28 July 2014

PC Game Preview: Infested Planet

Brave the alien tide and deploy planetside with Craig Handler as he attempts to gather intelligence on the upcoming action strategy title, Infested Planet, by independent developer Rocket Bear Games.

Published on 28 JUL 2011 12:38pm by Scott Parrino
  1. ground combat, science fiction, real-time, tactical, single-player

INFESTED PLANET

Less than three cycles had passed since the 1st Marine Reconnaissance Battalion, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (SOC), Federation Marine Corps, had achieved geosynchronous orbit over LV624.  Orbital scans confirmed data received from ONI; the planet was a lifeless volcanic rock.  However, evidence of an unnatural honeycomb web of caverns, criss-crossing their way deep beneath the crust of the planet had brought the Marines to the remote Gama Sector, and this world, to investigate.  The mission was simple; perform an armed reconnaissance of the subterranean “irregularity,” and deny its use by “OWLS” (the Outer World League of Separatists), a ruthless band of guerilla’s and pirates whose recent attacks against Federated Alliance commercial shipping interests had become both embarrassing, and costly.  If Separatist rebels were using the caverns, 1st Recon would find them, fix them and then exterminate them, with extreme prejudice.

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In support of the mission, a small team of five Marines led by Gunnery Sergeant Garcia deployed uneventfully from the Hazard Class assault Frigate, FWS Ticonderoga; landing safely on the surface at 1321 local time.  A perimeter was quickly established and by 1350, LZ “X-Ray” was designated “secure.”    Approximately half a click north of the LZ, a naturally occurring chasm leading into the cavernous underworld was located.  At 1445, Garcia’s team was ordered to ingress through the chasm and into the subterranean unknown.

Twenty-two minutes later, at 1507, all contact was lost with Garcia and his men. 

What we know from scattered communications and low resolution video feeds is that within minutes of entering the tunnel complex, Garcia’s team was assailed by vast numbers of hostile “xenomorphs.”  These aliens appeared to be large sized arthropods that attacked quickly from multiple directions and in ceaseless numbers.  The Marines reacted as expected, aggressively; counter-attacking into the alien onslaught.  Untold numbers of aliens were shredded by steady, disciplined pulse rifle fire, while whole swaths of attackers were laid to waste by the team’s flame unit.  As the Marines pressed forward into the branching tunnel, they managed to reach a cul-de-sac which had been cocooned into a fortified nest or hive.  Large pulsating sacks, coated in a sticky ichor, belched a continuous stream of mature warrior insectoids.  Protecting the alien “nursery,” were numerous immobile worm-like tubes which were capable of discharging highly concentrated acidic sprays at high velocity and with extreme accuracy into the ranks of the advancing Marines.  This substance quickly burned through the Mark IX power armor plate worn by Garcia’s men.  Within moments of entering the nest, the life sign signals of Lance Corporal Hayes and Private First Class Wallace went flat.

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Facing attacks from all directions, the remaining Marines valiantly directed their fire into the hive.  Garcia ordered the team to assault the egg-like structures with fusion shotguns and plasma grenades.  The bold assault managed to destroy a number of the reproductive eggs, temporarily slowing the alien attack.  Unfortunately, Garcia’s remaining Marines had expended the majority of their ammunition and would be unable to withstand another rush.  Cut off from the surface of the planet, Garcia ordered the squad to fix laser bayonets, stand-to and prepare to repulse the inevitable xeno charge.  It was not long before the aliens renewed their assault.  With their backs to the wall, Garcia’s Marines stood side-by-side and fought relentlessly.  At precisely 1507, a solar flare emanating from LV624’s nearest sun disrupted all communications and Ticonderoga’s audio and video feeds to Garcia went silent. 

Approximately twelve minutes later, the flare subsided and atmospheric conditions returned to normal.  By the time transmission capability was restored, however, only static could be heard, together with the steady lifeless pulse of five flat electronic life signs indicating that Gunnery Sergeant Garcia and each of his Marines were lost.


My Mommy Always Said There Are No Monsters – No Real Ones - But there Are

Welcome to the world of Infested Planet, a charming little strategy game currently under development by Rocket Bear Games, an independent software development studio headed by Alex Vostrov.  Rocket Bear and Alex were kind enough to provide the Wargamer.com with a beta build of the upcoming release, permitting us to run it through its paces and provide our readers with our very first impressions.

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I MAY BE SYNTHETIC, BUT I’M NOT STUPID

Infested Planet may be light on plot, but it sure is heavy on action.  The game is deceptively simple...in Infested Planet, players take command of a small squad of elite Marines and fight them through an infinite horde of bug-like alien attackers.  While Infested Planet is a relatively simple strategy game with easy concepts to learn, it incorporates several unique features that guarantee a good challenge and will take time to master. 

