It’s hard to get emotional about Alien Breed Evolution. Nostalgia alone should raise a smile but a clumsy mix of old and new has made the intense but ugly Alien Breed into the pretty but tepid Alien Breed Evolution. It’s not a change we’re very happy with.
Some things had to give, of course. Evolution is easier than the Amiga original and offers save points so you don’t lose an hour of your life with every death. The camera angle has been shifted to a skewed angle to show off the lovely new Unreal 3-powered graphics, and the eight-way controls have been swapped for Smash TV twin-stick shooting. There’s a firmer structure with fetch quests and distinct missions to follow, and there’s a dedicated co-op mode to play online.
They’re great changes but the original game was stark, simple, and absolutely merciless in its aim to murder you. Above all, it was an adrenaline rush based around surviving against impossible odds, but in Evolution, the odds are anything but impossible.
The swarms are smaller and their numbers aren’t overwhelming; with the new controls they’re more manageable and can be shepherded into neat firing lines with ease. Panic and chaos have been replaced with precision and order, and it’s too easy to relax and wander through the fetch quests on autopilot.
If every chapter were loaded with epic set pieces or there was more strategy to using the weapons Evolution could get away with its pedestrian pace, but it’s the same old quests with the same strategy in every fight. Alien Breed is a game at its best when it puts a clock on you and forces you to wade through floods of enemies before the clock hits zero – for a few minutes you’re under pressure, without enough time to fight off everything, forced to run and gun.
Evolution is so close to being a good game that it’s frustrating to see it fall short. Chaotic and dumb would have been fine; measured and smart would have worked; but Team 17’s dumb and measured Alien Breed is too chilled out for its own good. The looks, sound, and rich atmosphere are all exactly where they should be, so with two more episodes to go there’s time for Team 17 to fix Episode One’s mistakes.
Jan 14, 2010