Team 17 has taken the time away from their beloved Worms franchise and made a sequel to their original XBLA sleeper hit, Alien Breed. But should you spend your time hunting aliens or blowing up earthworms?
If there is one type of game that the XBLA lacks, it is RPGs. Unlike a traditional menu driven RPG, both Alien Breed 1 and 2 are action RPGs similar to games like Diablo or Baldur’s Gate. At the very least, this series deserves some respect and recognition for being a more unique game on the ever expanding XBLA marketplace.
From an overhead perspective, the player controls the returning protagonist on his quest to free himself from an alien infested space station. Using a dual analog stick control scheme, movement and shooting is similar to Geometry Wars or the recently released Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. The deeper the player ventures into the journey, the more credits will be collected and credits are used as currency to power up your weaponry.
The game’s biggest flaw is the camera system. Using the right and left bumpers, the player has the ability to rotate the camera at will. Sure, having the freedom to move the camera when you want might seem like a user friendly feature, but it becomes a tiresome but necessary chore. If you do not constantly keep your finger on a bumper, plan on getting eaten alive by off screen aliens and walking into walls and traps. Further, the player can essentially move the camera into one of eight different positions – it is not free rotating. Although the player can rotate the camera at will, there is no option to adjust the zoom. If a wider, more pulled out view was available, then perhaps some of the game’s camera issues could have been alleviated. But another reason the camera suffers is from the way each stage is designed; the narrow but tall hallways help create tension but make camera control and a comfortable view point more difficult.
Besides the high maintenance camera, the other nuisance is the repetitive environment. The player can expect to navigate through the same dimly light, rusty, haunted space station throughout the entire game. Having any change in scenery would have been welcomed. Even a game like Metroid Fusion, which also took place solely on a space station, managed to have many different types of environments (ice, heat, etc).
The entire campaign can be played solo or with an online friend for a decent co-op experience. Playing with a friend is not only is more enjoyable, it makes the game easier especially on the highest difficulty. When playing solo, you need to have some type of special weapon, like the assault rifle or shotgun, equipped at all times if you expect to make it to the next checkpoint. Once you run out of this precious and very limited ammo, the player is forced to use a basic pistol that never shoots fast enough, guaranteeing damage from each alien beast you encounter. It is understood that having scenarios like this increases the game’s difficulty factor but makes the balance slightly unfair. A melee attack is available but doesn’t necessarily work as an attack rather than just a way to knock an opponent backward. This higher difficulty balancing issue is only more apparent when used in the conjunction with the tedious camera system.
Once the campaign has been completed, the game also offers a “survival” mode where the player is thrown into an arena where never ending waves of enemies will continue to attack until you are dead. This mode is definitely challenging, and rewards the best players with an Achievement, but probably won’t be played more than a handful of times even through there is an online leaderboard system.
Alien Breed 2 might have its flaws but there are some things that it does very well; making solid use of the Unreal Engine is one of them. Like Shadow Complex, the game takes a realistic approach to the visual style. Using the flashlight on the edge of your gun certainly looks cool and creates that sense of lonesome dread, and objects move and react in realistic ways, it is just a shame that different environments were not utilized to take this game to a higher level. The game also gives the player one simple objective at a time. Since you are trying to power up the desolate space station, objectives are usually fetch questions like “find and turn on this power supply,” or “drain the water to make a new path.” The mini map and waypoint marker is a handy feature that always tells the player where they should be going. Sound effects also standout and sound realistic, again, thanks in part of the solid Unreal Engine use.
Unlike other action RPGs, Alien Breed 2 is pretty limited in terms of weaponry and loot drops. Each of the game’s half dozen weapons can basically be powered up once from a few different categories. This keeps things simple but also somewhat limits the variety and strategy. Item use is also handled in a unique way; the player selects an item, like a health kit or bomb, with the d-pad then uses it with the left trigger. Using items and most other actions involve the wait time of a progress bar. There is nothing wrong with this system but helps further generate that RPG aesthetic.
Alien Breed 2: Assault is a decent game and a fun co-op experience but there are some flaws. But if you don’t mind constantly managing the camera and playing through the repetitive environments, this sequel provides an entertaining bang for your 800 MS Points and helps fill the large action RPG gap that is in the XBLA.
Not As Good As: Secret of Mana
Also Try: Dungeon and Dragons: Heroes
Wait For It: Diablo III
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