Alien Breed Review—Aliens: Genocidal Marines

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Alien Breed’s ending is anticlimactic, abrupt, and not worth a spoiler warning. You simply fight the final boss battle, and then the epilogue scrolls down the screen. The battle in question involves fighting the fearsome alien queen, a queen with such fierce attacks as moving around a room. Yes, this is the game’s climax. Its supposed “high point.” You unload a few clips of ammo into the final boss, and the game is finished.

The original Alien Breed, released on the Amiga in 1991, wasn’t so much about shooting but rather surviving, conserving ammo and keycards to cautiously press on. You couldn’t run or strafe while shooting. Enemies were tougher. It was a survival-horror game at heart, and that’s why the game was such a hit in the UK at the time.

The modern “remake” of Alien Breed is a joke. By adding dual-stick functionality, Team17 has turned the game into a shallow dualstick shooter. Enemies are fragile imbeciles that aren’t worth being wary of anymore. In the PSM version, there’s mysteriously no reloading involved in gunplay, and clips of ammunition are strewn everywhere. Any tension that Alien Breed may have had is gone forever. By “rebalancing” gameplay, the game is a cakewalk, one that destroys the identity of the original. More importantly, it makes a tense game an utterly boring one.

Yes, this massive alien is a massive pushover, believe it or not.

Yes, this massive alien is a massive pushover, believe it or not.

At least the levels look great. Everything’s been given a new coat of paint, and you have the option of switching to classic visuals, which also makes aiming lock to 8 directions but changes little else otherwise. It’s a shame that the awful flatline narrative hasn’t been addressed since 1991, though. The pacing never gets better. You’re dropped into a level—alone—with some specific instructions, and that’s all you need to know.

The maps are all here from the original, but the floorplans are laid out so disingenuously that you’ll wonder if the aliens did some remodeling for the sole purpose of confusing you. It’s bad enough that you’ve got to detour all the way around the floor to get to a specific room, but when you see straight empty hallways with about 10 different keycard doors, you start to wonder who designed this ship. By some stroke of (presumably human) genius, just about every floor of the ship self-destructs when you reach your objective. Somehow, the aliens didn’t trigger this feature when they captured the ship.

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The original game had a store at which to purchase supplies in a pinch, but it was nothing like the new one. Why bother finding keycards and lives? They’re all cheap, and can be bought with credits found in-game. There is a function to buy credits with real money, but since money is spread across levels generously and resources carry over across all four of the game’s [almost identical] campaigns, who needs more?

Alien Breed is the most dumbed-down, outright offensive remake I’ve ever played. It totally abandons the tension of the original game and spits in the face of nostalgic fans who want to relive their fond memories, turning a tense and involving survival game into a bland and horribly repetitive top-down corridor shooter.

3/10

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Comments

9 Responses to “Alien Breed Review—Aliens: Genocidal Marines”
  1. onmode-ky says:

    Methinks the score might have suffered less had this been a mere “inspired by” homage rather than an official Team17 remake. It doesn’t matter who shot first if it isn’t really Han Solo, after all.

    By the way, I moved the YouTube clip to a position after the break because I thought it might be distracting having a 14.5-minute-long video right there with the introductory paragraph. However, honestly speaking, I don’t think something so long really ought to be in with a review.

    “such fierce attacks as moving around a room”

    Believe it or not, I can actually pull off that attack myself in real life! I have trouble pulling it off when I’m unconscious, though.

  2. Aaron Jean says:

    No. It’s a bland, repetitive shooter no matter how you look at it. I wouldn’t rate a game lower based on its past, at any rate. That’s just bad principle, and I haven’t played the older game, only watched some gameplay and researched it a little.

    Perhaps I could have spent less time talking about the original game, but I felt it was important to highlight the importance of it at the time. It topped the UK charts for quite a while, as far as I’ve researched, and it was one of the earlier examples of a survival-horror game becoming successful.

    This was the only footage I could find that was dialogue-free and fullscreen, but I agree. If I had the equipment, I’d record footage myself, since there’s no PSM footage available.

    Ironically, this is a game that would have been better off had the developers focused purely on visuals and left the gameplay intact. All the modernising just makes the game’s flaws come out even more.

