Alien Breed: Impact First Look

Title   Alien Breed: Impact
Developer  Team17
Publisher  Team17
Platform  PC
Genre  Action
Release Date  June 3, 2010

I won’t lie – I wasn’t looking forward to playing Alien Breed: Impact because, as someone who fondly remembers the days when the ultimate gaming system was the Amiga 1200, the Alien Breed series gave me untold pleasure and was responsible for my first real foray into the world of the top-down shooter. The cover alone had excited shivers running up my spine and, when I first donned that Space Marine uniform for the first time, I was grabbed firmly by the dog tag and dragged into its bleak world with so much enthusiasm I can hardly describe it… but I do remember, vividly.

Imagine, then, how it feels when you discover that the game is not only being reimagined (there’s no such thing as “remade” anymore, it seems) but it’s also being given that now-familiar three dimensional environment with dynamic lighting, shadows and textures. The clunky and rigid Gauntletesque overhead views are thrown aside and replaced by a modern, sweeping, isometric vantage point while the dark and undersaturated environment becomes vibrant and flooded with visual impact thanks to the aforementioned lighting… but is it any good?

Actually… yes! It’s not exactly groundbreaking, and certainly doesn’t leave you gagging for more when you finally shut it down for the night but it does, believe it or not, pull you in enough that you want to keep playing it for as long as you can. I can testify to this because, as Steam absolutely HATES me, I had to reboot my powerhouse of a machine three times just to keep playing the game after Steam repeatedly threw its toys out of the pram for no apparent reason. I won’t turn this review into a rant about Steam but, from a personal point of view, I’d much rather be able to go out and buy Alien Breed: Impact as a standalone PC game than have to rely on Steam being able to power it. That, for me, is what lets the game down massively.

You know those times where you walk into a room and immediately think "This looks... odd... I should leave!"? This is one.

In terms of gameplay, however, Alien Breed: Impact has the welcome addition of an in-game vendor, in the shape of the Intex terminals, which means that you’re no longer stuck to whatever weapon you’ve picked up… you can upgrade and modify as long as you have enough credits to do so which, in turn, gives that added incentive to pay attention to lockers and dark corners for all-important credits. The terminals also act as save points, and are marked on your HUD whenever you’re in close proximity so you can scramble to save progress before being torn to shreds by the alien horde. The environment itself has an almost organic feel to it where you become almost convinced that the ship is either reaching out to you for help, or perhaps even trying to take you down, as any area that you happen to be walking through will invariably explode or burst into flames just as you reach that point. While it can be distracting, and also annoying at times when you suddenly have to deal with additional screen lag, it does add to the ambience and creates a sense of urgency to remind you that… well, you’re in the shit and you need to deal with it quickly!

My problem with the various level objectives is that they’re all too similar and have that repetitiveness you’d expect from a rather ropey RPG game… get to a particular door then discover that you have to go elsewhere to retrieve a key card to open said door then, when you inevitably traipse around to find the key card and open the door, you’re presented with yet another courier job. I’m playing the role of a space marine with enough of an arsenal to “blow the bloody doors off” and yet that option never presents itself and, instead, I manoeuvre my character all over the ship in a “join the dots” fashion like we have all the time in the world. Yes it’s a game, I understand that it’s not reality, but I’d at least have liked if I’d been afforded the option to blow SOME of the doors to hell. Even just one!

The aliens were... less than intimidating

The alien enemy was, for me, quite an odd spectacle. I’d half expected a more refined take on the Gigeresque alien that I remembered from the original Alien Breed games on the Amiga and yet, even though the smaller creatures were certainly more than reminiscent of Giger’s facehuggers than anything else, the aliens themselves looked more like giant fleas or those odd Shaak creatures that Anakin and Padme were riding in Attack Of The Clones. Regardless… they weren’t scary or intimidating in the slightest, and I pretty much expect that my enemy should at least be slightly intimidating rather than the subject of mirth.

This brings me to the overall feel of the game and, as much as it pains me to say it, those awesome guys over at Team 17 have actually disappointed me for the first time since Full Contact was released in 1991. The concept is great; the graphics are pristine; the controls are intuitive; the menu system really can’t be faulted… but the game loses so many cool points because it’s not as immersive as the original Alien Breed from nineteen years ago yet, with the 3D capabilities of today and the particle physics, it could have been an incredible experience. What it should have been, given the scope of the technology, is a reimagining of Alien Breed with the lighting used to great effect in order to create tension and urgency, with aliens appearing from nowhere as complacency sets in. Instead, the HUD gives more than enough warning when aliens are approaching and, lets be honest, they’re really not very intimidating anyway and I never died once during my sessions.

