Review – Alien Breed: Impact

alien breed impact review

I was 10 when Alien Breed came out for the PC (2 years after the Amiga release), and I can just about remember playing it at a friends house. It was great. Hugely playable, ‘arcadey’ and satisfying. Alien Breed was release to critical acclaim, it was an important release. One can clearly see its influence in ID Software’s Doom (1994).
I believe a big problem with Team 17’s re-release; “Alien Breed: Impact” lies in our expectations. In the early nineties we didn’t care much for cohesive, compelling story-lines, ‘next-gen’ graphics etc, it was playable fun titles that utilised the meager horsepower of our PC’s (or Amigas) that drew crowds.

So to release a remake of a top-down mindless Aliens-themed shooter in 2010 and for it to be relevant and popular with today’s gamers is a difficult task, and for me it falls short.

Presentation-wise the Unreal 3 engine looks nice, really nice. The environments are appropriately strewn with space debris, and there’s are plenty of nice looking ‘triggered’ explosions and “cave-ins” occurring throughout.

The graphics aren’t a million miles from a top-down Doom 3.  The light-mapping is great, when you shine your torch down a corridor or through a broken window its casts a great eerie shadow of the objects blocking the light.   Its a nice touch that often overlooked in big-budget titles.

In fact a Doom 3 comparison is an apt place to talk about some of the short-comings of Alien Breed: Impact.

It feels like lots of work was put into a tidy looking game engine, the controls (and on the controls; bonus points for having the 360 controller work ‘out of the box’ including rumble), and the sound.  Which all exceeded my expectations.  But they forgot about the game.

The game play just wasn’t fun for me, or satisfying. The only intro to the game you get is a couple of (pretty poor) comic slides, then you’re straight into the action. And by ‘action’, I mean collecting diary logs (like Doom 3), and looking for key-cards. It isn’t edge-of-your-seat stuff. At least in Doom 3 (which was also key-card and diary collecting) it had the genuinely creepy / jumpy moments that kept your pressing on.

While writing this review, I actually got a couple of hours into the game and had to restart because I got stuck. How infuriating? I’d be happy to take the blame for simply being shit at the game, but I wasn’t stuck because of a tough boss or from running out of ammo. It was because I had missed a key-card, a faintly illuminated object on one of the samey rooms in level.  The in-game map is no help at all; it implies some rooms are joined that aren’t joined and vice-versa.

You can search the various human corpses littered throughout the levels to collect money, and there’s also random ‘piles’ of cash dotted around too.  Annoyingly you have to press and hold on each corpse / locker for a few seconds to ‘search’, which gets tiresome pretty quickly.  Money allows you to buy upgrades and ammo for your weapons.  This feels like a missed opportunity, because the upgrades just weren’t imaginative or significant enough to make you want to bother.  I ended up just buying ammo and saving the game, which led to a small rejoice as a save-point was an excuse to quit out and take a break.

I didn’t get the opportunity to play any co-op during my time playing Alien Breed: Impact, but I guess the potential might be there with some more imaginative level designs and puzzle-based bosses.

This re-release of Alien Breed is episodic. I guess we should hope for better from the following iterations, or perhaps a re-think at the pricing, at £12.99 on steam its definitely one people will put off buying until a Steam Sale.

I first saw Alien Breed: Impact demoed at the Eurogamer roadshow in Leeds, a guy from Team 17 came along and showed some footage, and spoke of why the game was so important to them. I recall him saying some pilot ideas had been thrown around in the years leading up to this release but were disregarded for various reasons. I wish this had been worked on a little longer, as its repetition and unimaginative game-play forces me to mark it down somewhat.

Verdict: Polished use of the Unreal 3 engine, good presentation – poor game-play, and level design.

5 out of 10.

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