You know those videogame institutions – be they publishers, individuals or developers – that you have always had respect for? The kind that you may have seen a fair few duffers from, but generally, you’re happy to buy their games? Generally they can be separated from the majority in that you trust that they’ll put out a decent title if they say they will. They’re nice to have around and lend a little credence to the theory that there is still a degree of creativity in the industry.
Which makes it all the more irritating when that institution turns around, give you a wink, and bends you over the metaphorical table before giving it to you right where the sun don’t shine.
Team 17, a veritable fossil in terms of length of service in the industry, has managed to turn one of the best-loved franchises – and one that has remained unsullied until now – into a generic, low-grade two stick shooter. If it weren’t for the developer and franchise’s fan base and relatively high profile, this would go pretty much unnoticed. However, it’s a game that many people will have a natural interest in, and as such, deserves a damn good going over with the ‘this game is shit’ stick.
Before we get into the hazing proper, let’s just dip our toes in the corner of this tepid pool of slurry that’s slightly less smelly than the rest of it. You’re getting three games in the one pack (hence the ‘trilogy’ tag). Sadly, those three games are all the same, so it turns out that what actually looked like a fresh corner of the pool is actually just as dung-filled as the rest of it.
First off, there’s no multiplayer story mode. This is an absolute travesty, and makes Team 17 look like imaginationless chumps. It’s crying out for a co-op mode of some sort, and while it is in there (we’ll beat that later), the reason for not including at least a two player story mode is unfathomable.
But then even if it had been included, it wouldn’t do much to save the game. Technically, it’s as dull as dishwater, and while it does the job on the audiovisual front, it’s hard to get a top-down shooter looking bad. They’ve been making great quality top-down titles on consoles since Baldur’s Gate, and frankly, the fact that it looks okay enrages me even more. On completely the other side of the coin, the story-book style of narrative delivery was another mistake on the Team 17’s part. It’s languid, dull and does nothing but make you want to skip ahead past the drudgery that is a bunch of slowly opening windows with static images.
In truth though, the real downer comes from the gameplay. Sure, I understand that the original Alien Breed didn’t do much by today’s standards, but at the time it had a semblance of creativity. You could buy gear in shops – an ability that has been removed from the first game in this trilogy – and the environments weren’t the standard cutesy nonsense of the day. In short, the reason it was popular was that it had a degree of subtle imagination that drew people in. Alien Breed Trilogy has none of that.
The standard (and they are particularly standard) level requires you to backtrack constantly, which is never much fun. Every time you get a mission of some sort something blows up and you have to run right the way back to the start and deactivate some switch or other. After the fifth or sixth time per level, you just want it to end. You’d pay money for it to end, and if I hadn’t been reviewing this, it would have got turned off and launched out of the window within hours of starting it up.
Then there’s the multiplayer mode. Supposedly, it fits into the story in that it follows the story of two marines following the lead character. There’s no story as such, just a constant reminder to go here, or go there, and it winds up being as banal as the single player mode. It’s amazing that a title that simply requires you to blast Aliens to bits can get it so wrong.
It’s dull, cynical and almost devoid of character, which is not something that one naturally associates with Team 17. This is definitely a blip in the otherwise high quality string of titles that the developer has managed to put together over the years, and while it’s very much a lame duck, hopefully it is just a blip. The fact that it was released as a trilogy boxed-set, suggesting that it was considered a piece worth pushing into peoples face, makes me think less favourably of the developer. Pick it up Team 17. Next time I won’t be quite as nice.
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