  3. Anonymous says:

    wait how can you praise the original so much if you’ve never played it? You can’t just compare a game with its remake based on just gameplay videos.

  4. Aaron Jean says:

    Where in the review did I praise the game? If anything, I praised the game’s legacy and what it was known for. I can gather that the first was a tense game from gameplay videos, based on the fact that the player had 2 ammo clips halfway through the game. I had about 160 clips at the same level, and counting.

    At some point resources become redundant in this game. In the original, resources were a valuable commodity that you needed to be conservative with.

    Again, my perception of the original didn’t affect the score. This is a boring shooter. It might have had the makings of a more passable survival-horror, but it threw that out the window when it embraced dual-stick controls and started handing out ammo like it was Christmas.

    I might have explained myself more clearly and been more open about my lack of experience with the 1991 Alien Breed, but I stand by the score. This is a terrible shooter.

  5. Aaron Jean says:

    One important thing I noticed after reading some iOS reviews: that version of the game has an option to play with classic controls- 8-way movement and a fire button. The Vita version, at any rate, always uses the second analog stick to fire regardless of control settings, making movement possible while firing.

    For integrity’s sake, it would be interesting to know if the PSM version shares the iOS control scheme options. I’m not sure if it’s something that would affect the score, being as it’s only an option, and not available for all versions, but it would definitely be worth mentioning in the review.

    Keep in mind, this alone wouldn’t turn a mediocre game into a superb one, and it makes the improved visuals irrelevant because you’re playing in full-on classic mode which, if I’m not mistaken, still suffers from the overabundance of ammo in the “enhanced” mode.

    I think this opens up a whole can of game-criticism worms, though. If a game offers a better play experience under certain limitations, either self-imposed (wasting ammo to limit yourself, stopping in place to fire) or a game mode(classic mode vs. enhanced mode), should the game be judged by its default mode, its best mode, or an average of the two? Should a disciplined playstyle be taken into account, or should the game be judged by the most cynical approach to its gameplay?

  6. jefequeso says:

    I was quite surprised when I read that you haven’t actually played the original game. Phrases such as “Alien Breed is the most dumbed-down, outright offensive remake I’ve ever played” really imply a certain familiarity with the base game. I think you should have made it a little clearer that your comparisons with the original Alien Breed were not derived from personal experience, because just reading the review I got the impression that a large part of your problems with the game had to do with it being dumbed-down from the original.

    This does make me want to check the original out, though. I do love me some survival horror :D

  7. Freelance says:

    I never played the original either but the remake actually is dumbed down from the original, based on all the reviews I’ve read. The game would have been better if it actually was the original but with updated graphics. You couldn’t buy keys and such at any time…you had to find terminals scattered around. I think that setup would’ve been a lot better than being able to buy whatever you need on a whim. That just makes the game a lot easier. I don’t think there was any map either in the original.

    I still like the game, but it could’ve been a whole lot better if it was more like the original.

  8. Freelance says:

    BTW, the original was more survival horror than the remake, what with the terminals you needed to find and you actually had to memorize where the paths led, hence why I don’t think there ever was a map in the original.

  9. Aaron Jean says:

    Jefequeso, almost everything you said is true, though. I had already finished the PSM game, and had a very good idea of how the game controlled and played, so I don’t think anything was lost in translation when I spent all that time watching Amiga gameplay. Obviously, I’m not playing it, but I can definitely get a sense for the kind of resource management required, as well as movement and firing. It might be up for debate, but I was very well-acquainted with the original game at the end of my watching.

    At any rate, perhaps it might have been better not to mention the original at all. I wasn’t trying to compare the two versions directly, but rather draw attention to what the game could have been.

    My problem with the game is that it’s a horrible shooter. The reason I researched the original(again, after my time with the PSM version was finished) was because I wanted to find out if this awful shooter was really what people had latched onto so much in the 90s. I found out that it was a different beast entirely, and that’s all I wanted to get across.

    If you need more convincing that this is a bad game, I mention a few more flaws in this blog post: http://forlackofabettergame.blogspot.ca/2013/02/playing-by-your-own-rules-can-you-make.html

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