Infested Planet Review: Part RTS, Part 'Starship Troopers', All Intense Alien Mayhem

By Luca Saitta , Updated Mar 06, 2014 09:33 AM EST
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Red-eyed and with shaking hands I log out of Infested Planet, after what Steam tells me is slightly under 100 minutes of play. The constant barrage of gunfire and pounding John Carpenter-inspired synth score (with a dash of dubstep – it is 2014, after all) have left me feeling like I just got out of an actual combat zone on some sort of tainted world. An… INFESTED PLANET, if you will!

Infested Planet is a breath of fresh air in the sense that the most basic strands of its cultural DNA can be traced back to Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 satirical masterpiece "Starship Troopers" rather than James Cameron’s 1986 bug hunt "Aliens". That’s pretty close to original for a vidya! Like in "Troopers", humanity is on the offensive against a race of insectoids for nebulous reasons – in this case the colonization of a seemingly uninhabited planet (give or take a few thousand bug monsters). After a few initial skirmishes, however, the bugs appear far more crafty than the military had accounted for, and it is up to you as commander of mercenary group Drake’s Devils to weed them out.

This is all of course so much pretext to get you in a bunch of caves where you have to overtake enemy points until you dominate the map, but it’s nice to get cartoony hand-drawn characters pop up on the bottom of your screen once in a while. Infested Planet is definitely not guilty of being another brown-n-grey space marine shooter: this top-down RTS/squad shooter pops with purples, greens, yellows and (most satisfyingly) reds each time you squash another hive.

Therein lies the basis of the gameplay. You have five Devils (they’re all in Master Chief-like suits of armor, so I can’t make a racial joke here) with which to destroy all hives on any given map and turn them into captured points. As long as a point remains uncontested, any Devil killed will respawn at the last still safe captured point. Destroying hives gives you Battle Points, which you can spend to build structures like Turrets to hold off advancing maggot hordes, or Helipads to call in airstrikes.

Your standard “rifleman” unit can also be upgraded for a couple of BPs into a shotgunner (more damage, less range), a commander (boosts other units’ speed and damge output), a flamer (good against hordes, demolishes YouTube comment threads), … . I also just wanted to mention that your Devils are at their most effective when you have them march in a straight formation right into the alien hordes like so much cannon fodder. Not only is this mechanic thematically reminiscent of the aforementioned "Starship Troopers", it also reminded me of the 1997 Kurt Russell gem "Soldier" in which supersoldier Kurt marches over a bunch of planet surfaces in a montage of war. Look, it’s easy to get on my good side, okay?

Unlocking building options happens with in-game cash. Every successful mission gives you a couple thousand bucks which you can spend on a diverse array of buildings or bonuses, such as a one-time use extra couple of marines. Very considerate is the fact that if you surrender a mission, you still get some money based on the amount of points you were holding at the time of surrender. Besides the campaign mode, there’s also random skirmishes and weekly challenges at the bronze, silver and gold levels. Like the challenges’ three tiers, the random skirmishes can be selected at beginner, skilled, expert and master levels. After a few hours of play, the bronze challenge showed me to be #78 on the Steam rankings. I’m going to assume that every hive maggot is ranked too, so that makes me look super good. #78 out of 874,435,473,489? Man, I’m a badass.

If you like Alien Breed-style mayhem, Infested Planet should be your cup of tea. The constant mutations of your enemies switch the gameplay up enough to keep you on your toes, and the colorful mayhem keeps it from becoming visually boring as well. Strap in, soldier!

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Infested Planet is now available for PC and Mac on Steam. The game is on sale for $11.99 (regularly $14.99) until March 13th. This review was based on a code of the full game provided by the publisher.

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