The original Alien Breed games were released many moons ago, back on the old Amiga. For those of you who aren’t quite as retro as to have been playing that far back, Alien Breed was a top down shooter made with a striking amount of inspiration from the famous Alien movies. “Enough of the past, what about the new Alien Breed games?!” I hear you cry. Alas, my digression is not entirely unwarranted! For you see, Alien Breed hasn’t really changed at all since its original incarnation.
It’s still a top down shooter based in the eerily cold depths of mechanical structures, hissing with benevolence as it creates a saturated atmosphere of terror. Perhaps this is one of the best aspects retained from the originals; its amazing ability to instil fear with what little it has to work with.
Enemies come at you thick and fast whilst you don’t have nearly enough ammo at your disposal to deal with them. This aids greatly in upping the ante and serves to create some truly terrifying moments as you hear the dreaded click of a hammer slamming in an empty firing chamber. The twin-stick firing mechanics work very well and thus the gunplay is indeed very fun, the only problem is that this is pretty much the entire game.
Beyond shooting hordes of aliens and creeping through darkened tunnels, there’s not a whole lot else to see. Exploration is an aspect as you’ll constantly be foraging for ammo, but the largely linear level designs leave little area to actually look around. Most of the time you’ll just find yourself venturing back and forth between various control panels to open up the rest of the path, wiping out mobs of aliens along the way.
This isn’t helped by the length of the campaign either. “Is it too short?” I hear you ask. No, this is one of the rare occasions in which you’ll find the game to be far too long! Initially the game is very fun to play, once you realise the actual length of the levels you’ll think “Wow, that was a huge level; that means I’ve got a lot more fun to have!”
These were exactly my thoughts upon taking an hour to complete just the first level! However, the derivative play style serves to instil boredom more than fear after several hours. You’ll find yourself wanting the game to end much sooner than you should.
It’s not all bad though, the campaign is far from terrible and the gameplay does mix it up a bit as you progress into the later levels. You enter a few new areas and this provides for a more refreshing experience, sadly these are few and far between and don’t really serve to stave off the inevitable boredom that settles in far too often. However, the game is most certainly worth playing until the end and it never reaches a point where you’ll think “I’ve had enough.”
On top of the healthy campaign offering, there is also the singleplayer survival mode which tasks you with surviving for as long as you can in various preset areas. There’s also a separate multiplayer campaign mode, but it merely offers a selection of random levels that aren’t linked into the campaign. This is a real shame as a co-operative offering of the full campaign would have been a very welcome edition, especially seeing as the lack of a co-operative campaign was one of the major gripes with the previous renditions of the title.
The graphics are, surprisingly, very good. Team 17 squeezed everything they can out of the Unreal Engine with what they had at hand to create some excellent lighting effects with overall satisfying textures. The sound effects are noteworthy too with a decent voice acting cast and satisfying weapon sound effects. With regards to the weapons, there is a plethora of firearms at your disposal throughout the game.
These range from the assault rifle that has a nostalgic pulse rifle sound to it, the highly effective and enjoyable shotgun to the special weapon that fires what appears to be super heated balls of energy that destroys all aliens in its path. Various items can be used such as flash grenades and frag grenades, healthpacks and armour pickups can serve to aid you through out too. There is also an interesting upgrade mechanic where in you use credits collected through exploration to apply upgrades to weapons and items to make them more powerful/effective etc.
Overall, especially for the price of admission, Alien Breed 3: Descent is a good game. It drags out a bit, but you can’t complain an awful lot about having too much bang for your buck. The lack of a co-op campaign utilizing the singleplayer story is a bit disappointing too. However, at its core, Alien Breed is a fun top down shooter with great graphics, a lot of content and a lot of fun to be had.