Team 17’s remaking of the classic Amiga game, Alien Breed, landed on the XBLA last year and it was reasonably well received. This PlayStation 3 version is not a direct port, nor is it a direct sequel. Impact is a retelling of Evolution with a few tweaks to the gameplay mechanics and some cosmetic improvements.
Ostensibly, this is a dual stick shooter. You control Conrad, a lone engineer aboard a recently impacted space ship which is now falling to pieces around him. You must fend off swarms of insectoid enemies, transferred from the alien ship yours collided with, and repair elements of your own vessel before things get too much and it all explodes. Or the aliens get you.
Directional control is via the left stick and feels responsive and weighty. There is a sprint button which makes you speed up for a limited time but Conrad isn’t an athlete, he’ll tire quickly. The right stick controls your directionality so you can aim in a different direction to your movement. The right trigger fires your selected weapon and the left trigger uses the selected item, whether that’s a grenade or a medkit.
The narrative is delivered via a series of comic book panels which explain what happened, what you need to do to get out and develop a limited amount of character in Conrad. In truth though, Alien Breed is not about character and story progression, it’s about action and atmosphere and in those respects it does a solid job.
The game looks great, seemingly given a graphical boost since its last outing on the Xbox 360. Lighting seems improved, as do the textures and frequent explosions. The whole thing seems to be slightly brighter in most areas which makes playing through it a lot easier but it retains the darkness in important areas and successfully conveys that feeling of isolation and uncertainty that make up so much of this game’s atmosphere.
The sound design is also very good at conveying atmosphere. The numerous explosions, scuttling alien enemies and creaking ship all encourage a certain twitchy tension in the player. This is especially the case if you play on the hardest difficulty setting where it ceases to be a casual dual stick shooter and becomes a tense survival horror game with medkits in short supply and dwindling ammo stocks.
The game can be played in its entirety with a co-op partner, either locally or online and this again adds another dimension to it. While things certainly become that little bit easier with a partner watching your back there are also plenty of opportunities for dispute over who gets to grab the pick-ups.
There are five levels, each taking around an hour to complete and the multiplayer aspects should give you cause to return with friends. In truth though, each level is fairly similar in its design. The gameplay consists of running to one area to flick a switch that opens out another area with another blockage and switch to find. You work your way through the corridors and sections of the ship in much the same way from start to finish.
Luckily, the brighter visuals seem to have given a little more life and variation to the ship since the Xbox 360 version and there are a few tweaks to the enemies that make them a little less generic in appearance.
The save game points are suitably sparse that you do have to give some consideration to your saves. Through the save consoles you will also have the chance to purchase ammo and items as well as upgrade your weaponry. This adds an extra dimension to the game but it is a purely optional aspect. You could easily play through the entire thing without upgrading at all and only using your scavenged credits to purchase ammo and medkits.
- Looks really good.
- Builds atmosphere well.
- Cooperative play is a welcome addition.
- Not much variation in gameplay.
- Enemy types still don’t vary too much.
- The pacing is a little uneven with most action in the second half.
Alien Breed: Impact has made a few minor improvements since its appearance on the XBLA last year (as Evolution) but it has failed to fix as much as it has tried to address. The game is good; fans of tense, methodical dual stick shooters will probably really enjoy it. It’s just a shame that the wider-reaching problems weren’t addressed. The pacing is still slow to begin with and the gameplay is samey all the way through.