Alien Breed Evolution: Episode 1 Results

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Alien Breed Evolution: Episode 1
  • Relieve tension on hordes of irritating aliens
  • Brings back memories of old arcade games
  • It's not too long
  • Extremely repetitive and unoriginal gameplay
  • Frustrating controls
  • Be ready to squint a lot to see things

Alien Breed Evolution: Episode 1

January 15, 2010 by Thomas Mulrooney  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox, Xbox Live Arcade

Overview

Title: Alien Breed Evolution: Episode 1

Release date: 16 December 2009

Developer/Publisher: Team 17

Genre: Isometric shooter

Platform[s]: Xbox Live Arcade, PSN (2010), PC (2010)

Storyline

Alien Breed Evolution’s storyline isn’t going to win any awards, as it’s little more than a justification for what you’ll be doing in the game. The basic gist (which, erm, is pretty much it) is that your ship, the Leopold, crashes into a mysterious gigantic spaceship whilst returning from a diplomatic mission. Of course, this isn’t just any old ship and soon enough the Leopold, and the protagonist Conrad, is under attack by aliens. They swiftly go about killing 99% of the crew, leaving Conrad pretty much alone apart from his ‘lover’ (I think so anyway, see how ‘great’ this story is about explaining things?) Mia, who regularly contacts him.

The story is expanded upon between the five levels, using narrated comic-book-style cutscenes, but it’s very basic at best and you won’t really pay much interest to it. When I did take an interest I found that the story didn’t even try to explain what’s going on, but I suppose this is episode one. Although, if you didn’t really care enough about the story in the first place then would you really be interested in what’s going to happen in episode two? I’ll let you answer that one.

Gameplay

The first level tries, and largely fails, to build up suspense by not having you meet one of the aliens for a short while and, instead, teaching you the controls. Speaking of the controls I found them to be quite fiddly. You use both dual-sticks to move and aim your weapon, making it actually pretty easy to sweep your aim around quickly whilst also moving to avoid being eaten. So what’s fiddly about them? Well, you use the d-pad to select weapons and items. The problem is that the ‘up’ and ‘down’ selects weapons, while ‘left’ and ‘right’ select the items. Simple enough, but it’s too easy to hit ‘right’ instead of ‘up’ in the middle of a battle, meaning that you’ll end up losing half your health while you desperately try to select a new weapon. Due to this it’s inadvisable to try to change items or weapons during battle, but you often have to because running away isn’t really an option. Each alien dies easier with different weapons, such as the small ‘facehugger’ creatures that are easily dispatched with your unlimited pistol, but you quickly learn that you’ll die if you change your weapon for every single creature type in a horde.

The aliens seem a mixture of creatures from Alien and the arachnids from Starship Troopers (which some of them are actually called). There are various types; ranging from the previously mentioned ‘facehugger’ rip-offs that are easy to kill but usually come in swarms, to your normal tanks and the long range spitting beasts. There is only one main boss, unless you count a chase scene which is one of the only one-off occurrences. Yes, that means that the entire game is the same thing over and over again.

Not only are you blasting through constant hordes of aliens, which I suppose is fun for a short while, but the end level destination (an elevator) is always blocked by a series of dull objectives. For example, you have to go through a room but find it’s on fire. Cue you going around half the level to press a button that gets rid of the fire, all whilst being attacked every ten seconds. When you finally get through the door another door blocks you away, and now you need to trek down another five hundred corridors to find the keycard. The names and destinations may change, but the actual objective is little more than pressing a button that just so happens to be still working whilst the entire ship falls apart. You can also top all this off by having to search lockers and bodies in every room, or else you’ll quickly run out of ammo and health kits. It’s not that easy though, as – surprisingly enough – you are usually attacked just as you start your search. The same thing goes when you press a button, and after the third time you just expect it to happen.

The weapons range from a simple machine gun and shotgun, to a flame-thrower and laser gun. I found the laser gun largely useless, since the shots bounce off the walls around you (and these corridors are thin) and end up hitting you half of the time. I had to use it when desperate though, and the same goes for the pistol, because I always seemed to run out of ammo. You honestly don’t need anything other than the machine gun, but it eats up ammo pretty quickly and it can be hard to find. Even when searching bodies and lockers you usually seem to get the message that ‘there is nothing of interest here’. I now feel like I’m playing an RPG!

