Impressions: Alien Breed 3: Descent

Alien Breed may seem like a newer franchise to the uninitiated, but it actually began back in the early nineties via Team17 (the same team behind the infamous Worms games). Fast-forward to today and it’s been given a new lease on life, thanks to the current trend of rehashing old franchises to “modernize” and “improve” them. This process began with Alien Breed: Evolution, continued with Alien Breed 2: Assault, and has most recently come around to Alien Breed 3: Descent, which is just as lackluster as the rest of the episodic installments, though has its moments. Despite its mediocrity, this type of game certainly could have worked as a replacement of sorts for a game such as Dead Space’s venture into the world of Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network, rather than the atrocious cash-in Dead Space Ignition. Unfortunately, Team17 didn’t quite let this ambitious episodic series live up to the full potential it showed in the beginning.

Unless you’ve been with Our Hero (Conrad) from the start, it’s likely you won’t care how or why you seem to be stranded on a ship that’s overrun with aliens akin to facehuggers, strange insect-like beasts, and other assorted nasties. Why bother caring when you simply need to blast through the hordes of enemies, rinse, and repeat? The ship you happen to be inhabiting currently is about to collide with a planet, however, so this episode is centered around this impending disaster as well as the obvious alien threat. A comic book-styled scene is provided in the event you do want to try and work things out, but you’ll feel utterly lost if you haven’t been following the saga already. That’s okay, though, as all you really need to know is that the right trigger is the “kill everything in sight button.”

This top-down shooter (rendered in a 3D isometric perspective) pits the typical space hero/marine/engineer/miner/what-have-you against these seemingly impossible odds, armed to the teeth of course with shotguns, machine guns, grenades, and a pistol that somehow never runs out of ammo. The pistol is largely useless on any other difficulty aside from “Rookie,” and though it doesn’t cease to offer shots, it’s not great for pushing the enemies away from you, either. At any one time you can be swarmed with several smaller to larger aliens, all of whom want your head on a silver platter, and you will find yourself dead more often than not. This is a very difficult game if you’re not careful. It’s just so bland it’s tough to want to press on.

Switching between weapons and items is a bit awkward, as is using said items. On the console version, the d-pad is tasked with this chore, but you switch between grenades and items such as health packs from the same pool. I’m not sure why they found this to be a good idea, because you’ll find yourself frantically throwing accidental ‘nades when you meant to stop and use up a health pack, then die from your own attempt at saving yourself. Not a good scenario.

When you aren’t trying to save your own hide or obliterate the alien threat, you’ll be going here, running there, pressing switches, activating doors, and other similarly dull tasks that don’t exactly scream “action hero.” You can search the many corpses littered around the ship, though I wouldn’t recommend doing so while aliens are in the vicinity, no matter how much you need the ammo (and you will.)

All the while, Conrad’s inner monologue is communicated via text and not a voiceover. Strangely enough, other characters’ voiceovers will play while Conrad’s text is onscreen, leading to confusing scenes. Why isn’t the character who’s talking receiving subtitles and why don’t we get to hear Conrad all this time? It was a design decision I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. Coupled with a finicky camera that you’re tasked with controlling that can make accidental shifts and turns (fumbling for the trigger while mixed up with aliens) and Alien Breed 3: Descent turns into quite the frustrating experience.

Conrad traipses through plenty of red-tinted, dimly-lit corridors and hallways that you’ve seen plenty of times over before, and everything looks the same. I can’t even particularly recall the music tracks, if that tells you how memorable they actually were. Everything smacks of sameness and been-there-done-that gaming, even if it is a bit of a nod to the retro years of top-down shooting, and it just didn’t fuel me to keep going. A co-op mode does add an incentive to play through this installment (think of it as the later levels of the updated Alien Breed) but you can’t select a difficulty, making playing through with a friend an exercise in frustration. A caveat; If you don’t want to play alone, you probably won’t want to play together.

I wanted to enjoy Alien Breed 3: Descent, I really did. I suppose if you don’t want to think, appreciate sameness, and a bland adventure and relatively lifeless adventure doesn’t sound so bad, you’ll get your money’s worth here if you’re ready for a challenge (or easy difficulty so you can power through to the end). But the experience has been done so many times before, and in better games, that it’s hard to recommend to anyone who’s not already predisposed to continuing the recent chapters and finishing what they started. Fair enough, but if you’re looking for the ‘full’ Alien Breed experience, I’d wait for the inevitable bundle that’s bound to come out at some point; which is what they should have done in the first place.

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