The first Alien Breed game came out way back in 1991. It was made by Team 17, of the Worms franchise fame. Last year they breathed new life into the series with Alien Breed Evolution, which we liked. A sequel quickly came out last September, titled Alien Breed 2: Assault, which we didn't like as much. Less than three months have gone by, and Alien Breed 3: Descent has released for Xbox LIVE Arcade and Steam.
When Alien Breed Evolution came out, it was announced that the title would be released episodically. So it would be fair to call these latest games 'installments', rather than 'sequels'. Unfortunately, this means that there has been zero innovation or gameplay changes. It's a top-down shooter with questionable camera controls with a high difficulty level. So if you absolutely loved Alien Breed Evolution or Alien Breed 2: Assault, you are going to love Alien Breed 3: Descent. On the flip side, if you didn't like those, you aren't going to like this.
Alien Breed 3: Descent finds ship engineer Conrad-- oh who cares? Dude One must make his way through same-y looking corridors while blasting aliens X, Y, and Z. They burst from holes in the ground and walls, spring from eggs, and generally try to ruin Dude One's day. These all look like your garden variety face-hugger, soldier and queen-type aliens from that one movie, you know the one? The one with aliens? I can't remember the title at the moment.
Your ship was hit by a bigger ship, which happened to be infested with aliens. At this stage in the game you are either in your own ship or the on the Hulk ship. I honestly forget. You are preparing for impact with the nearby planet. None of the story will be necessary though, because if you are playing this game on anything other than 'Rookie' difficulty, you are already out of ammo, or dead, or both. There is a pistol with infinite ammo, but like the knife in a Resident Evil game, or that girl who works at Game Stop, it's just there to mock you.
A space walk offers a change in perspective, if nothing else.
The game opens with an overly-long, comic-book-style cut scene that will be meaningless to you if you have not played the previous two games. But all you need to remember is 'right trigger shoots', because that's all you're going to have time to think about when the aliens come swarming at you. Switching between weapons and items is an absolute chore. The D-pad is used to switch weapon type, grenades, and health items. Up and down scrolls though small or large health kits and stun or frag grenades. Last I checked, health kits are not chocolate and grenades are not peanut butter; like Aliens and Predators, they just don't mix. Left and right scroll through weapon types. Add all this to the Xbox 360 D-pad and you have yourself a nice recipe for a stress-induced seizure.
When not shooting at aliens you will be tasked with "go here, push this button" objectives. These in and of themselves can be quite frustrating, as you have to hold down a button on the controller to fill an on-screen meter to complete a task. Holding down 'A' for a few seconds to search a corpse while aliens are trying to hug your face is an unpleasant experience. And you better search every corpse, because, as stated before, ammo is scarce.
In each level you march Dude One toward endlessly shifting waypoints. Be prepared to be confronted by a plethora of locked doors, each one's passage linked to a button nowhere near where you are. There is backtracking a-plenty in Alien Breed 3: Descent. Exploration is hampered by a camera that relies on the player to postilion it with the left and right shoulder bumpers. There is a map screen available, but for some reason it's red in color and features a stylized, static distortion. It's as if the map and inventory screens were designed to fuel rage.
Don't get me wrong, if you liked the first two, you will enjoy this. Picture the first two games as levels one through ten, and this is simply eleven through fifteen. There are upgradeable weapons, and the game looks and sounds great. It uses the Unreal Engine, so models and textures are nice, if not original. If you have been following the story, you sir, are a saint, and there's more story here for you. On the 'Rookie' setting the game is more forgiving, and feels less like a punishment. It's a shame you can't change difficulties in co-op play.
"We are going to die."
That's right. You can't change difficulties in co-op play, and the default difficulty seems to be "More Aliens Than Bullets". If Dude One dies, then Dude Two has to hold out for a brief time period until the fallen player re-spawns. Unfortunately, if one of you goes down the other will soon follow. After you're out of ammo you're left with little more than harsh language. The three co-op levels are separate from the single player campaign, as well as three different Survivor mode levels, but it all looks the same 'greyn' color. (Thanks, Sam.)
Another infuriating aspect of the co-op is the fact that you're both solid-body models. You can't move through each other, which gives bottle-neck a whole new meaning when two players jam up a hallway. It's just two sweaty dudes, cursing and pushing against each other in vane, hoping for something to happen.
Alien Breed 3: Descent is available now for the XBLA for 800 MSP and on Steam for the PC for $9.99. A PlayStation Network version should be available soon. Not for the causal gamer, but hardcore top-down shooter fans will find things to enjoy.