Our beta copy contained a number of tutorials gently exposing the basic elements of the game to the player.  As the tutorials are completed, new and gradually more challenging levels are revealed and unlocked.  There were many levels available in our beta build, but each level is dynamically created each time it is played.  Therefore, the player’s starting location, as well as the locations and composition of each enemy hive, is randomly placed.  The lay of the land and its surrounding geography are also randomly created upon each play through.  True, there are only so many locations for the player’s starting position and the enemy hives, but this dynamic feature definitely adds to replayability.

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Adding to the strategic complexity of the game is a random set of alien “mutations” which will occur as the player progresses through a level destroying alien hives.  These sudden genetic mutations are great at altering the balance, and keeping the player and his or her Marines on their toes.  With this feature, the alien horde may, for example, suddenly develop a hardened exoskeleton; double the range of its defensive toxin spray; or regenerate the health of injured aliens and their structures.  Either way, the mutations are an ingenious way to mix each game up and keep the experience fresh.


What Are We Supposed To Use? Harsh Language?

Infested Planet would not be very much fun if it dropped the player’s Marines into the middle of an alien maelstrom without the means to kick some serious alien “tail.”  Thankfully, the Marines of Infested Planet are equipped with some powerful weaponry to decimate the alien rank and file. Each Marine is sent into battle with a standard issue pulse rifle and a limited quantity of useful grenades.  As alien structures are destroyed, points are earned which can then be spent on weapon upgrades, defensive structures or special perks.  Fusion shotguns, sniper rifles and flame throwers are just a few of the deadly weapons that can be acquired to rain death and destruction upon the advancing aliens.  Players who prefer a more measured and defensive strategy can go light on the offensive weaponry and hunker down with machine gun sentries, mortars and auto-cannons instead.     

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Before a weapon upgrade, defensive structure or special perk may be deployed in the field, it must first be researched by the player between missions.  Credits for purchasing these toys are acquired in-game by slaughtering the xenos.  The drive to acquire bigger guns is a tremendous source of encouragement and motivation and will keep many players going back into combat time and time again.


It doesn't matter when it's Arcturian, baby!

As an independently developed game, it is no surprise that the graphics and sounds in Infested Planet will take home no awards.  That is not to say that Infested Planet is poor from a technical perspective.  To the contrary, the production values of Infested Planet are commendable.  Graphics are more than functional and the sounds of battle sound appropriately…like battle.  Still, there could be more detail in the Marine and alien models and some more animation and “special FX” would be nice.

Additionally, some enhanced gameplay features would go a long way towards building immersion and improving unit control.  For instance, there is no ability that permits the player to set formations or even the facing of the Marines.  Basic formations like line, column, wedge, echelon, box, etc. would be neat and would make the player’s five units feel more like an elite military unit, rather than a jumble of pixels.  A facing mechanic is equally important as often times, when moving units to defend against a new threat, the Marines become disorganized and engage from a less than optimal position.  Perhaps these features can be incorporated before the final release.

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Even so, the absence of these features is not a deal breaker and ultimately does not detract too much from enjoyment.  Quite simply, the game still manages to be fun.


Is This Gonna be A Standup Fight, Sir, Or Another Bug Hunt?

The beta code available for this preview appeared very stable and virtually feature complete.  We did experience one CTD which unfortunately caused the corruption of our automatic save file (there is currently no way to create save files manually) forcing us to start over from scratch.  However, we were able to quickly recover from this minor disaster and have experienced no problems or glitches since. 

Players wishing to get their hands on a copy of Infested Planet can pre-order directly from Rocket Bear Games at http://www.rocketbeargames.com/infestedplanet/index.html and instantly acquire the most current beta build.  Those who pre-order now will get a $5.00 discount off of the $19.99 retail price.  For $14.99, Infested Planet is shaping up to be a reasonable bargain, especially when considering its addictive replayable quality.

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Although anything can happen between now and the time in which Infested Planet is released, we are quite confident that the final build will be a fun and exciting diversion for players looking for a break from the more complex and time-consuming world of sci-fi themed strategy titles like Distant Worlds and Armada 2526.


Reviewer’s System Specs:     

  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7 CPU 860 @ 2.80GHz (8 CPUs), ~2.8GHz
  • Memory: 8192MB RAM
  • Card name: ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series
  • Dedicated Memory: 1010 MB
  • Shared Memory: 3819 MB

 


Preview written by: Craig Handler, Staff Writer


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An unreconstructed Texan by birth, Craig currently resides behind enemy lines near New York City working oppressively long hours as a commercial litigation attorney. Turning his passion for military history into his own personal reality television show, Craig joined the United States Marine Corps and quickly learned that playing soldier is a lot more fun than cleaning bathrooms and filling sandbags. Currently, Craig is a Staff Judge Advocate with the 88th Brigade, 7th Legal Support Detachment, New York Army Guard, where he holds the rank of Captain. When not working, Craig enjoys playing PC and console games, reading, drinking grey goose, and staring at his obscenely large firearm collection.