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Alien Breed 2: Assault Review

Game Review: Alien Breed 2: Assault
Release: 9/22/10
Genre: Action (top-down shooter)
Developer: Team 17
Available Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade/Steam
Players: 1-2
MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: T
Website: team17.com

Alien Breed 2: Assault is Team 17’s follow up effort to Alien Breed Evolution.  It is very similar in style to Valve’s very popular (and free) Alien Swarm, both in terms of style and and gameplay.  Does Alien Breed 2 have enough extra features over Alien Swarm to justify the $10 price tag?  Let’s find out.

In Alien Breed 2: Assault, your ship comes out of hyperspace unexpectedly and collides with a another ship of human origin.  However, it has been missing for over 200 years and there are no signs of life aboard.   You play as a Conrad, typical space marine/engineer (yes, shaved head and all) who investigates the ghost ship in an attempt to free the Leopold.

If you have played Alien Swarm, you will feel right at home in Alien Breed 2.  You are alone (or with a buddy, if you choose the co-op route) fighting the alien hoards to complete your objective.   Unlike Alien Swarm however, it isn’t simply a progression through a level, a la Left 4 Dead.  No, in Alien Breed 2, you will be running back and forth across a level to complete multiple objectives.  It makes for a completely different, and more hectic, feel than Alien Swarm.  In Alien Swarm, you can camp an area until the swarm subsides, then continue.  In Alien Assault 2, however, you are forced to constantly be on the run from place to place (and often from swarms of aliens).  Again, you fight from a top down perspective, which makes this even more similar to Alien Swarm.

I feel bad for Team 17.  They released a quality game that has been overshadowed by some major releases, such as Halo Reach, and by another game that came out a few weeks before with exactly the same format.  As such, Alien Breed 2 really hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.  It’s a great game; the visuals are absolutely fantastic.  The lighting effects really help set the mood and raise the intensity.   For example, the lights often go out, leaving you with only your flashlight and gun flashes to light the area.   Alien blood splatters onto the floor with every hit an alien takes.  The alien bodies remain in place, so you will have a pile of dead bodies around you after a particularly intense firefight.  The environments and models are detailed, and the animations are smooth.

While we are on the subject of graphics, let’s talk about the cutscences.  The in-game cutscenes aren’t anything special, but they look okay since they use the in-game engine.  However, the narrative cutscenes that appear before each chapter are presented like a comic book.  This is a neat way to present the information, and while it’s not fantastic, it definitely is a nice change of pace. The visuals aren’t the only thing that stands out.  The sound work is also good.  Guns have real heft to them, explosions sound like the occur right next to you, and the you can hear the squishes when you walk on alien slime.

Team 17 has made some game play tweaks that really add to the experience in Alien Breed 2.  I especially liked the looting feature.  Dead corpses are littered around the abandoned ship, and it’s in your best interest to search these dead bodies for valuable ammo and grenades.  However, looting a corpse takes valuable time, and they are often located out of the way.  Relying on these drops to replenish your supplies means you will have to use your ammo wisely, but also encourages the player to investigate the environment more thoroughly.  I thought the looting dynamic really improved the experience.

I also liked the way Team 17 handled leveling in Alien Breed 2.  Instead of earning experience points, you find credits in the environment.  These are often hidden, so exploring more will enable you to level up faster.  You can stop designated computer terminals located throughout the levels to purchase upgrades using the credits for your weapons or items.  Here, you can also save your game and buy extra ammo.  This way you get to choose how you upgrade yourself, instead of being locked into a certain progression, such as in Alien Swarm.  In addition, after you complete a level, it tallies up your score and posts it to the leaderboards, which I thought was a great idea.

However, not everything is that polished.  In the game, MIA doesn’t have her lines voiced, which is odd because she is fully voiced in the cutscenes.  This really jolts you out of the experience.   Also, I found changing the camera angle was a laborious and ineffective procedure.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s bearable, but until then expect to be having a tough time seeing all the aliens.  The survival mode is just okay.  It’s a survival mode, nothing more and nothing less.

Overall, Alien Breed 2: Assault is a solid game for the $10 price point.   If you enjoyed Alien Swarm, you might want to think about picking up Alien Breed 2: Assault.  It has much lengthier campaign than Alien Swarm.  However, Alien Swarm offers many of the same features of Alien Breed 2, but for free.  With this in mind, I would recommend picking up Alien Swarm first, and if you absolutely love it, you might want to try out Alien Breed.

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