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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Publsihed By: Team17 Software
Developed By: Team17 Software
Genre: Action
Players: 1-2 (Co-op)
Rated: T (Teen)
Release Date: September 22, 2010
Screenshots: Link
Steam:Buy Now!
Written By: Christian Higley

October 3, 2010 - There’s a dual hierarchy to the reason I play games. The first step is experiential: how does a game make me feel? The second is regarding entertainment value: am I having fun? For each quality, there are good cases to be made for the best and even the worst games.

Bad games can be bad for many reasons. Often, I find that bad games have good ideas and ambition that, somewhere along the way, flew beyond the developers’ reach. Others are just irredeemably bad. But as a critic, I even enjoy the occasional just plain bad game. Playing a bad game sucks, but criticizing it is so much fun.

The games that fall squarely in the middle -- the mediocre, the unambitious, the boring, the “good enough” -- are the hardest to criticize. What do you say when a developer competently achieves everything they set out to do, but you just don’t care?

Alien Breed 2: Assault is, by no means, a bad game. Almost everything about it is competent and works as intended. I have no doubt that developer Team 17 accomplished every goal they had for Alien Breed 2. Their mission just wasn’t very interesting from the start.

Alien Breed 2: Assault is an isometric shooter set on a derelict spaceship that’s been overrun with hostile aliens, and the second part in a planned trilogy. It’s made in the legacy established by classics in the top-down shooter genre, such as Robotron and the classic Alien Breed series on the Commodore Amiga.

There’s a wrench or two thrown into the basic formula, thankfully. Scarce ammo and upgradeable weapons keep things a little bit interesting, offering a slight survival-horror twist. Occasionally, I found myself making tough decisions between buying much-needed ammo and/or health or upgrading a weapon.

Unfortunately, by the last few levels of the campaign, those dilemmas become irrelevant. Simply upgrading a weapon’s damage is sufficient: the weapon kills things faster, therefore using less ammo, creating a “win button” strategy. At that point, Alien Breed 2 really does just become a game about running down corridors, shooting things and collecting key cards; the basic three things I’ve been doing in shooters since Wolfenstein 3D.

I found more to enjoy in ‘survival mode’, wherein the goal is to survive recurring waves of increasingly-difficult alien enemies. I think this is actually when the game is at its best: it abandons any pretensions that it’s more than what it is (an arcade shooter) and just lets you blast aliens. And, to the game’s credit, the higher-tier weapons are satisfying to use (especially the flamethrower).

The same could be said of the game’s co-op mode. Again, the game knows what it is during multiplayer. I got recollections of Gauntlet in the arcade, as another player and I made made our way through dark tunnels, picking up items and killing things together. No attempt at story, no convoluted objectives: just pure, old-fashioned arcade fun. With an actual personal friend, co-op could be a blast of nostalgia.

Alien Breed 2: Assault is a fine game when taken for what it is: a straightforward, old-school isometric shooter. It makes impressive use of the Unreal 3 Engine, creating a space (and a game) that feels a lot bigger than it is. The dynamic shadows create a satisfying sense of atmosphere as they shift and morph under the glare of your flashlight. Best of all, I didn’t encounter any of the issues I normally do with UE3 (texture pop-in, slowdown). The game looks a lot nicer than most in the downloadable 3D market and makes the accomplishment look effortless. I hit a few snags, once getting stuck in a level’s geometry and being forced to reload a fairly old save. It’s also worth mentioning that save-points are few and far between, which was a consistent source of frustration.

Unfortunately, the single player only campaign makes a poor attempt to be something more and fails. If the campaign had been made more in the vein of the co-op experience (or even included co-op play at all), the game would have been better for it. Instead, the campaign is boring, survival mode is insufficient with only 3 maps, and co-op, while fun, feels too much like an after-thought. However, I don’t see any reason not to recommend Alien Breed 2. Just know that you’ll be getting more-or-less exactly what you expect: a decent, but generic, shooter that looks pretty enough, but feels like it emerged right out of the early 90s.


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