  • Very vivid, with beautiful lighting and sharp graphics
  • The Intex terminals with the weapon and item upgrades are a fantastic addition
  • The ship itself appears to have an awareness, thanks to sudden explosions as you walk around
  • Controls handled well
  • It's Team17 dammit!
  • The aliens themselves really weren't intimidating at all
  • Felt a bit like a motorcycle courier with a lot of back and forth repetition
  • The HUD showing where the aliens were pretty much killed the tension
  • Two words: Steam Powered

Despite its flaws, I still really enjoyed playing the game. It's important to remember that games aren't just about edge of your seat excitement, zombies bursting out from every available Gyproc wall, or tearing down a busy street in a Jaguar trying to overtake your mate. There are also those games which, despite their flaws, are still good enough to rope you in for yet another session even if it means relaxing a little and not paying a great deal of attention to what's actually going on, because there's not that much to think about. When you think of games such as Sonic, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Wolf of the Battlefield and Peggle you think of games that, while they are certainly not taxing in any way, hold your attention while you're playing them and still pull you back for more. To me, Alien Breed: Impact is another one of those games, although I'd have dearly loved for Team 17 to pull me in head first and bathe me in dramatic tension like they did nineteen years ago. We can but dream.

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  1. Samuel The Preacher says:

    I think you pretty much hit this one on the head… I played the first episode of the XBLA version (which may be a good thing to look into despite being episodic, purely considering your abiding hatred of Steam), and it’s not revolutionary, and it’s not what I expected a remake of Alien Breed to be; namely creepy, atmospheric, and tense. And hard. I remember the original being bastard hard, but I too didn’t die even once in this version… maybe I’ve gotten better at games? Maybe, but it’s definitely still easier. But it is quite a good way to kill an hour or two. Mindless fun, like Team 17′s Worms games.

    So it is a little bit of a disappointment, but not exactly devastating and soul crushing like the new Rocket Knight… average. Very average. It should have been much more, but it could have been much worse.

  2. Lorna Lorna says:

    Top review which pretty much sums up my feelings on the remake/reimagining. Though I played the XBLA version, I suspect it is much the same. Alien Breed and Alien Breed 2 were two of the games I adored for the Amiga, so for me, this remake was a massive let down….I just didn’t enjoy it.

    The endless fetch quest nature of the gameplay, coupled with the fact that the dynamic lighting meant that at times I couldn’t really see things attacking me just irritated me. I agree completely that the enemies were a massive let down…flea like creatures? Where are the glistening Xenomorphs? No, we have weird ticks, getting up in your grill, giving you Lyme Disease.

    While pretty, and a thorougly modern remake, I was left yearning for the rigid top down C-shaped chappie and his boomerang weapon, triple laser, and flamethrower…for the sexy voice of the woman on the computer terminals, the bright green cash pickups, and scuttling enemies of the original games.

    At least it’s over and I won’t have to listen to your rants now when Steam inevitably crashes ;)

  3. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Actually, the lighting on the PC version was kick ass! I’m not sure if I saw you playing it on the XBox but certainly the PC version was a joy to behold. You know me, total graphics whore, and this really was beautiful in terms of lighting and textures… but it’s not all about how it looks really, and that’s the problem.

    Truth be told, had it not been for the aliens and the courier-me-this approach to gameplay, I’d have absolutely loved this game. That’s where the real shame is. The potential was there, and they didn’t embrace it. Had it been another developer I’d have understood but it was their own IP to begin with… then again… look at what Lucas did with Star Wars. He pissed all over my childhood with those abhorrent follow up movies AND the CGI remakes of the originals.

  4. Samuel The Preacher says:

    I suppose the biggest problem with it was that it was their IP, but they were blatantly ripping off someone else’s IP (namely, the Alien films) in the original. You could get away with that when the graphics were basic and therefore somewhat ambiguous, but a fully realised 3D model of a chitinous Gigeresque xenomorph would probably have had the movie execs knocking at the door, issuing summons.

  5. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Ah yeah but… it needn’t necessarily have been Gigeresque to get me more interested, just that they weren’t intimidating at all. I knew when they were coming and, because the screen covered so much of the gameplay area, I could see them ages before they came near me. Had they been legitimately evil looking things (Chryssalids from UFO: EU looked nasty and they weren’t Gigeresque) that suddenly appeared out of nowhere then I’d have got that rush of excitement. It goes back to Nosferatu… the implication of evil as terror was more effective than if they’d shown actual gore.

  6. Rook says:

    I played the demo on XBLA and I wasn’t impressed. My mate had bought it and I saw him playing a few levels and it did look better. Maybe I just didn’t give it the time it deserved. Or it could be that it was another game too dark too play on a standard def TV. I had only dabbled with the original on Amiga, maybe they should have remade that game and jsut updated the grapihics, keepin the same top down view.

  7. Adam Adam says:

    It’s a shame that despite the prestiege of the studio (<3 Worms), the great looking engine, solid design and good control system that its missed out on the magic ingredient, the Team 17 cool factor.

    I havent had a blast on the origional nor this latest installment and whilst the overall impression isn't "BUY BUY BUY", It still sounds like this is something to keep in mind during Steams Mega Sales. It's nice to have games to play that aren't taxing, that you're not expecting a lot of, not demanding much from and the game is happy to supply that. Surprises are nice, tedium is…well its tedium but when you just need to kick back and shoot aliens, sounds like a hoot.

    Thanks Markuz

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