Game Review: Alien Breed Trilogy

In order to prepare for this review I started searching for some background on Alien Breed. Whilst searching for screenshots  I was greeted with some 8-Bit, DOOM style, graphics which is my favourite style of graphical design. These shots were from the Original Alien Breed released on the Amiga platform, back in the early nineties. Team 17, the makers of Alien Breed Trilogy, have left these retro graphics behind and gone for a more realistic and contemporary feel. There is the same over-head view as the original, but from a more contemporary angle in an attempt to give the game a new lease of life with a completely different audience. This collected edition boasts several different modes, including; story mode and Survival Mode, with the addition of Co-Op.

I have to admit to being somewhat underwhelmed by the story mode section. There is a plot, but the comic-style cut scenes are so boring and monotonous that you feel compelled to skip them and run the risk of missing out on what’s going on. The game may benefit from following these scenes but they move so slowly that it hampers your enjoyment of them. This theme of ‘slow movement’ can be seen in almost every aspect of all three games. The movement of the character is painstakingly slow, even when ‘running.’

The game objectives showcase a distinct lack of variety, ranging from pressing A to collect items to holding A to open doors. Oh, and sometimes holding A on the ‘put-out-a-fire-console’ to put out a fire. The same applies to clearing a room of gas and water, which is a personal pet-peeve of mine – convenience in story telling. If all this was not stressful enough nine out of ten times you have to hike back the way you came to press another button which will allow you to press yet another button. You see what I’m getting at here? Repetition.

The premise of the games were pretty basic and generic; ‘There’s this spaceship, like in space, and it crashes or something and aliens get onboard.’ It’s Sci-fi horror 101. Now, I’m no game developer, but my idea of a good trilogy does not involve three games of the same meat-like character walking around  large maps, opening doors and putting out fires, with the occasional Flood-style Alien to kill. All in all the slow nature of the cut-scenes and boring gameplay make the story mode the least compelling aspect of the game.

The 8-bit style of the original Alien Breed game has completely been abandoned and the new incarnation seems to take a lot from Dead Space. Everything down to the map layouts and the way the spaceship looks, with glowing blue elements in dark corners, and even the way that enemies slowly advance to you from across the room reminds me of Dead Space, plus the HUD which hovers over objects in the game, and is hugely annoying. It is also about as scary as Dead Space too, which says less for Dead Space than Alien Breed, but that’s another matter entirely.

The addition of Co-Op to the story mode fared slightly better. It was more fun playing it with a friend which led to more tension when trying to survive an onslaught of attacks while your mate is waiting to recover. This was spoilt, however, with the reminder that the characters had no meaning and the lack of consequence in the game gave little importance and will to go on. Meaning that I really didn’t care if the characters died or if I completed any of the objectives, making the game hard to play, even with the increased tension that came with multiplayer.

It’s not all bad as the survival mode added in ‘Assault’ and ‘Descent’, are actually pretty decent. They create frantic gameplay where strategies must be used to survive. You also get to use all the weapons in the game to hold off waves of enemies. This Survival mode is what I expected from the whole game and that would have been great if it did, although I’m not sure how the three games could have achieved this out of that one premise. The Survival mode is all you need from a downloadable game – a quick, fun, tense hoard-style shooter with good graphics and various weapons.  It’s really quite frustrating as ‘Alien Breed: Hoards’ could have been great.

The best thing about Alien Breed is the graphics, even though they have come away from the retro look, it still looks great. The over-head view works well for a game with dual-stick gameplay such as this and is helped with the ability to change the camera angle to suit your current position with a simple tap of either LB or RB. The graphical design is brilliant and has a very realistic feel but reminds you every now and then of the cartoony aspect by way of plumes of smoke and fire hugging the floor. The only complaint, and one that I’m sure could be rectified by tuning the brightness of your TV screen, is the darkness that is cast over small, but vital, openings to passageways which I consistently found myself squinting after.

I would recommend you do everything in your power to not buy Alien Breed: Trilogy. The game isn’t an ‘Over-The-Top Shooter’ (excuse the pun). For £25 (RRP) there’s a lot more you could do with your cash.  I would, however, give you a gentle push in the direction of Alien Breed: Assault on the XBLA. For a mere 800 Microsoft Points you can play survival mode with the best weapons out of all three games and be a generally happy person, especially when in Co-Op mode. I’m thinking that you’d get a few mates round and try to tackle waves of Aliens. Just make sure you have a movie or two to watch afterward and bulk things up time-wise, or it would be an awful party.

GS Reviewer: Tom

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