Developer: Dragon Divide
Genre: Action & Adventure
Available On: XBLIG
Co-Op Mode: Online & Local (up to 4 players; local/online can be mixed)
Price: 240 MS Points ($3)
Demo w/ Co-Op Available: Yes
Alpha Squad is best summed up by a line that, coincidently, also summarizes the wonderful (or horrendous, depending on whom you ask) action movie “Shoot ‘Em Up:” guns, bloody mayhem, and breasts. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, but I feel it’s only fair to provide a kind of warning for what you’ll be getting into with this game.
Alpha Squad’s story is just enough to establish that there is a squad of highly trained soldiers, ranging from a katana-wielding Asian to a muscle-bound gun-loving fighter complete with their own “bursting out of her top” secretary, that accept various missions across a post-apocalyptic world for the greater good (… the greater good…). During each stage, enemies come charging, or guns a blazing, at this super squad and so they do what anyone would do in that kind of situation: completely wipe out every last one; which basically sums up the gameplay. Enter a screen, kill all the enemies, rinse, and repeat.
There are a couple of features to help break up this cycle, such as being able to enter buildings where there are items/easter eggs to be found and being able to choose from which side of the screen, similar to the original Legend of Zelda, to exit. Depending on which series of paths you take in a level, you could end up fighting a boss, or simply just face a particularly large number of enemies, so there is some definite replay value here. You also may end up rescuing one of the fair maidens that are scattered throughout the game who, upon rescue, scamper off to your “Sanctuary” where they shall frolic about scantily (you were given fair warning).
The HUD that displays players' health, inventory, and score is faded into the background so it doesn't get in the way. Pretty smart
As far as the co-op gameplay is concerned, Alpha Squad makes some pretty far-reaching strides for an XBLIG title. Local co-op, online co-op, or a mix of the two is fully supported. There are major “AAA” releases that don’t even manage that one so it was a bit of a shock when I saw that feature listed for the game. That bit alone almost makes Alpha Squad worth picking up. Having a couple of buddies along for the ride certainly lessens the eventual tedium of slaughtering wave after (seemingly) endless wave of enemies. Should one of your friends fall in combat, it’s easy enough to purchase a revival pack from the armory (accessed from the pause screen) using the plentiful amounts of money left behind by all those enemies. Limited-use weapons can also be purchased from the armory to help out in any tight spots in which you may find yourself.
All-in-all, while Alpha Squad may not quite raise the bar for the top-down shooter genre, it does a very good job of living up to the standards set by many of the entries that came before, and even manages to pull off a couple of features that those entries haven’t.
Alpha Squad is Geared Towards: Fans of action movie/anime stereotypes, but in a semi-fun way
The Co-Op Experience: Each player controls one of four members of Alpha Squad and sets out with an infinite supply of bullets to wipe out anything that moves; play with up to three friends online, locally, or a mix of the two