Dead Soldiers

So I picked up Aliens: Infestation for the DS last night.

I, like many, still hold the Aliens franchise close to my heart. I've been burned, of course, reduced to a cynic by, well, mostly the whole Aliens Vs. Predator nonsense over the years. Though Predators was alright.

Haven't quite given up hope that someone will develop a perfect xenomorph-shoot. Hell, Colonial Marines might be okay, even.

I even played Alien 3 for the Genesis, which Aliens: Infestation seems to take as its starting concept. The major thing, though. The one thing that WayForward did to get me to actually go to a store and buy the game based on the strength of a single quicklook? Permadeath.

It's a concept I keep poking and prodding at. I've been playing plenty of Roguelikes these days, and even in something as goofy as Dungeons of Dredmor, there's still this horrifying tension in play. If you lose this character, they're gone.

Aliens: Infestation has that kind of thing going on. You start with a full team of four marines. Each marine has a name. Each marine has a broad-strokes bio. Each marine has their own sprite and idle animation. Each marine has their tailor-made responses to various expositiory sequences. It's a crazy attention to detail, but it's precisely this decision that makes the game worthy of the franchise.

They are mostly caricatures like Fresh-out-of-boot-camp wussy; drunken Texan sergeant; or Masculine female character. In spite of that, I find myself helplessly growing attached to them. Both in terms of the thumbnail personality given to them and their responses to the game's general ominous atmosphere. Admittedly, I'm a pretty willing participant in that atmosphere, given my affection for the motion tracker and pulse rifle assets.

I replayed the first "boss" type encounter at least fifteen times, trying to make it through without losing a man. I'd used the perpetually-terrified Whistler throughout most of my first foray into the Sulaco. Seemed only fitting that he finish the boss. I even switched to my 3DS to make aiming up and at an angle a little easier. It wasn't that the game mechanics failed me somehow - I imagine it's totally possible to make it through the game with zero losses, but after hard resetting my DS every time Whistler died, I just couldn't get my fingers to work the right way. Once I saw the end of my patience loom on the horizon, I ran the risk of resenting him, and by proxy, the game. In short, I failed him. I failed to bring the newby back home in one piece. He was a marine that overtly stated that all he wanted was to go home.

I'm able to recognize that this is a video game. I know that I could just reset my save file and play through from the beginning. Maybe I might even manage to get Whistler through. Maybe I'll play through with someone else. Maybe Paulson, who seems the gung-ho, oo-RAH marine type. He's the guy that followed Whistler's footsteps to mop up. He's built for this kind of nonsense. He's the kinda guy who might go up against a Queen, give as good as he gets and if he kicks it, will manage to blurt out something like, "This will be a good death" before he's ripped asunder.

It's fascinating to me, though. That something I know objectively to be little more than cartoonish goofing around can have any kind of emotional resonance. But it does. At least, with me. (Again: willing participant.)

At any rate, I kind of want to keep track of this. I get the feeling this mechanic will fall apart if I let myself get complacent or actively ignore the personalities of the strange pixelfolk under my control. You can fill gaps with new characters, so there's a certain perverse appeal to losing a marine or two to get some new flavour in there. At any rate, I'll be keeping a list of the fallen comrades as I play through at the bottom of this blog post. Will update as I go. No promises that I won't reset a couple times to keep someone alive if I can, but given my general time constraints, I don't think there'll be that many do-overs.

A list of the dead for my playthrough of Aliens: Infestation:

  1. Whistler (Pvt.) - Killed by first Queen encounter on the Sulaco
  2. Paulson - Slapped to death by the Space Jockey

Current Lineup:

  1. Cameron
  2. Homewrecker
  3. Henick
  4. Kennedy