With Aliens: Infiltrator being a prequel to Aliens: Fireteam – a co-op multiplayer video game due this Summer – there was a genuine concern that it’d be a lazy cash-in, rushed out to take advantage of the hype that’s slowly building for the first ever third person shooter set in the Aliens universe.
I needn’t have worried. Though it’s not without flaws, writer Weston Ochse has crafted a compelling, fast-paced book that doesn’t skimp on action or gore, though it does take a little while to fully shift into gear.
Dr. Hoenikker arrives at a remote Weyland-Yutani research facility, lured by the promise of being able to study alien artifacts. He soon discovers that the scientists ther are undertaking monstrous, cruel experiments on living creatures – and it’s not long before the infiltrator of the title has thrown a spanner in the works, just as some very familiar – albeit genetically modified – Xenomorphs are created on the station…
Ochse is most notable for having written military horror SEAL Team 666, and his military experience (being retired from the US Army himself) is clearly apparent in Aliens: Infiltrator’s tale – which features ex-Colonial Marines in scientific roles. The no-nonsense prose features descriptions of firefights, weapons training and adherence to trigger discipline, for example, that always feel believable – as does the survivor’s guilt felt by at least one of the ex-Marines on the station.
Less so, unfortunately, are some of the character reactions to many of the extreme situations they find themselves in (a character losing an arm and then having the stump cauterised in acidic Alien blood is treated almost off-handedly by the characters, for example). There’s a few too many characters – and the plot too propulsive – to get to know many of them very well, making the demise of certain people feel a bit unmoving, which is also exacerbated by the fact that the characters we do get to know aren’t particularly likeable. There’s a tendency for certain moments to feel a bit contrived or convenient too, even in the action scenes – numerous times, Xenomorphs are shot at point blank range, for example; their acid blood only seems to matter when it’s a plot device.
That aside, it’s a well written book overall and clearly sets up the video game with the possibility of a variety of Xenomorph types – that may have otherwise been difficult to explain or justify within the continuity that audiences were previously familiar with. Likewise for, I assume, some of the more outlandish weapon or gear customisations that will be available in-game – there’s justification for their existence within these pages.
It’s not going to win any awards, but Aliens: Infiltrator is a quick, action-packed read filled with the corporate skullduggery and pulse rifle-fuelled action that fans have come to expect of the franchise since James Cameron’s 1986 movie, while adding in a few new elements that do feel pretty fresh. There’s a definite Alien: Resurrection vibe at times, however – which is an unusual source of inspiration, given how low it tends to be ranked in the overall saga by fans. The book is certainly a good primer to prepare for the release of Aliens: Fireteam, in any case – let’s hope the game can deliver the experience us long-suffering Aliens fans/gamers have wanted for decades.
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