Enemy Infestation is a little known tactical strategy game developed by the underappreciated Australian company Micro Forté. On the back of this game's quality, if not its success, these talented folks were given the reign to develop Fallout Tactics. That's quite a pedigree, so why isn't this 1998 gem held in a higher regard?
The answer to that is probably down to the release date. It hit shelves in September 1998, the exact same month as the behemoth that was Fallout 2 (funny how they'd later go on to work on the franchise). Not only that, but the run-up to Christmas also gave us Half-Life, Thief and Baldur's Gate among others. No wonder this game was buried in what could be regarded as one of the best years in PC gaming.
For those who've played Fallout Tactics, Enemy Infestation plays like that game's proof of concept. It's innovative, well designed yet the gameplay is not as polished as its successor. One could imagine that ideas for the cancelled Enemy Infestation 2 worked its way into the 2001 post-apocalyptic classic. It does set itself apart by have a sci-fi story worthy of any B-movie.
Set on the planet Redavi in the 24th century, you take control of a number of varying colonists fighting to survive an agressive alien species. Over 26 scenarios taking place on 7 huge maps, you'll be tasked with a variety of missions including saving other colonists, destroying the insectoid invaders or even send a mayday message back to earth. The variety is impressive, and with each colonist in your team having different specialities, it makes good use of the brain cells in a very fun way. For example, in an early mission, you cannot get some alien tissue unless you risk the toxic surface of Redavi. One of your team is a mechanic and has the ability to fix the space-suit dispenser called ESPO thus giving you all safe passage. Bring back a dead alien and give it to the researcher who'll provide valuable intel for later missions. On a more general note, some people have the ability to lock doors which is incredibly useful for when the more intelligent enemies swarm you. There are 15 colonists in total plus a couple of robots and each is given a name and personality, even if there's little room for that aspect to shine through.
The levels themselved are beautifully detailed, though the downside is its tendency to be a bit particular when doing specific tasks. In the heat of the moment, I was rarely confident that I had selected the correct person. There were times when I thought I'd ordered my man to pick up a fallen comrade, only for his to use up his single inventory slot by grabbing a remote control. Each colonist does have their own stats and character portrait, but they look alarmingly similar on the playfield. That one scientist you need to complete a task may be on the other side of the map completely unnoticed by you for the entire level (their smaller faces staring at you on the bottom of the screen will become increasingly useful as the numbers increase). Other times, a character is hidden behind a wall or door and the only way to see them is with a swipe of the mouse. The green outline that appears when the mouse hovers over something interactible is thankfully clear, but when two items intersect, it becomes a lesson in frustration. While not rare, such occurances are uncommon enough to not taint the overall production.
Each scenario may often begin with a completely new cast of characters. That attack droid you found incredibly useful in one level may not be available to you at all in the next. The same goes for weapons. You are completely unarmed each time. The attack system is also a bit finicky. Colonists will melee attack automatically, or run and hide depending on their attributes, but long range weapons seem to be manual. At least the AI's use of them is ineffective enough that they might as well be. A red reticule appears over the heads of enemies and a mouse button will cause any highlighted member with a projectile to pull the trigger. Weapons are varied - rocket lauchers, fire extinguishers and hairspray cans are among your arsenal - though be careful of any team member in the way. It's incredibly easy to get hit in the crossfire as most of the crew huddles around the enemy in a violent scrum. More thought needs to be given towards how you approach enemies as you'll often find yourself underpowered and at an exteme disadvantage.
There is an informative training level that allows you to get to grips with the game. It's short and entertaining in its own right, but it's geared towards a team of one. Contrast that with the scenarios themselves where a number of colonists are required to participate. I found it took me a while to get the character management and tactics down and even then I found it very challenging. There's no difficulty setting either, so if you find it too tough you'll just have to get better. I suspect most casual players will simply move onto something else before they see the end.
So, Enemy Infestation is not perfect. It's difficult, awkward and fiddly but there is enough here to keep you entertained for quite some time. It may not beat its successor, Fallout Tactics, and it won't be remembered as one of the many highlights in a stellar year for gaming, but it is competantly made and different enough give up a few hours and explore.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 running Windows '95. Manual & Quick Reference Card included. Tested on Windows 10.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting DOSBox. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Press Ctrl-F9 when it is safe to do so.
File Size: 739 Mb. Install Size: 1.08 Gb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Enemy Infestation is © Micro Forté
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me