Eurogamer Expo 2009 Hands-on: Alien Breed
There are many unanswered questions in this world; what is our purpose in life? Will there ever be world peace? Will Cadbury’s ever sell a giant Creme Egg for Easter?
Most importantly, will Team 17 ever make games other than the Worms series? Ah, that my friends I can answer.
Alien Breed is an episodic download title for the Xbox 360 Marketplace, taking heed from the Amiga title many moons ago. The game is still being finalised, explaining the hazy “December-ish” release date banded about by the team in attendance, for an unspecified amount of money. But those are mere details; Alien Breed will be present on many gamer’s downloads lists come release.
Described by the crowd gathering around me and one of Team 17’s own playing through the game as a cross between Shadow Complex and Left 4 Dead, Alien Breed is a tale of space exploration gone wrong. A human ship has collided with another chartered by aliens, and you’re first to the scene. The foreign invaders have started ripping holes in the infrastructure and slaughtering the crew, and it’s presumably your job to carve through waves of the buggers to restore order.
The isometric view is reminiscent of Zombies Ate My Neighbours, a game I have a fondness for through rose-tinted spectacles, whilst it’s the aiming system of pointing your laser sight with the right analogue stick and shooting with the right trigger that brings up mentions of Shadow Complex. The marauding aliens explain comparisons with Left 4 Dead, naturally. Alien Breed has a habit of sucking you into believing this salvage operation is just an excuse to let fly with an impressive arsenal of weapons, gunning down hapless aliens with ridiculous amounts of ammunition and explosives, seeing how much blood it takes to coat a wall. It’s when getting to the latter stages of a level that both characters find themselves retreating so to maximise the potential of an exploding hand grenade, or scrounging ammunition off of dead bodies, that it becomes clear that this isn’t a gore fest. Extra rounds can be few and far between, as are health packs, and Team 17 took some delight in finding some members of the crowd who got to the play the game struggling and dieing before the end of the campaign.
The gameplay is very tight, which isn’t good news for me as I’m like a chimp (opposable thumbs and all that) when it comes to aiming with the right analogue stick on an Xbox 360 pad; luckily, the rest of the title also boasts high production values. It was hard to see how the sound stacked up in such a noisy venue, with the occasional gunshot blast and alien roar creeping in-between the commotion behind me, but the graphics and in particular the lighting effects are very pleasing on the eye. Weapons have a torch that illuminates a small area wherever aimed, and with some areas being quite dull, players can be caught out with a quick dash by an alien for some close-quarters combat.
Controls are pretty simple – aim and shoot. I couldn’t seem to find any melee buttons for when aliens got just that bit too close, or some sort of dodge mechanism to flee impending doom, but these being heavily armoured marines, it’s to be expected.
With a certain shooter coming out before Christmas (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2) it’s understandable for Team 17 to be patchy about a release date since so few people will be playing anything other than Infinity Ward’s much-anticipated title, but whenever Alien Breed graces the usual digital download outlets, I’d wager a bet on it being a hot seller.