle modes and weapon types. You can also purchase portable mining equipment with your crystals. Such equipment can than be placed on areas of the planet that are marked as mineral rich. Once set up, the portable mining facilities will produce even more crystals for your use. Besides the different vehicle modes that become available for purchase, as already mentioned, there are several weapons you can upgrade too as well. You can upgrade your already present cannon or purchase new weapon types including plasma bolts, lasers, flame-thrower and grenades. Although the weapon variety is impressive, the brawn doesn't seem to match the brains. The effects of the weapons aren't very noticeable though, so it's hard to determine which weapon is producing better results outside of the cost factor. Throw in the fact that many of the weapons come with unlimited ammo and the entire weapon system becomes rather redundant.

So, destroy the enemies and grab crystals along the way. But wait, that's not all you need to worry about. Human scientists can be found wandering each of the planets and you'll need to pick them up and give them a ride to the nearest alien establishment so they can research the latest in alien technology. You'll also need to secure factories of your own so your scientists can continue their research without worry. If you don't already own a factory on the planet in question, you can take over an alien factory by flushing out alien workers with smoke grenades. Once you have enough scientists in one factory, you can begin to purchase power-ups and discover new technologies.

So, destroy the enemies, collect crystals, secure factories and give hitchhikers (errr, scientists) a ride to work. As you can see, Infestation achieves a nice little balance of strategy elements together with the action elements, but it's nothing new really. Research, purchase and eliminate the enemy is a formula we've all seen before. The problem with Infestation is that this formula doesn't change as the mission progress. Each new mission brings a new set of objectives, but the bottom line always remains the same. In an attempt to open up the game a little, Infestation does feature freedom in terms of where you can roam. You can warp from one planet to another and you'll find yourself doing so quite often since the only time you can save your game is when you enter one of these gates. The planets themselves are most often small to medium-sized, so there's little chance you'll get lost along the way.

A big issue with Infestation is definitely level design. I found some missions were far too simple while others were downright near impossible. I had to play some levels several times over in order to achieve the individual objectives, a process that can become tedious when you've got to blast your way through a large number of enemies so many times. The only good bit of news here is that the enemy AI can be weak at times, if that is good news. You can actually speed past enemies and if you manage to outrun them, they'll usually forget your existence and stop chasing you within a few seconds. There's quite an assortment of mobile enemy units in the game, ranging from ground, air and cyborg vehicles, but Infestation only seems to introduce about one new enemy unit per level. Besides the lack of enemy AI, at times, the same holds true for comrade AI. While some missions feature ally help, you'll find that they aren't the swiftest nor the most accurate comrades in the galaxy. In fact, if you don't pay attention to your allies, you'll probably lose them fairly quickly.

Graphically, Infestation is a mixed bag. The worlds aren't exactly barren from alien destruction, but the remote atmosphere is conveyed well. Sky textures in particular are extremely well done, although coloured lighting is definitely overused here. The units within the game are nicely detailed and varied but unit animation is repetitive. As you should come to expect in a shooter, pyrotechnics 'o plenty tend to dominate the screen at times, but that can be a good thing and here it generally is.

Infestation does support multiplayer, although clearly this game was designed as a single player gaming experience. Why is that you ask? Well, Infestation features four styles of multiplayer action: Football, Racing, Capture the Flag and Buggy Madness. The problem with each of these modes is that none of them feature more than just a couple of courses or maps. Couple that with the lack of a matchmaking feature and the multiplayer quickly becomes forgettable.

It should be noted that while Infestation seems to be a hybrid of gaming genres, it still remains a relatively routine action title. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the formula, but the lack of gameplay consistency is Infestation's biggest downfall, resulting in a gaming experience that quickly becomes repetitive as it progresses. Infestation had the potential to be something more than it is, that being an ordinary shooter.


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