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Platform(s): PSP
Genre: Action
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Planet Moon Studios


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PSP Review - 'Infected'

by Agustin on Feb. 1, 2006 @ 12:41 a.m. PST

Featuring an engrossing single-player campaign with lavishly gory details, Infected unlocks the world of Wi-Fi via exciting multiplayer modes. To participate in multiplayer combat, players create their own character or avatar. Those who are victorious in combat can "infect" the loser's PSP system with their avatar and gain ranking points. Avatars can be defeated through a variety of methods, as well as passed along from player to player thus creating a viral chain letter of attack.

Genre : Action
Publisher : Majesco
Developer : Planet Moon Studios
Release Date : 15 November, 2005

Killing zombies with Slipknot blaring in the foreground of my senses does not sound appealing to me, or many other people, I’d imagine. Infected manages to combine these elements well enough to suck a few (commissioned) hours from my life, but not enough to skirt the dull displeasure of hearing the same Ill Nino song for the fifty-seventh time. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ll take the primitive midi sound-scrawling from Total Carnage over this trash any day.

It’s not that Infected is a bad game. It’s the sort of thing the PSP is dying for, floating in a sea of racers and PS2 ports like it is. Infected is quick action, designed for the portable format (however important that is to most PSP owners, who seem to prefer bed-ridden Liberty City Stories sessions), and it doesn’t stretch the limits of the available buttons.

To pick a single word for it, Infected is mediocre. Mediocre in the literal sense, not the modern “fancy stand-in word for utter trash” way. Mediocre in the truest sense of the word.

That’s not bad at all. Not good, but not explicitly bad, either.

In two-and-a-half years of game reviews I have played many, many games that I wouldn’t have touched if not for my position at WorthPlaying. Lately, I’ve been contemplating a new method for finding and communicating my exact opinion on a game; to find whether or not I or anyone else should bother playing a certain game. This way of thinking is useful because WorthPlaying is a publication reliant on review scores, and reviews should, in theory, lend themselves to the attached score. Playing Infected strung me along this train of thought.

My Nanostray review retroactively reminded me of how important this mode of thinking is. I should have scored the game lower and resisted the temptation of the “6.8” standby. According to the WorthPlaying scale, it should have sat within the 5.0 – 5.9 range: “Weak; significant flaws; approach with caution.”

Infected presented me with a problem. The game is fun enough, but packaged in a way that most players would find irritating. It doesn’t lend itself to a second play-through. But why? How could I articulate why I felt the way I did? The answer lies, once again, in the Law of WorthPlaying: “…games should be considered according to many criteria including, but not limited to, gameplay, interface, controls, visual and audio presentation, playability, artistic value, and overall concept.”

The most important criterion in this list is the last. A product is always the sum of its parts. Above-average gameplay never stands alone. It is immaterially packaged within countless produced bits, each able to offend our sensibilities. They do so unequally, but the power of each part is undeniable.

As an ex member of the under fifteen demographic, it is Slipknot that offends my sensibilities. That, and the baggage that comes with marketing to said demographic. (Insert disclaimer: For those that do truly enjoy nu-Metal, more power to you! You will definitely enjoy this aspect of Infected for PSP!) This game is slathered in a thick candy coating of over-produced power chords that would make your <b>HaRdXcOrE</b> little brother cringe. This is Roadrunner Records making a final, valiant attempt at licensing songs by bands that will be dropped two weeks from now. This is the sound of a genre gasping out its last breaths.

Playable characters are drenched with imagery to go along with the sonic violations, including -- gasp! -- the venerable Slipknot! Trash-goth queen Rayne of Bloodrayne fame is also included, making Infected an audio/visual nightmare for most PSP owners. The device is marketed towards the hip-hop crowd, after all.

All of this dated niche design regrettably obscures an acceptable kill-‘em-all action game. Once players are done selecting just the right Dawn of the Dead-inspired outfit to represent their generic, unnecessary rage, the opening cinema – an obvious social commentary – depicts the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony being stopped in its tracks by fast-moving zombies straight out of the aforementioned horror second-stringer. This is one of many CG sequences in the game, some of which are genuinely funny, most being plain old stupid. None follow suit with the Goth-opera look of the polygonal characters, which seem to be ripped from a Jhonen Vasquez-wannabe comic book and tossed into an early Dreamcast game.

The in-game zombies act like the post-28 Days Later freaks we’re used to seeing in theaters these days. That means they usually move fast, which is perfect for a Smash TV clone like this. The gameplay mostly feels as antiquated as that game, too, except for the crucial neutralization process.

I’m not referring to decapitation, as pleasant as that sounds. Infected’s zombies need to be filled to the brim with lead, then given a plug with the viral gun. If done right, the zombie will explode, and infect (tee-hee!) nearby weakened zombies with excess viral goo, and voila: obligatory combo system!

Infected gives you more bang for your buck. Ha! Ha. Ha…

You’ve already had the phrase “infect the world with your PSP” drilled into your head between pages of Ultimate Spider-Man. Those vague print ads did not spend a great deal of time describing what that meant. I will make it my journalistic responsibility to explain it for you.

Infection takes place curing multiplayer games. Players run head-first into one another, locking on and praying for a kill. It’s a little like the feeling before picking your weapon in a game of rock-paper-scissors. Winners spread their personal avatars on everything in their victim’s game, online or off. You can even check on the progress of your infection by connecting to the online mode. It’s not hard to get it to the far reaches of the world, as players cannot control who it is they are matching up with in the online 1 on 1 matches. The ad-hoc limit is eight players, however, so those looking for some intense lock-on competition should enjoy offline games quite a bit, Slipknot or no.

We’re nearing that time, dear reader, when the score must be tagged on and this review ground up into a digit, a decimal point, and another digit (unless you’ve already scrolled past all this and fed your eyes with that easy-to-read score). Know that the number below was one that took a great deal of thought. Know that I poured over the Law of WorthPlaying, and worked hard to figure out just where mediocre sits on a scale like this. Know that I have doused my ears with more nu-metal than a man should ever have to endure; that I raised my eyebrow at the stable framerate and lowered it when I felt the art was forcing too much “generic rage” down my throat; that I dissected the cheap online mode and contemplated the ramifications of the same, uncompromising lock-on controls when applied to more players; that I unlocked and played as Slipknot. That I did it just for you.

I think I’ve found what I’ve been looking for.

Section A.1: “Average; nothing special but no glaring shortcomings either; any charm might be lost to fans outside of the genre.”

In this case, “genre” refers to nu-metal before Robotron-clone.

Score: 6.5/10

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