Another week, another top-down shooter on the PlayStation Network. The current surge of downloadable twin-stick action games may be starting to grow weary, but if there’s something to be said for Alien Breed 2: Assault, it’s retro authenticity. While most similar titles are merely crafted to resemble genre outings of old to suit the current throwback trend, Team 17′s shoot-’em-up is the second in a trilogy of remakes based on their own 1991 Amiga game. But while there’s a resulting extra dose of nostalgia for players familiar with the original, Alien Breed 2: Assault is a solid shooter sadly guilty of many of the same problems as the twin-stick actioners it follows.
The story itself picks up directly after opening entry Alien Breed: Impact, complete with ‘Previously on…” catch-up, though the story is a generic, forgettable tale of space engineers, marines and aliens – a mere excuse to set up plenty of fun, frenetic close-quarters blasting of slimy aliens. The Aliens riffing kicks off right away, with the game interface adding a blipping blue radar to the screen, which proves essential once murderous inhuman nasties start crawling out of the woodwork. The Aliens mantra of “short, controlled bursts” proves essential here, too: Unlike most twin-stick shooters, in Alien Breed 2: Assault you’ll find ammo in short supply, quickly learning that you’ll need to be tactical and restrained in your use of artillery when ventilating evil extraterrestrial carnivores.
There is scarce ammo, weaponry, and cash to be found on corpses strewn around, with a short progress bar popping up to let you know when you’ll be done looting bodies as you hold the X button. It makes for an infinitely more tense experience that’s less run-and-gun than the familiar top-down shooters and more skewed towards carefully clearing each section while carefully exploring the area, keeping your guard up as you search for ammo that’ll prove vital as things get more intense. Certain power points in levels allow you to lay down an automated gun turret to keep the beasts at bay, continuing the Aliens theme, and shop points allow you to buy items, ammo or upgrade your arsenal, providing you have enough cash.
The game is frantic fun, with a survival horror slant that helps distance it somewhat from the glut of similar games, but it’s unfortunately blighted by familiar genre problems. While it’s engaging at first, the tunnel-crawling shoot-’em-up gameplay grows repetitive after a while, especially for those who picked up Alien Breed: Impact. A little game design diversity is thrown in to try to remedy the problem, with mounted gun sections bringing a welcome change of pace and view, but the majority of the game follows the same ‘hold off enemies, find button to open door, hold off enemies, find door, repeat until credits roll’ pattern. The problem is only exacerbated by the lack of variety in environments which, when coupled with an occasionally awkward waypoint system, makes it a little too easy to spend huge chunks of time lost in generic grimy corridors and retracing your steps.
Load times are excessive, which can be a pain, but more bothersome is the inability to skip in-game cut-scenes. Strangely, you can skip the relatively more important motion comic story segments, but are forced to sit through little cinematics like seeing a bridge slowly lowered into place after activating it. They can prove incredibly tiresome during tougher sections where you’ll likely be reloading the game often, and even more irksome were the few times where the enemy dashed up and got in a few cheap shots while I waited for elevator animations to wrap up and allow me to move again. It’s worth noting that I was playing on the toughest of the three difficulties – if you’re playing on easy, the above issues might prove less of a problem, but at the cost of a more worthwhile challenge.
All the same, if you’re not burned out on the recent wave of run-and-gun games, then Alien Breed 2: Assault is a well-made, fun title that boasts enough challenge and gameplay ideas to separate it from the pack and a separate local/online co-op mode for a little added value. While it’s greatly let down by a streak of repetitive level and game design, it’s solid, tense and fairly lengthy fun for a great price and proves another worthwhile entry in the top-down shooter genre, even if it’s not a world-beater.
Alien Breed 2: Assault is available to buy on Playstation Network now priced £7.19/$9.99.