Review: Alien Breed 3 Decent
If you say the name “Team17” to the average gamer, most of them will reply “who?” a small number will talk about Worms and an even tinier percentile may even mention the original Alien Breed for the Amiga. Launched in 1991 it became an instant classic that was followed by a slew of other hits by the Team. Since then however they’ve long since fallen out of the limelight and if this game is anything to go by, that doesn’t look like its going to change any time soon.
Narrative wise, Alien Breed 3 bares very little relation to the Amiga classic but instead concludes the story set out in the franchise reboot Alien Breed: Impact (AKA Alien Breed: Evolution) and Alien Breed 2: Assault. That is of course, if you can consider this game to have a story at all. Why do I say that? Well the Alien Breed games have your typical “Space Hulk” type setting, i.e. you’re stuck more or less alone on a giant space ship full of endless waves of alien monsters. All the usual tried and tested tropes are present, deep space explorers decide to investigate mysterious ghost ship, face-huggers, alien queen boss, rouge AIs, pistol/ shotgun/ flamethrower/ laser and BFG weapon pickups, collectable crew logs to expand the story, space “credits” for buying upgrades etc.
Now there’s nothing wrong with that as such, but it’s not unfair to expect a game to put its own spin on it, so what exactly does Decent bring to the formula? Well…nothing. It truly is as by-the-numbers as humanly possible, the only impressive thing about it is that they somehow managed to stretch such a thin narrative over 3 games. Of course a rather generic sci-fi ending more or less ensures they can stretch it out for yet another game if they so chose.
Most of the…..uh…..”story” happens via intermission cut-scenes that take the form of narrated comic books. The first thing that’s going to hit you once the introduction boots up is how sub par the voice acting is. Never have I heard characters sound so utterly uninterested in their own dialog; I can only assume the voice actors were just bored out of their minds after reading the game’s script. I can also assume Team17 did all their VA work on the cheap as despite only having 3 characters (one of whom is only in the first stage) only the main villain gets the honour of being voiced outside the comic books, even then his dialog continually loops the same generic phrases (and cringe worthy laughter track) over and over without any rhyme or reason. In fact I think the entire sound element of the game was likely put on the back burner, there’s almost no music, most of the weapons sound unsatisfyingly tame and all the aliens sound like they use stock sound effects I’ve heard a million times before.
The game itself plays out as your standard top down shooter, aim with the mouse, move your dude with WASD and click to shoot. See a red dot on your radar? Start strafing, aim in its general direction and click. Is it still there? Click again. Repeat until it’s gone. That’s more or less the meat of the game, sure there are a few different types of aliens but that only changes how much of a priority killing them is and how far away you want them to be when you do it. The difficulty is fairly average apart from a few harsh difficult spikes towards the end, mainly thanks to the pitiful amount of health regain you get from medipacks even if you have the relevant upgrade.
You have a few generic sub items to help you along your way such as frag/stun grenades and armour powerups, most of which I ended up having to sell just to buy more medipacks. It’s not that moneys hard to find or anything, you can barely walk across the room without finding a lump of cash or two, but that all the upgrades and items are just so absurdly expensive, there’s literally not enough money in the game to even buy half of them. Although I guess that’s rather irrelevant as most of the upgrades are completely useless thanks to each weapon only being able to have one active at time. I question the logic of anyone who feels that their one-hit-kill laser weapon requires a damage upgrade or that the already lightning fast machine gun needs to chew up your limited ammo even faster instead of just doing more damage per bullet.
It takes roughly 6 hours to finish the main campaign on the normal difficulty setting and that’s without touching any of the co-op or survival mode extras, which I suppose is pretty good for a cheap game. Of course that would require you to actually WANT to play the game for 6 hours, something that I can attest that I never want to do again now that this review is finished. But before I continue on this negative train of thought, I want to give credit where credit is due. I take no hesitation in saying the graphics in this game truly are exceptional, especially for something that only costs £6.99. Even small things like the way light reflects off the different metals or the neat electrical effects on the link gun make this game a poster boy for what relatively small teams can really do with Unreal Engine 3, quelling any myths that’s this sort of thing is only really possible in big AAA console releases (but also supporting the idea that most UE3 games do look rather similar).
