Team 17 – Alien Breed Evolution: Episode 1 review

reprise of the classic top-down alien hunting romp
Photo of Team 17 – Alien Breed Evolution: Episode 1
£6.80 (800 MS points)

There are certain things that should be avoided in space. Asteroid fields, for one. Black holes are also pretty bad news. As are any space stations that appear to be small moons from a distance. Breaking wind in your spacesuit isn’t recommended either, and ditto for crashing headlong into a massive battle cruiser at warp speed zoom factor 15.

That’s how this game begins, with your ship embedded in an unknown vessel. But the really bad news is this particular unknown vessel is infested with a variety of aliens, who are spilling onto yours at the start of the game, with more than taking down your insurance details in mind.

It’s a simple case of space marine versus rampaging alien horde, just as it was back in 1991 when the original Alien Breed was released. This time around, instead of the Commodore Amiga, the aliens are now invading the Xbox Live Marketplace. And instead of simple top-down graphics, Alien Breed Evolution presents the blasting action in isometric 3D. Pretty impressive 3D, too, driven as it is by the Unreal 3 engine. Spraying a triplet of oncoming nasties with your flame-thrower has never looked so good.

Having said that, while the graphics are undoubtedly slick – as is the presentation, with stylised cartoon panels unfolding the story between levels – the ship environment does feel quite samey after a while. Many of the rooms and corridors look identical, and while it might seem redundant to criticise visual repetition in a shooter which is purely about blasting one big slavering alien after another, it doesn’t help when you throw in other elements of repetition.

For example, the constant explosions as you wander around the ship. To begin with, a shattering explosion as a gas cylinder detonates across the room, or a metal girder falls from the roof, adds to the atmosphere greatly. But these pyrotechnics happened so often that halfway through the first level they almost began to annoy us slightly. Yes, we get the idea, the spaceship is falling apart. But this is a case where less would have been a bit more effective, in our opinion.

All this is nit-picking somewhat, granted, but less so is the lack of imagination in Alien Breed’s objectives. It goes a little something like this: to get to the bridge, the security console must be activated to open an access door. But there’s a fire in the security room, so you have to go and find the extinguisher system console and activate that. Then you can enter the security room, but when you use the security console, the ship’s power fluctuates and it crashes.

So to get it going again you have to get the power back online: by activating the power console. Then you can finally activate the security console successfully, and go through onto the bridge. Then there’s another power failure on the bridge, so you have to find another power console to get the lights back on. Although this power console is in a room where there’s another fire raging, so you have to locate the extinguisher system console… and so on, and so forth.

There are sparks of variety here and there, such as being tasked to escort a doctor through the alien hordes. Or having to save the lives of a couple of trapped soldiers in a locked room filling with toxic gas, which involves a race to reach the ventilation system against a timer. We wanted more of this sort of thing, and less of the umpteen quests for yet another power console.

On the plus side, at least the different types of alien keep you on your toes. There’s a good variety here, between those that spit projectiles and those who mess with your head by letting out a psychic scream that blurs your vision. Then there are healing types, and warrior aliens with big shields that can be deployed to block your gunfire. The game’s control system is nicely implemented, too, with the left stick mapped to movement and the right stick to aiming. This means it’s possible to keep mobile, backing away and strafing to avoid enemies while lining their carapaces with lead.

Team 17 also get props for producing a co-op mode, with its own content separate to the main campaign. These levels are even more crammed with spiny-limbed, spiky monstrosities that the pair of you can take on locally or online, stood back-to-back in the centre of the room while they all drop around you, pools of green blood oozing across the floor.

There’s certainly some fun to be had here, and quite a lot of playtime for the asking price, with five levels in the single player campaign, each lasting around an hour apiece. Then there’s the co-op mode on top of that. But ultimately, while certainly a faithful remake, Alien Breed Evolution didn’t really capture our imagination, laden as it is with objectives and environments that induce too much in the way of deja-vu.

Company: Team 17


Verdict
Alien Breed Evolution stays true to the original game's roots as an out-and-out blaster. That's fair enough, and fans of classic Amiga gaming will no doubt appreciate that. Sadly, the lack of imagination in the level objectives rather wore us down, almost as much as the continual assaults from the aliens.