This new episodic Alien Breed series has been interesting. It may not be as exciting as the series was back in the old days, but the third-person semi top-down shooter does have its moments. Whilst we mainly found the past two prequels to be a hit and miss, we believed that the games gradually got better until their final crescendo. That observation proves to be the reverse of Alien Breed 3.
It’s a game that starts off well, with lots of lovely explosion effects littering the ship as you plod about it. Enemies fly in from every direction and things get pretty tasty. However, as you progress you realise you are doing the same thing over and over again. We know that basically sums up most of the games ever made, but here it really is exactly the same thing repeated ad-nauseam. There is no variation or play on the traditional game mechanics. There is no hook to make you keep playing.
Despite the usual comic-book style cutscenes driving the supposed narrative, there is nothing to really play for. Your character doesn’t progress in any way or learn from his actions. He is essentially a faceless puppet performing mundane tasks for no apparent goal. If his life story was a film, it would be one of those weird art house projects with no sound and no actual picture: just 1 hour and 45 minutes of a blank screen.
This is not helped with his in-game dialogue consisting of simple text, which is a little hard to read when you have millions of aliens trying to pull you in to a perverted orgy of genetically altered weird spider-things. The enemy design still hasn’t changed from the past two episodes of Alien Breed and whilst you could say Team17 wanted to preserve continuity, they have had every chance to introduce something different.
For example, there are a few segments where the area you’re in is flooded. This could’ve been a prime moment to introduce some crazy fish/shark based creatures to terrify you, yet the same weird spider mutant thingies return in abundance. They even somehow manage to terrorise you when you’re plodding around space trying to traverse the hull. Quite how they manage this impossible feat is beyond our mere mortal comprehension, but the same problem is there again.
Team17 have once demonstrated their laziness by not developing the player experience. One finds it hard to believe this is the same development outfit that managed to bring Worms to the public sphere when the enemies here are devoid of all life and actual design.
It’s a shame really, as the ship design has definitely improved. In the earlier levels you will really enjoy running about and blowing stuff up because it not only looks cool: it feels cool. There are lots of weird computers and switches to play about with that change the environment as always too. It’s a gamer’s guilty pleasure. We know what we’re doing is repetitive, but we love to play around with switches and computers in-game to make things happen in a persistent world. However, that guilt does catch up with you in the later levels when you have to repel enemies for two minutes at a time while you wait for a stupid door to open.
The problem with all this is that there’s no continuity, which is a symptom of the general lack of inventiveness. For one door, a set of explosives might be enough to open it. Another might need a keycard and another might involve a weird unlocking procedure. The point is that all this is rigid. There’s a reason why other games are fun than this, and that’s because they don’t worry about all this rubbish. Can you imagine if you had to change your direction in Dead Space (a very similar game to this actually – in terms of premise) because the objective you’ve just travelled to needs something else in order to work? It’s recycled garbage that doesn’t belong in this generation of gaming.
I’m not saying make the game a linear experience. By all means, the chance to explore the ship can prove interesting (even if it ruins the illusion of the massive ship size from the original Alien Breed) at times but it’s just not rewarding. Couple these annoyances up with the general Alien Breed rubbish (loads of enemies rushing you when you’re just about to finish doing something, the weird loading bars for interacting with stuff and other oddities) and you’re left with a jarring experience.
Verdict: Alien Breed 3: Descent starts out great, but soon manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Just when you think Team17 has managed to learn from their mistakes, they manage to screw up again. We have to face the fact that this once proud British developer has hit a creative lull and are content to make money from below par products. The silly boss battles, the odd camera and the constant enemy spamming make this a bland and annoying experience. No deal.