'Alien Breed 3: Descent', is the third and final episode in Team 17's revival of the classic top-down Amiga series, Alien Breed. 'Descent' puts you straight back into the action where you left off. Mia, your companion from the previous episode is under the control of the deadly A.I. Klein and it's up to you to shutdown Mia and save yourself from death, as your spaceship plummets towards a planet's surface.
The gameplay is identical to Alien Breed 2, a tried and tested formula of running and gunning between locations while fighting off the alien horde. Although the game is enjoyable, the similarities from the previous two instalments do grind a bit and the trudging between waypoints begins to lose its allure. The environments start to feel recycled and the only refreshment comes from new bosses that, despite their unique appearance, do little to differentiate themselves from any other sci-fi shooter boss. Granted, the game's visuals have been slightly improved but for an indie series the quality of the graphics had always been top notch.
While the gameplay may at times be repetitive and a tad dull, the polish of the atmosphere is amazing. As you walk down the corridor security cameras turn and focus on you, providing a sense of eerie forebodingness as a chill runs down your spine. Everything looks murky and at times it's impossible to see ahead of you and all you can hear is the ambience of water trickling away. It's most certainly gritty and tense, almost like a top-down homage to Dead Space, but that's just coincidence. Any true flattery is aimed at the original Alien Breed.
Throwbacks to the Alien Breed of yesteryear are abundant in the form of computer terminals that let you save your progress and purchase weapons and ammo. Key cards make a reappearance as another retro aside for faithful fans. The revived series doesn't just take inspiration from its predecessor. As well as the obvious influences of the 'Alien' movies there are many more subtle references such as the names lifted from the classic novella 'Heart of Darkness' and the energy core reminiscent of Event Horizon. It's not all the doom and gloom of the 90's though. Team 17 has included several 'modern' additions including a survival mode, online leader boards and a unique set of levels for the game's co-op mode.
Whilst the original Alien Breed was renown for its two player campaign offering, Alien Breed 3's co-op rendition is limited to a series of unique maps. Despite the limitations this mode proves to be the gem of the package. With a friend you can you take on the role of two engineers trapped on the ship. Pitifully armed, your task is simple, bludgeon through the alien horde while amassing weapons and staying alive. While the aliens, the weapons and even the map design are no different to single player, it's the tension that makes this gametype shine. If both players die, it's game over and you have to restart from the beginning of the map. As you near your objective and the packs of enemies grow thicker the game begins to lull you into a false sense of security. You round a corner only to discover an empty corridor with only your partner and the barely audible hum of crackling computer equipment for comfort. These rare moments of peace are balanced by the adrenalin fueled massacres towards the end of each level as you and your partner attempt to bunker down as swarms of aliens rush your position. Health packs being a luxury, it's not uncommon to find yourself fending off waves of enemies from multiple directions singlehandedly, while you wait for the ten second countdown for your partner to revive them self and return to the action.
'Alien Breed 3: Descent' is not a casual game and certainly involves some extended play sessions, despite the generously distributed terminals to save at. However, if you're at all interested in the sci-fi/horror genre the Alien Breed series is certainly worth a gander at the bargain price of £7.
by Arran France