The third time is the charm for the bad boys from Planet Moon studios, an eccentric group of developers known for their sense of humor and offbeat games. Although Giants: Citizen Kabuto had its moments and Armed & Dangerous had some good ideas, in my opinion their latest release is their best effort yet. Nutshelled as third-person ballistic zombie annihilation, Infected for the PSP sticks close to the formula of frenetic gunplay that is the common denominator between the other Planet Moon titles.
Swamping the Big Apple with hordes of virus-mutated undead, Infected places players in the role of customizable officer (YOUR NAME HERE) Stevens. According to the not-so-serious story, Stevens is the only living person with the biological antibodies needed to fight off the zombie virus—antibodies so powerful, in fact, that any brain-eaters coming into contact with Stevens' blood explode into ragged chunks.
…Naturally, Stevens carries a gun that spurts his (or her) own red stuff, straight from the vein.
Although this concept sounds insanely unusual, the implementation isn't quite as odd as it seems. In addition to the gun tapped into the circulatory system, Stevens packs more commonplace firearms like shotguns and rocket launchers. These regular weapons are used to soften the zombies up, and a quick burst of hemoglobin makes them go boom.
The action is fast and furious, with the dripping corpses running, shooting, and jumping as quickly and as lethally as they can. About a third of the missions require Stevens to save civilians, but the rest of the game is killing everything that moves.
Although I usually strive to seek out the different and the unusual, I have to say that although Infected doesn't really break any new ground, it's an absolute joy to play for the simple fact that it functions smoothly and comfortably on the PSP.
I curse the day that Sony decided that the PSP only needed one analog stick—camera issues have plagued nearly every game on the shiny black system. Despite starting from this handicapped position, Planet Moon have pulled off the nearly-impossible and made a game that has no camera issues at all. Movement is restricted to a 2D plane though the game is actually 3D, but it's clear that design decisions have to be made to compensate for the idiotic physical restrictions of the unit. By sidestepping any potential camera issues, Infected delivers a sharply focused and violent experience. They have succeeded, and succeeded well. I have to admit that I couldn't help but grin when the action got heavy.
By killing zombies in a rapid fashion, the game automatically upgrades Stevens' weapon on-the-fly. This setup creates a drive to kill fast and kill often because the incentive for doing so is significant and immediate. When reaching the top level of firepower (a multi-rocket launcher) the screen shook, zombie parts were flying everywhere, and the crushing hard-rock soundtrack was blasting in my ear; it felt like the very gates of hell had been thrown wide open. For an action title like this one, I can't think of any higher praise.
Infected is a simple game, and one with very specific goals. It doesn't set out to create a new genre or try to get players to think very hard. But, don't mistake my comments as criticism—in fact, in this instance these are good qualities. An adrenaline rush can be a very welcome thing, and playing something this fast and trigger-happy on the PSP made me feel glad that I had spent the money on the unit after so many months of boring, flawed games. A project like Infected probably wouldn't fly on a home console, but on a portable small screen, it feels like perfect fit.