It’s debatable as to which engine on the market today is the best. Some would say Source, some might even look towards the Cry3 engine, however I would bet money on the majority leaning towards the UT3 engine. The UT3 engine seems capable of pretty much anything bar skinny soldiers and games without aliens (shut up Stranglehold, I’m trying to make a point). So should it come as a surprise that Alien Breed: Impact is a game involving a giant solider and an army of Aliens on the UT3 engine? Well yes actually, as I would never have thought the engine would be so good for an old school top-down shooter.
Now for you young people out there with your ‘Wireless phones’ and ‘hip hop’ music, Alien Breed was originally released back in 1991 on a machine called the Commodore Amiga and later for MS-Dos in 93. The game was an obvious rip of Alien films, with players having to destroy sections of the facility they were in as they race towards the lift, only to end up fighting the Alien Queen, *cough*, sorry Alien boss. Alien Breed: Impact is technically the 6th game in the series, having been created as an expanded edition of Alien Breed: Evolution. While the developer Team 17 is still in charge the game has changed quite a bit in the 20 years since the original.
The obvious change is from 8-bit to UT3, but it’s a bit more complex than that. Using a slightly angled camera, the game remains a top-down title, giving you a wide view of the area. Shifting the mouse to the extreme left or right of the screen will spin the camera allowing you to get a better view of the surrounding area, a device that the top down genre sorely needed. And look around you will, as the game showers you with detail and textures that quite simply make other games look stupid. Maybe it’s just me, but I associate the genre with old looking games and to see a top down display better visuals than big name titles is astounding. Explosions rip through corridors, as sparks fall from exposed wiring, while generators cast an eerie light upon the walls; with visuals like this you know that the ship you’re on, is probably in trouble.
Alien Breed: Impact does try to tell a story, however it is mostly forgettable with obvious plot twists and frankly quite poor voice acting. The main device for the plot however is to give your mission objectives some context and the game does offer them up in a variety. Unfortunately, like every title of its kind, these missions come down to getting to point A to collect B which needs to go to point C. The variety comes in the form of what you must do whilst fighting from one point to another and what happens around you. Some missions require you to protect areas or people, hold off huge swarms for a set time and discover new paths when your previous route explodes dramatically. The term variety may have been the wrong choice of word, but it is difficult to find yourself questioning the repetition.
As you would expect the game throws a number of creatures your way in all different shapes and sizes, the surprising part is the amount of strategy you will require towards the latter half of the game to survive. From tiny bugs that flee from your flashlight to modified grunts which actually heal other aliens, each creature must be approached in a different way and prioritized accordingly. Thankfully there are handy shops scattered through-out each level for Conrad (the player character) to buy and upgrade his equipment. Alien Breed: Impact may not have a large selection of weapons but each one is useful in its own right. Upgrading your weapon of choice will give you a serious boost to you kill count, which means players will have to search the entire level for credits should they wish to dish out some real firepower.
Considering the title is one of three episodes to be released the length is fantastic, just offering enough to keep it fresh and not leaving you disappointed. Should the single player not quite do it for you, Team 17 has included a classic multiplayer mode. Taking on the roles of Barnes and Vance, you and a friend will try to hunt down Conrad as you progress through the infested ship. Your objective is to kill everything you see and get to the lift, detonating the level behind you. Its old school fun and I love it; obviously the nod towards the original title is appreciated.
Alien Breed: Impact succeeds most in its atmosphere. I consider the stunning Dead Space to be one of the most balance atmospheric games every made, I would put large portions of Alien Breed: Impact on the same level. The first level is just quite enough to be disturbing, keeping the enemy away from you for a large portion of the intro. When the enemies do arrive it’s sudden and the battle is over quickly, but you never quite feel safe again. Having gorgeous visuals combined with some nice sound design (ignoring the voices) really adds to the games immersion. I can honestly say I would never thought myself capable of jumping at an isometric top-down title.
The improvements over the Xbox 360 Evolution title are appreciated, aliens look better and the upgrade shop gives you a reason to really search out those hidden credits. Alien Breed: Impact is available on both PC and PS3, but after trying the PC title with a 360 controller I would strongly recommend a mouse and keyboard if you have a PC that will run it. The controller feels slightly sluggish and the bonus of precision movement on an analog stick doesn’t really make a difference. If you have a friend and want some co-op action this summer, I highly recommend picking up Alien Breed: Impact and playing it through, when you’re done you can move on to the wonderful single player. The flaws are superficial and fail to ruin any part of the game that matters when it comes to having fun. My hand is up when they start dishing out the second episode.