Friday, 28 December 2012

Review - Alien Breed: Impact

Alien Breed: Impact

For PC, used with Microsoft X-Box game controller

Team 17

So, this is how I imagine this game was created. A bunch of guys got together and said:

'Let's make a game that's like the 'Aliens' movie!'
'Sure, but we'll have to change the details a bit and make it our own, you know, add new ideas into the mix.'
There's a few seconds of contemplation before someone says, 'Screw that - let's make a game like the Aliens movie!'

I had the original Alien Breed on my old Amiga way back in the very early 1990s - it was a top-down shooter, and what you had to do was walk around a spaceship, find keycards to get you through the many doors and blast aliens, that actually looked like Geiger's alien. It was fast, fun and sometimes frustrating.

 Team 17 took the Unreal Engine and made the game 3D, but still with that top-down feel to it (see video above for gameplay details). I played it on my two-year old PC with very few problems, although I did have disable the dynamic shadows and effects to improve the gameplay. There's five levels to the game, each asking you to put in about an hour for each level, so if you blast through the game you could have it done in about four and half hours. That's not bad, considering the low price of the game for you to download. Personally, I bought the physical disc with all three Alien Breed games on it - Impact, Assault and Descent - because I'm awkward that way. I've just completed Impact at the moment and I'm working my way through Assault. That's up to 15 hours of gameplay for all three games. I found the game much easier to play using the X-Box controller as I found the mouse/AWSD controls a little fiddly.

So, what's the game like? Well, there's no messing about, for a start. The game gets stuck in with a simple comic strip-style intro, gives the hero Conrad a very brief introduction, and then slams the spaceship he's on, the Leopold, into a huge ghost ship. Stuck together and overrun with alien creatures, Conrad has to fix systems, make his way through an annoyingly exploding starship, and blast aliens. The gameplay is a fast and fun arcade-style shoot-em-up. The action is cool and the aliens get blasted to smithereens in a very satisfying way with assault rifles, shotguns, flamethrowers, laser guns and ion blasters. There's a pistol in there too, but I never used that much - I just upgraded the damage of the assault rifle and made sure the ammo was topped up.

There are plenty of save points where you can buy and sell stuff and upgrade your equipment. The main idea of the game is to fix systems, find keycards (yay!) and use consoles to be able to progress. The maps are relatively large but the route is quite linear, with some backtracking and going over old ground, but it's all very well rendered and very atmospheric.

The systems you fix have animations showing the machines firing up (or exploding) and, even though some of the tasks can be a little monotonous and the animations feel like they're taking too much time, it's still a good game. It can get annoying when you're used to looking at the map at a certain angle (you can adjust the top-down view by circling the camera) and the animation of your efforts turns it all around, but you can get past that. I also think that the Leopold is probably the worst designed vessel in science fiction existence; the systems are all over the place, the corridors and rooms are placed in crazy places and activating one system seems to blow up another. This is a small gripe - the layout aids the gameplay and the odd 'I'm lost!' moment aside it's functional and very atmospheric.

All in all a great game, and for less than three British pounds as a download it's more than worth it. It only gets better in Alien Breed: Assault, but I'm still playing that so that's a review for another time. If you're looking for a deep, immersive story and detailed intricate gameplay then you're out of luck, but if you just want to run around blasting aliens for a couple of hours then it's more than worth it. The online co-op option only serves to increase the fun.

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