Alien Breed 2: Assault

8.0 Overall Score

Written by on November 1, 2010 in

To be honest, I never played the original Alien Breed trilogy from the 90’s.  I also haven’t played Team 17’s Alien Breed: Evolution released late last year on Xbox Live Arcade.  Luckily, this action shooter didn’t rely too heavily on canon continuity for  me to play and enjoy Alien Breed 2: Assault.

The setup: You are Chief Engineer Theodore Conrad.  Your ship, the Leopold, is dying. The situation, dire. An interstellar fender bender has the Leopold lodged onto a derelict alien spacecraft.  With the help of his synthetic female sidekick, Mia, Conrad must reignite the alien ship’s engines in the hope of dislodging themselves from one another before both crash onto a nearby planet.

The story, without having to delve into Alien Breed: Evolution, is simple yet appropriately provided enough of a backdrop to give purpose to the action.  There was a part in the lean plot with a twist.  However, it wasn’t so shocking that it had any lasting effect on the pacing or intensity of the game.  Any escalation in the amount of attacking enemies or the sense of urgency was shrug-worthy at best.  Even so, the moment to moment excitement was not in the narrative, but in the progression from one area to another while killing aliens along the way.

From area to area, Conrad retrieved key cards to open doors, flipped switches and, I almost forgot, he shot tons of skittering, bug-like aliens.  The gameplay itself was a familiar two stick shooter format in a 3/4 top down view.  The controls worked well enough to offer quick reaction to the hordes of aliens that seemed to pop out of vents and run at you from origins outside the camera’s view.  And there will be plenty of them to kill before the adventure was over.

To help you out, there was a half dozen guns and a couple grenade types at your disposal, along with health packs and a turret.  All of these could be upgraded at strategically spaced terminals that also acted as save points.  There was ammo a-plenty as they were generously scattered throughout the game.

To add a little variety, you could even play cooperatively with a buddy, online or split screen, through specific campaign missions or through waves of aliens in Survival Mode.

Like the story, the gun play, the upgrades and the inventory system were not complex.  For instance, there were only three upgrades per weapon that didn’t seem to offer any significant boost.  In fact, I went through most of the game with the standard, un-upgraded Assault Rifle.  When I did upgraded the damage it could do, I seemed to be killing the same amount of enemies at the same rate.  The in-game economy consisted of finding credits strewn about the ship and possibly selling off surplus items.  The Intex terminals were the only place to partake in any type of buying or selling.  All these stripped down mechanics may seem like a downside.  On the contrary, with little to no need for micromanagement, the focus remained squarely on the action.  Any illusion of gameplay depth neither hurt nor hindered, but was there when I wanted the busy work.

At first blush, the well-implemented controls in a target rich environment should make for a winning combination.  However, there were a couple of minor issues that bogged the experience down.  The first was the backtracking.  Despite the radar that indicated the next objective’s location, there were one too many times where I trekked through a long area only to come upon a door that needed a key card.  Having to slog my way back and forth through an area wasn’t intolerable, but it was a bit annoying.

Also, there were only two encounters that could qualify as boss battles.  The motions and patterns needed to defeat them became repetitive to pull off, but did offer a change of pace to the corridor battles that make up most of the game.  This lack of set pieces made the rest of the four to five hour single player experience feel like a bit of a grind as I approached the end.

Luckily, the Unreal Engine powered visuals made that grind more bearable.  Corridors were dark and moody, filled with enough detail to paint the picture of a machine that was once humming with activity, but is now long abandoned and in a state of decay.  Some areas were almost totally blacked out, leaving only the faint pulse of emergency lights and the flickering of broken monitors.  It’s apparent that a good amount of thought was put into creating a believable environment.  Machine parts spun and clicked.  Torn wires sparked to achieve a foreboding atmosphere that conjured memories of Doom 3‘s gloominess or Aliens‘s xenomorphs.  In short, Alien Breed 2 was a visually engaging experience with a level of detail that’s atypical for a downloadable Arcade title.

Speaking of Aliens, I had a hard time deciding whether Alien Breed 2‘s character designs were a rip-off of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, or if they were simply homage?  For example, the  aliens in both were insectoid creatures that crawled along with clickety clackety speed.  The fleshy pods that birthed small, slimy aliens looked mighty familiar.  One of the bosses even had a bony head plate that looked suspiciously similar to the queen that Sigourney Weaver’s character eventually blew out of an air lock.

With so many similarities, I decided to give Alien Breed 2 the benefit of the doubt and say it was more tribute than copy.  Although it was slightly distracting, the nods and winks to Aliens was a nice touch.  Regardless of the intention, I was never bored and was motivated to see it through to the end.  With the story and non-shooting mechanics distilled down to basics, there was more time to focus on clearing waves of aliens.  When all is said and done, developer Team 17 delivered a great-looking, high action title that’s worth a look.

A copy of Alien Breed 2: Assault was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.

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Author: John Catuira View all posts by

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