Author: Lydia Sung
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/ab_impact/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Who out there remembers Alien Breed? And no, seeing a banner for it via Xbox LIVE doesn’t count. I’m talking about the good ol’ 1990s, when middle schoolers were discovering the joys of AOL and the PlayStation One was kicking Nintendo’s arse.
Team17 launched the first Alien Breed back when I was figuring out jungle gyms, making enough of an impact to warrant a remake on Xbox LIVE in 2009, called Alien Breed Evolution (Episode 1). Screenshot comparisons between the two different versions served as a reminder of how far the industry has come, from 8-bit to the Unreal Engine 3. The visual changes are indescribably drastic, but at its core, Evolution is the game we remember, including the top-down perspective and those damn elevators.
The XBLA incarnation left mostly positive impressions and ended on a cliffhanger, leaving an opening for the already-confirmed second and third episodes. Rather than churning out Episode 2 right away, Team17 followed up with an Episode 1 remake, released to PC and PlayStation 3 – much to the chagrin of a replenished fan base still awaiting the next installment.
Renamed Alien Breed: Impact, this updated version boasts several improvements over Evolution, which explains the $4.99 difference between them. What “improvements” are we talking about? In a nutshell, new features include a playable Prologue, an upgrades shop, and alien makeovers.
You play as Conrad, the manliest and most badass engineer ever, running around a sinking spaceship called the Leopold. To simplify, Conrad needs to free the ship from another ship and ultimately save the day. Unfortunately, swarms of face-humping, acid-spitting aliens have boarded the Leopold with the sole purpose of annoying you to death.
A mouse and keyboard are best for aiming at hostiles, but movement remains most suited for a controller. Luckily, the PC version offers controller support, and you won’t be sacrificing much. All keyboard functions transitioned comfortably to the 360 controller I was using, and I found the analog sticks no less accurate than a mouse.
Impact keeps the original five stages, plus a brief Prologue preceding them. Despite the name, it isn’t much of an intro, just shows how Conrad fought his way from one corner of the ship to some random hallway. He starts in said hallway when you begin the Story Mode, and the connections end there. A recurring enemy does show up for a spell, but you don’t actually fight it. Really, the Prologue is fun for the few minutes it lasted, but it doesn’t actually explain anything and even comes off a tad random. I actually missed the Prologue when starting Story Mode, not realizing that the campaign automatically skips over the extra stage. Turns out, you have to look under “Free Play” to access it.
The new weapon and item upgrade shop is definitely my favorite. While Evolution did offer a wide variety of deadly weapons, they couldn’t be modified in any way. In Impact, nearly everything in Conrad’s inventory can be improved, be it flamethrower or health pack. Even the effectiveness of his melee attack is upgradable! Although credits seem plentiful at times, each upgrade goes for several thousand creds, and steep prices can quickly demolish your funds.
As for the aliens, their makeovers are obviously subtle. Admittedly, I didn’t spend much time admiring the disgusting bastards, what with every alien being kill-on-sight. On the bright side, the rest of the game is very shiny, and its robust visuals are constantly being shown off through raging infernos, chain explosions, and flying sparks.
Alien Breed: Impact is undeniably entertaining, but the overall design is far from perfect. You spend half the game backtracking across each stage, performing all sorts of menial tasks. When you find a door, more often than not it requires a keycard located as far away from said-door as possible. Need to reach a particular generator? Chances are, it’s surrounded by fire, and you’ve got to find a control console to safely put out the flames; the console is likely broken upon discovery, so you’ll need to find an alternative, then quite possibly and alternative for the alternative. Bottom line is, getting from point A to point B involves lotsa detouring and misplaced keycards.
The entire package is pretty enticing, complete with 2-player co-op and an online leaderboard. Polished visuals and cutscenes presented in comic book panels are incredibly stylish. A relatively lenient learning curve also ensures accessibility, making Impact the perfect ambassador for Team17's ongoing Alien Breed revival.
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