Alien Breed 2 : Assault is the second episode of the rebooted Alien Breed franchise. Built on the ever popular Unreal 3 engine, it looks like a boxed title and proves Team 17’s ability to craft excellent looking games, whether it be the cartoon splendour of the Worms series, or inside an Alien-inhabited space hulk.
While the game is certainly impressive from a technical standpoint unfortunately it doesn’t feel like it has advanced from the first in the series. The same mission goals apply: find the key to unlock the gate, etc; and you’ll also find yourself going back through areas you’ve already cleared to get a keycode or hit a switch to restore power to a door. While this isn’t much of an issue first time around, it begins to grate after a while. Enemies tend to appear in the places you expect which tends to destroy any suspense that Team17 could have gotten out of the impressive atmospheric design, but that’s not to say that the aliens appear exactly where you expect them, but rather they have a cue to start popping up – usually when you started messing with a computer with a long activation time, or when you have to wait for a filtration system to start up. The audio however is top notch, the rumbling of the ships engines and the organic nastiness of the aliens immerse you in the game and bring forward fond memories of the Aliens films (particularly the Assault Rifle).
For those of you interested in the narrative of Alien Breed, the game picks up where we left off in Episode 1, with the protagonist venturing onto the space hulk that the Leopold smashed into. All the story cutscenes are told through comic book-style images with a voice over soundtrack, adding to the feeling of the episodic format. However Alien Breed’s narrative is not it’s strong point, it’s a basic premise and you never really care what happens to any of the protagonists in this space thriller. But then that’s never really been the appeal of these games, it’s the atmosphere that Team 17 manage to create from an “isometric” viewpoint that really impresses.
Also making an appearance are the Steam Achievements. Much like the Xbox /GfW equivalent you unlock these by completing a set of goals, such as killing 50 enemies without taking damage, or getting 3000 kills. These are great if you love them but pointless if you don’t. I never normally play for achievements but with a game like this you find yourself drawn to trying to accomplish them all. In this respect this is why Alien Breed is so good; sure, you can wallow in the oppressive atmosphere of a ship slowly disintegrating or you can go balls out and blast it like the old school titles that are so fondly remembered by ageing games journalists (myself included in that one).
All in all Alien Breed 2 is a great game. Fantastic in many respects, but it just doesn’t feel like Team 17 have added a great deal more to it or advanced the experience above the first. In fact if you have the first game then you really don’t need this, unless you care about the narrative progression. However if you don’t have Alien Breed : Impact and fancy seeing what all the old timers are talking about you could do a lot worse than picking this game up.