Alien Breed: Impact Review - Pie Reviews
Posted 12 February 2012 - 04:11 PM
The first time I came across Alien Breed: Impact was when it was being recommended to me as an easy platinum trophy. Almost a full eighteen months later, I finally obtained the platinum for this game after some coaxing from a friend who practically shamed me into finally beating it by doing so himself in a mere two days. What, then, took me so long to finish the damn thing? It's a depressingly simple answer - the game felt like such hard work to play through that motivation to do so was almost impossible to come across.
Technically the game is a mess. Frequently the game would refuse to unpause when I tried to leave the pause menu, leaving me with only the background to the pause menu as the panel filled with options disappeared, rather than reverting back to the game, so that I had no choice but to reload the last save. This wouldn't be so bad were the game's automatic checkpointing system not so inconsistent and cruel. Once, after being unable to unpause, I reloaded the last auto-save to be dropped into a narrow doorway with huge numbers of aliens on either side, so that not immediately dying became a challenge all to itself. The checkpoint, it turned out, was about 10 minutes of play before where I had died, though on occasion the game likes to give you checkpoints about a minute apart from each other.
The controls are generally clunky and unresponsive, so that items you think you're picking up lie continually on the floor despite you pressing the relevant button, your character continues to walk calmly despite you holding sprint, and so on. The worst offender in this regard is the camera, which is manipulated by mid-action cutscenes that don't bother to return the camera to how you left it, disorientating you in the middle of a crowd of enemies, and even worse, when the game takes control of the camera and your character away from you for these sequences, it doesn't stop you from dying whilst your idiot character stands out of frame being mauled by aliens.
The co-op aspect of the game is also glitched, allowing you to play through the levels solo, rather than being forced to share an inadequate amount of ammunition with what was previously your friend. This incompetence is a small mercy, for which I am grateful. Sadly, I hear this ability has been removed in the "sequels".
Even when the many technical deficiencies of this game are discarded (it is worth mentioning that alone they vary from mildly to extremely frustrating, but not enough to utterly ruin the game), there was not a single moment where I recall having fun with the game. Trudging through ugly, bland landscapes being assaulted with the same tired jump-scares for the meager three and a half hour campaign (less if you know what you're doing) was as fulfilling as watching static.
Visually, the game demonstrates the bottom of the Unreal Engine 3 barrel, with unsteady framerates, screen tearing and boring visuals taken straight from the "gritty modern shooter" book of clichés - not even being set in space manages to liven things up, though occasionally blues are mixed in with the usual muted gray-green colour pallette, to remind us that we are in fact on a spaceship. The only other real reminder of this comes in the form of a set piece very reminiscent of Dead Space, where you must venture outside the spaceship with only a limited supply of oxygen. However, unlike in Dead Space, where the scene is kept tense by the ever-present necromorph, the air meter being tightly tuned to give you just enough time and being placed on the back of Isaac's suit so it stares you continually in the face and stresses you out, the set piece is utterly wasted in Alien Breed. Here, you wonder round a path that becomes linear due to the explosions with as much gusto as party poppers closing off all other avenues of exploration. There are no enemies at all during this entire sequence, and the air meter was so tucked away that I didn't even notice it until it ran out and I died.
The alien designs are almost entirely unthreatening, possibly due to the far-removed camera perspective as well as the fact that all but one of your weapons can stagger them so they almost never make it close to you if you keep shooting them. Killing them becomes much like swatting flies, more of an annoyance than an obstacle. They, like everything else in this game, feel like padding, which in a game this short is alarming. There was a sequence that lasted about two to three minutes where, entirely free of alien attack, I calmly traipsed round and pressed five different buttons to do some uninteresting, generic objective. There was no real point to this sequence. It added nothing to the game. It was purely padding. The enemies repeat constantly, there being about ten different types or less, and the boss fights, especially the last one, are hugely anti-climactic and require no real tactics or skill. The only point in the game in which I could almost call remarkable was being chased by a giant alien through hallways whilst the camera, having an unusual moment of competence, looked after itself briefly. Were it not for the fact that by sprinting I could clearly outrun the thing, this might have been (dare I use the word) exciting.
Despite the game being extremely cheap, the value for money is still almost laughable. The developers put in five secret collectibles that are almost completely obvious if the player is at all paying attention (which is doubtful). The game leads you by the nose through objectives that you will neither know nor care about by pointing them out on the mini-map, so that the only reward for exploration is weapon and item pickups, which you'll have so many of by the last level that you can Rambo through with no regard for your own safety and still make it out alive, even on the hardest difficulty level.
Perhaps it would be easier to care about the events in the game's story if even minimal effort was put into conveying the narrative to the player. Almost nothing in the game is voiced, and instead appears as a text prompt on-screen (if my memory serves me correctly, that is - I confess I'd turned the audio off by this point, being sick of the jump scares and boring sound effects). The cut-scenes between levels appear as comic-book style in black and blue, with speech bubbles doing the dialogue. No real animation, and again, if memory serves me correctly, Team 17 didn't even bother to colour the panels in properly. As a result of this complete lack of even trying to involve the player, I found myself utterly disinterested in the story, and so I didn't give a damn if the protagonist lived or died. This certainly didn't help to break up the monotony of the gameplay itself. Three and a half hours of playing as some blob of flesh and bone doing things you have no interest in for unknown reasons whilst occasionally shooting at things wears the player down. It makes playing feel as much fun as doing the household chores - something you're doing because of routine rather than the fact that you want to. At least with chores you've achieved something tangible at the end, though that being said I take pride in the platinum trophy I got for enduring this game all the way to the end.
Todd in the Shadows, one of my favourite fellow internet reviewers, said that the quality of being "bad" can be defined by an absence of good, and I cannot think of a single game which this applies to more than Alien Breed: Impact. I've struggled through some poorly pieced together games as I've grown up with the medium, highlights including Last Rebellion, which I beat twice (once in Japanese, which for an RPG was an achievement), Terminator: Salvation, some atrocious Midas budget PS1 titles and even the N64 port of Daikatana, but nothing I remember playing has left me feeling completely joyless, uninterested and bored as Alien Breed. Despite these other games being failures in their own rights, there was at least something redeeming about each of them, even if, in the case of Daikatana, it was so embarassing that it gave everyone huddling around the TV a good chuckle. None of this can be said for Alien Breed. It is, in the truest sense of the word, worthless.
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