Alien Breed 3: Descent Xbox 360, PS3, PC
For those unfamiliar with it, Alien Breed is a series of games that starting in the early ’90s. They are based loosely, and completely unofficially, on the Alien films. Recently the series has has a revival as downloadable content for the Xbox 360 as a trilogy of shooters with a staggered overhead view. Descent is the final part of the trilogy, ending the series – for the time being at least – with a climax to the story.
The story is pretty unimportant to be honest though, and despite a recap through comic book style artwork, I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on as I’m coming in at the end of the series. You play the part of Conrad, a lone soldier out to destroy all the aliens on a derelict spaceship that is on a collision course for a planet. But it’s not all mindless bugs, there is a greater power at work, some sort of artificial intelligence that is experimenting with the aliens, combing them with robots or something judging by some of the bosses I encountered. Like I said though, the story just isn’t important, it’s all about shooting stuff and collecting weapons, ammo, money and other items, and working your way through the ship, solving basic puzzles, until you’ve killed everything and saved the day.
Gameplay wise not a lot has changed since the original game nearly twenty years ago, which in turn was highly reminiscent of the even older arcade classic Gauntlet. It’s a staggered top down view of one deck of a spaceship at a time that working your way down, with a shedload of aliens to contend with, as well as the odd boss battle with the hostile AI. Thankfully though the controls are a lot better than what we had to work with in yesteryear, with dual analogue sticks comes the ability to fire independent of movement, which I would have killed for in my youth. Your arsenal is also expanded on, with several different guns at your disposal, and more to be found throughout the ship, grenades also come in different types, and there are other gadgets to help you.
The best of these is the sentry gun, which allows you to set up a gun turret, an absolute necessity on occasion, sadly these occasions are completely scripted. You can’t just stick a gun turret down wherever you like, you are reliant on a power outlet in order to set it down on, and these are as few and far between as the sentry guns themselves. So, if you see one before the other you know you’re in trouble, and if its the power point before the gun turret you’re in it deep. This is a bit annoying as it would have been good if they’d made these a bit more frequent in the gameplay, and completely optional.
Camera control has long been a problem for some games, but in this case it’s that it is even an option in this game. The game has practically a top down view, there shouldn’t be any real need to move the camera, and you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but the game has other ideas sometimes. Sometimes the game will take over when you come to a story point, and will give you a close up view of your character and the environment, which is all well and good, but it would be nice if it put things back the way it found them when it was finished.. It is quite frankly a pain in the arse to have to set things as they were every time, and it wouldn’t be so bad if the game didn’t insist on using a 45 degree angle so often. It’s almost as if they’ve included a camera control just for you to right the angle yourself because they were too lazy to do it themselves.
Despite the quibbles it’s a reasonably competent shooter, just not fantastic by any means, but enjoyable enough in short bursts. The save points are spaced just about the right distance apart so it’s well designed in that respect. Extended plays work better if you can rope in a friend to play with you, as it features a co-op mode, and this kind of game definitely works better with more players. It’s a shame they limited it to two player really, because despite the change in scenarios it would have worked as well as its forefather Gauntlet with four players. It doesn’t look half bad either, you’re able to appreciate it more when the camera does zoom in for its little cut scenes, but even without the added detail you get then the lighting and particle effects aren’t bad at all.
I’m assuming the previous two games in this trilogy are of similar quality and structure though, so if you enjoyed the previous two then you may as well get this one too. But it forking out for DLC is something of a luxury for you, and you only want the best of the best then there’s better options out there, especially with the recent releases of Space Invaders Infinity Gene and Pac-Man Championship Edition DX giving arcade classics a reworking to the max.