The name Team 17 means a lot when it comes to worms. Yeah we all know and love the quirky Worms series, but they do produce games outside of that franchise. One of those was last year’s top-down horror shooter Alien Breed. Now I will admit I was a fan of the original even with its glaring flaws. I have always been a sucker for the overhead shooters. With Alien Breed 2 the team has done a nice job of correcting most of what was wrong with the original while adding in some nice fluff to make the game feel more fleshed out. Unfortunately there are still some serious issues that will hinder your enjoyment from time to time.
If you didn’t play the first Alien Breed don’t feel bad. Most people didn’t even know there was a first Alien Breed, and as far as story goes you are in the clear. The sequel goes down that familiar path of space, broken ship and alien infestation; pretty much any excuse to have you mowing down hordes of xenomorphs as you solve puzzle A with item B. Yeah it is derivative, but it is only meant to give reason behind the actions you are performing. Don’t expect to be swept away in some thought-provoking narrative and you won’t be disappointed.
If you played the original game you know what to expect, but for those that didn’t this isn’t going to exactly win any awards for innovation. This is a straight isometric shooter. The view is top-down and you control your character with the analog stick while flipping the camera with the bumpers. The view can be disorienting at times, but you can usually remedy that by zooming in or out with the analog stick. There are occasions where the game forces a camera view on you, but it never really interferes with your perspective because the game is showing you what you need to see.
Outside of that this game is about as straight-forward as you can possibly get. You literally move from corridor to corridor shooting aliens and solving switch puzzles. Yeah this can be enjoyable in small doses or when enemy variety is spiced up, but this game follows the tedious path too closely at times, and quickly begins to wear on your patience. There are only five levels, but each one feels extremely long thanks to repetitive level design and the rudimentary puzzles that crop up just when the action gets interesting. There are some really cool boss battles that liven up the experience, but they are so far between tedium that it becomes hard to keep pressing on.
The save system was one of my biggest complaints about the first title. You would literally work for 30-45 minutes in between save areas, and if you died you had to start the entire thing over again. Alien Breed 2 remedies this with a decent checkpoint system that means long stretches of game time won’t be lost in frustration. The sequel also adds a co-op campaign and a brand new horde-style mode that help round out the package. I have to say wading through the game with a buddy helps kill some of the monotony, but you will still be slogging through the same stuff over and over and eventually it will stop being fun.
Visually the game looks great using the Unreal Engine 3. The textures are nice, the explosions rock the screen and effects are all over the place really giving off an eerie vibe that suits the space-horror theme perfectly. However, the boring level design wipes away a lot of the game’s beauty as you begin to see the same area over and over again. Frame rates hold steady and technically the game definitely looks good. The sound is a mish-mash of sorts. The voice acting is downright comical while the effects and music are good. The effects really immerse you into the world and the slightly muted soundtrack really helps draw you into the universe. Now if only the voice actors would go away.
Alien Breed 2: Assault is a decent game that suffers mostly from poor design. Levels feel much longer than they actually are, and repetition sets in far too soon. The addition of co-op and horde modes are definitely a nice touch, but as I said after a while they also start to feel tedious. I am an advocate of the series and thus far I have enjoyed both games even if they insist on implementing archaic mechanics and gameplay. This is one of those games you need to try the demo before purchasing. It may be your cup of tea if you don’t mind repetition.
Review copy provided by publisher.