As for difficulty I played the game through on ‘veteran’ (the game’s medium difficulty level) and I died less than ten times. It’s not a hard game if you have enough ammo to fight off the hordes, and even then you have your unlimited pistol as a last resort. You are also told where to go, so the most you have to do is destroy a barrel blocking your way or find a window to smash through. I didn’t try the game on the hardest difficulty, but obviously I assume it’s going to be harder – not that it really takes much.

Graphics

The graphics are decent enough, but a game like this was never going to be about spectacular graphics. The problem is that it’s often too dark to make anything out, even when you’re shining your puny torch light on them. This is playing on full 1080p resolution, so I dread to think how people forced to play on standard definition TV’s will find it. Instead you’ll largely grow accustomed to using the Alien style radar in the top right hand corner. Enemies and objectives show up as blips; red and blue respectively. You can see what direction an enemy is approaching you (and that’s mostly from all sides), so I just tended to point my gun (you can also rotate the camera by one angle each time you tap the ‘LB’ or ‘RB’ buttons, but I didn’t use this too much because I prefer a smooth rotate rather than a snap rotate) in that direction and pump bullets into the darkness (which, on reflection, is probably why I ran out of ammo all the time). This also means that you can’t really tell which type of alien you’re facing, so all tactics go straight out of the window. Pure button mashing at its ‘best’!

When you can see what’s around you 80% of rooms and corridors are largely the same. They could use the excuse that Xbox Live Arcade games usually have smaller file sizes, but that excuse doesn’t really roll anymore. Textures and objects are reused time and time again, and there are only a handful of destinations that at least try to stand out (such as the Hydroponics lab, although it doesn’t seem to have that many plants). Apparently space is very bland.

Thirdly, I know this ship has crashed but there seems to be a random explosion every five seconds. I’m not sure if these are supposed to scare you or not, but they quickly become annoying and most of them don’t actually do anything. It’s also worth noting that they look pretty crap.

Audio

Firstly the voice acting is awful. It sounds like some guy has recorded it in his bedroom and has tried to sound like Solid Snake. The woman is marginally better, but she’s not about to win an Oscar. All other speech is done through text, which you’ll often miss popping up at the bottom of the screen while you concentrate on shooting aliens. Not that you’re missing much anyway.

The aliens make, erm, alien sounds? It’s all screeching and roaring, but what else do you expect? You’ll also often hear screams in the distance which, again, fail to bring any sort of atmosphere to the game. Sometimes you’ll see a person getting killed, but you can’t save them and you’ll learn not to care (and you’ll probably miss it too, since it’s so damn dark).

As for the music, it loops. You will get rising tempos and crescendos when under attack, which I guess adds to the tension, but it’s the same damn thing every time and it quickly got boring – plus they even had the cheek to play it again during the ending!

Overall Score & Replayability

If you’ve read this review then I think you’ll be clear of my position on this game, but let’s sum it up anyway.

Replayability wise there’s a co-operative mode that adds a second player (duh!), but this only means four of the same levels with more enemies and more ammo. There’s also a free play mode that allows you to play through the levels you’ve already completed, but unless you’re going for the achievements I don’t really see why you would bother. That’s it though, and if you do buy this (don’t!) I recommend you get the achievements and delete the game.

Alien Breed Evolution may try to be the ‘evolution’ of a classic game, but it even fails at that. The game is firmly rooted in the past, and what was once the cutting edge of games is now dull and unoriginal to a crowd used to blockbluster shooters (which, ok, may not be entirely original either) and even Xbox Live Arcade games that dare to try something new. You will get a retro feel for the game at first, especially if you grew up on such shooters, but this will last about as long as a chocolate button in your mouth (and I hesitate to compare the two, because one gives you pleasure while the other one certainly doesn’t). I was ultimately relieved when the game ended, since I was bored to tears by doing the same thing over and over again.

Crap is still crap, whether it has a lick of paint on it or not.

Comments

4 Comments on "Alien Breed Evolution: Episode 1"

  1. Jeff Barker on Fri, 15th Jan 2010 7:56 pm 

    I loved the original and have the trial game of this new version on my HDD – however, I cannot bring myself to play it for fear of crushing fond memories. Your review has spurned me on to free up the extra space on my HDD. :)

  2. doomey on Tue, 19th Jan 2010 5:12 pm 

    Instead of making ABE, they should have bought back the “other” Abe ;)

  3. Thomas Mulrooney on Wed, 20th Jan 2010 12:36 am 

    Cheers guys! It’s good to know that some people appreciate good advice ;-)

    Doomey, a new Oddworld game would be amazing. They’d have to bring back Abe though :D

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