Its also clear that the designers went to enormous effort to create a compelling environment, every section of the game is filled to the brim with enough GNDN to make even the more jaded sci-fi fans nod their head in approval and even the deceptively linear layout of the games stages shows a level of design proficiency far beyond what the rest of the game would suggest. It truly is a shame however; that they also seemed to think it was a good idea to obscure these wonderful assets with explosions.
Oh god…..the explosions. There is one thing you can be almost 100% sure of every time you enter a room/corridor or interact with an object in Alien Breed 3, that at least a dozen objects will be 1) Continually exploding 2) About to continually explode or 3) On fire. Often the objects exploding are totally undamaged by their frequent spontaneous combustion and in some cases are things that should, by all accounts, be incapable of combustion in the first place such as metal grating or miscellaneous rubble. On paper this might sound kinda cool, but trust me it gets old very fast. It doesn’t help that every explosion tends to cause the screen to shake around even if said explosion wasn’t even on screen, resulting in most of the game feeling like it takes place during an earthquake.
Sounds frustrating right? It gets worse. The only thing you do in Alien Breed 3 other than shoot aliens is interact with objects, a seemingly endless chain of objects at that. To give you an idea of what that’s like, here’s an abridged version of an early scenario where I needed to raise a bridge to continue:Step 1: I Interacted with a bridge controller to raise the bridge, I was then told that the system doesn’t have enough power spare to do so. Step 2: A nearby power conduit is malfunctioning causing dangerous amounts of electricity around a computer console. I Interact with fuse box to make the conduit explode, somehow solving the problem. Step 3: Picked up the shipping manifest next to the destroyed power conduit. Step 4: Shot a barrel to destroy the wall blocking the way to the storage room. Step 5: Picked up some detonators. Step 6: Used the detonators on an elevator, causing it to explode. Step 7: Removed a restraining bolt from the other elevator. Step 8: Removed the other restraining bolt. Step 9: Activated the control panel to cause the elevator to fall down the elevator shaft…..and explode. Step 10: Interacted with the bridge control again which then raised the bridge, which surprisingly doesn’t explode.
I’d like to point out that all these objects were within a few feet of one another and at no point was I clear on what any of this actually had to do with getting the damm bridge to work, all I was doing was following the ever present navigation waypoints. The main character does give a quick quip about how the elevators are somehow draining the systems power, but without any voice acting to accompany it the text based dialog quickly scrolled off the screen before I had a chance to even realise it was there.
But Alien Breed 3s biggest issue by far is that these “Space Hulk” type games generally live or die depending on if they can correctly build a sense of tension or fear in the player; however this game seems to take place in an atmospheric void and by that I don’t mean outer space. The many flaws kill any sense of immersion you could possibly have, especially when the ludicrous explosions manage annihilate suspension of disbelief right from the start, something that’s rather a big deal in science fiction.
It’s also kinda hard to be surprised by an alien ambush when one happens in almost every room and when the “you’re going to have to defend this spot later” standoffs are clearly marked with a turret hardpoint in the centre of the room. I think the only time I was genuinely caught off guard with anything in this game was on the few occasions I interacted with an object and it DID NOT cause dozens of near by objects to inexplicably explode.
The only emotion I feel this game can ever really instil in anyone is boredom, no amount of graphical prowess can ever hide extremely poor pacing and a distinct lack of any well implemented gameplay mechanics. Honestly I can’t recommend this game to anyone, even if you love the standard “Space Hulk” setting or have found memoires of the original title (best to keep them that way). It doesn’t come close to being the worst I’ve ever played or anything like that, it’s just that every moment I spent playing it I was constantly reminded of the numerous other games with a similar setting that were way better in every way. Yes it’s only £6.99 and yes it’s nice to look at, but it’s still just not worth your time or money.
[starreviewmulti id=3 tpl=20]
- Very good graphics and level design for a low budge title.
- No atmosphere.
- Mechanics that have all been better used in other games.
- At least one of the designers was manically obsessed with explosions.
Recommended similar games
System Shock 2 (PC)
Dead Space (PC/PS3/Xbox360)
Doom 3 (PC-Steam, Xbox)