Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, November 25th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/s/alien_breed_3/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Team17 relaunched the Alien Breed franchise recently with Impact and its console counterpart Evolution. Impact has served essentially as the first episode of a new, whole game, Assault being the second. Two different writers here delivered their takes on the games -- the first fared well, the second not so much. Unfortunately, the latest and final title in the series, Descent, falls into the latter camp for me, offering up more of the same with some added weapons, aliens, and so on.
As with Impact, I really wanted to like this game, but based on that title's demo and what time I've had with Descent, they just scream generic and boring. What we have is a third person isometric shooter with terrible controls, a poor UI, uninteresting gameplay, and acceptable but ultimately underwhelming graphics (granted, some of the visual effects are respectable). I could end the review here and have said all that really needs to be said about Descent, but let us explore the details.
Firstly, the console version is clearly prioritized here. The UI is big and inefficient on PC, reminiscent of the default New Vegas UI. Then there's a complete absence of hotkeys, no quick saving or loading, a shoddy camera that only rotates in fixed positions (it's not a 'swing' camera, which is sorely needed here), and it's literally impossible to run and aim properly. I felt like I was fighting with the camera and controls during my entire playthrough, which seriously hurt impressions and inadvertently raised difficulty (it's actually quite easy but the controls make it rather tough at times). The Xbox 360 controller fairs somewhat better, but it's still not recommendable in this department.
Beyond that, the gameplay itself in the main campaign mode is insistently linear -- go to point A, unlock door; point B, loot corpses, point C, shoot aliens; point D, cutscene and boss. And repeat. This wouldn't be so horrible unto itself if the package as a whole was fun and satisfying, but it sure doesn't feel like it. Free Play (run through the campaign for high scores) and Survivor modes (defeat waves with a variety of weapons) don't perform any better, really.
The story and cutscenes are utterly unforgettable, the latter of which I only really mention because some are unskippable. Dying at a boss because of terrible controls and having to watch the same scene over and over again as a result is not my idea of a good time.
Smaller details like having to hold a key for a few seconds each time I want to loot something, open a door, etc., contribute to the aggravation and lack of immersion.
Alien Breed 3: Descent is not hopeless -- there were brief moments where I found myself enjoying the action. With explosions all over the place, some cool voice over coming through a PA, and shooting galore, it does -- on rare occasion -- show some potential. Unfortunately the design as a whole makes for uncompelling, frustrating gameplay. Though I know it's a punch to the gut, I have to recommend gamers try the similarly-styled Alien Swarm instead, which is free and a much better experience all around.
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