Making no bones about borrowing an idea or twenty from the most recent installment of a certain zombie infested Capcom franchise, Gameloft’s latest chronicles the outbreak of a deadly virus, puts the player in the boots and body armour of unflappable action man Damien Sharpe, brings a fiesty female reporter side-kick along for the ride and drops the luckless duo into a grimy South American favela for some intense face-offs with the infected.
The sort of plot that would fit comfortably on the back of a beer mat provides amiable enough validation for the high octane gorefest that follows. In the not too distant future a shadowy corporation has seized control of Brazil and with the help of a private army has locked down the country; enter bad-ass investigative journos “The Tough Truth”, here to blow the lid on the firm’s gross violations of human rights and locate a sibling gone MIA respectively. One part topical sci-fi/horror, one part Scooby Doo style exposé then.
Despite a few heavy-handed attempts at setting a creepy tone early on – the ominous score and sound effects, cowering survivors babbling in broken english about flesh-eating monsters, a dismembered corpse hung from a meat hook in the marketplace – the game soon settles for an emphasis on visceral action over out-and-out scares, and is all the better for it. In no time at all you’ll be painting the shantytown red as Sharpe carves his way through its streets, unloading clip after clip into the rotting flesh of wild-eyed locals, punching zombie’s heads off, kicking doors in, and snarling misfiring zingers.
A thriller not a chiller, Infection goes straight for the jugular with a ferocious blend of shoot everything that moves game-play and Gameloft’s trademark follow the arrow progression. The hand-holding means you’re forced down a linear path, while puzzles are non-existent and ammo and medi-packs are plentiful, thus, rather than cerebral challenges or exploration, the focus is firmly on the visually stunning zombie blasting. Thankfully intuitive controls make combat a gory delight: a j-stick handles movement, onscreen buttons unholster/holster weapons, pump hot lead, and unleash character specific melee attacks. In addition to this set-up, a special icon will often pop onscreen in the heat of battle, allowing you to pull off brutal finishing moves such as hurling zombies in the air, or kicking them to the curb and stomping their skulls to mush.
You’ve probably guessed as much, but Infection pulls no punches when it come to depicting grisly ultra violence – individual limbs can be blown off, the camera gets sprayed with blood when you’re bitten, and you’ll frequently come across unfortunate souls writhing in the dust as packs of crazies feast on their entrails – yet there’s an almost cartoony feel to the bloodshed, while the fact that most levels take place in sun soaked daylight saps any sense of dread from the proceedings.
What the game lacks in atmosphere it more than makes up for with its gung-ho attitude, balls to the wall action, and impressive roster of weird bosses to be fought. As you gun your way through twelve diverse levels, playing as both Sharpe and Rayne, you’ll find yourself dodging the snapping jaws of a mutant crocodile, taking a trip to a zombie zoo (please don’t feed the lions!), manning a Gatling gun to take down buzz saw wielding brutes and humongous spiders, trading bullets with zombified mercenaries and more.
It’s all utterly ridiculous of course, but is also ridiculously entertaining to play. Whether it was intentional or not, Gameloft has captured the infectiously fun aesthetic of one of those low-budget, anything goes, Romero rip-offs that fester in video shop bargain bins the world over. The story is derivative, the characters two-dimensional dunderheads and the dialogue and voice acting laughable cheese, however as the set-pieces escalate with increasingly demented results, you’ll most likely be enjoying eradicating the zombie plague one laser guided pot-shot at a time too much to care. In short, Infection is this year’s N.O.V.A. – a close approximation of a much loved game delivered onto iDevice as only Gameloft knows how.
iFanzine Verdict: About as scary as a stroll in the countryside on a summer’s day, but if it’s gore drenched eye candy and brain-dead action you’re after Zombie Infection should fit the bill nicely. Gameloft’s first entry into the survival horror canon is one of their best games yet.