Alien Breed 2 picks up where the previous installment left off – somewhere in space where bad things lurk in the shadows of hollowed out star cruisers. We’ve seen this cliché recycled so much now that it’s become a cliché of a cliché. One can only imagine the pitch meeting where “Alien Breed 2: Breed Harder” was first discussed:
“Hey Bob, how ‘bout this for an idea? Our guys are on a ship out in space, see? And then they crash into a much bigger ship. Guess what happens next?”
“They fight off marauding aliens who increase in size the further the humans delve into the ship? Do the humans also collect bigger and more powerful weapons for around five to six hours worth of fetch questing?”
“How’d you guess all that?”
This genre is so played out, so familiar, that to do anything different at this point would likely involve quantum mechanics because the astonishing level of creativity necessary to elevate this material out of the mire would have to direct intervention on the part of the Divine™. “Alien Breed 2” takes all of this genre’s clichés and drops them into “Gauntlet.” BAM! Instant XBLA title for gamers to download.
As far as XBLA titles go, “Alien Breed 2” isn’t bad. It just presents nothing revelatory. The graphics are genuinely good, the sound effects are appropriately creepy, it’s a quick download, and it provides a night of entertainment for those looking to turn their brains off. The crux of the game is to go to Waypoint X, activate Switch Y, then move on to the next room and repeat the process amidst attacks from Aliens aliens. It’s a constant run-and-gun shooter where you move with the left thumbstick, aim with the right thumbstick, and blast anything that moves. If you happen upon a locker or human remains, searching them might turn up items or clues as to what happened.
AS IF THAT MATTERS WHEN ALIENS ARE EVERYWHERE TRYING TO KILL YOU!
One of the good things about “Alien Breed 2” is that this is one cliché the game blatantly ignores. There are aliens everywhere—period. Kill them, activate the next set of doors, and move on to the next area to get the ship up as fast as possible. The developers wisely eschew anything approaching a story and focus more on the atmosphere. At this they succeed admirably helped in large part by the sheer beauty of the Unreal Engine 3.
Being a hollowed out ghost ship, the vessel looks and feels like it’s listing in space. The interior is wracked with explosions, frayed power wires, sparks, and more, in addition to the myriad nasties running about. The lights flicker back and forth and shadows flit around you (but in a manly way, just so we’re clear). The environment is perfectly realized and effectively elevates the already high tension.
The constant ambushes could be more refined though. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been gaming for north of 20 years now (kill me) and basic triggers that unleash hordes of enemies for no purpose other than to deplete your ammo, health, and armor is not a challenge. Strategically choosing when to attack the player is a sign of intelligence, not placing markers. On the flip side, the constant fights force you to rely on a number of audio cues and this is an area where no detail was skipped. Each monster has its own tag, sometimes subtly different between the bigger ones, and the player who ignores this and focuses on what he/she can see will miss out. No dialogue is present in the game, but the weapon and environmental effects stand out.
But what really gets my goat about Alien Breed 2 is the assaulting menu. When you go into the menus, the background is the green of an old computer screen (think late 70s/early 80s). That’s fine and good but this one is patterned after an old television that’s gone on the fritz so there are constant waves flowing through the noise. As such, it is honestly painful to look at for even brief moments of time. What’s worse is that I couldn’t read certain things in the menu such as price information for upgrades. I’m sure it was there, in fact I could see the writing to know numbers were on the screen. But I certainly couldn’t tell you what the cost of some upgrades and items were.
Hint: When a menu makes critical text illegible, change the menu to something else.
All that being said, Alien Breed 2: Assault is a fun little game to play. It’s perfect for a Friday night when you have the house to yourself and can crank up the sound. It isn’t long, maybe five to six hours factoring in all side exploration, and is a solid little title that has its quirks. You’ve played it before, but it looks great, sounds awesome, and offers a decent amount of fun.