The Alien Breed series comes to a close, but does it go out with a bang?
It's time to wrap the Alien Breed series up, and boy have things gotten rather twisted. Conrad is back fighting familiar nasties in a familiar setting, as Alien Breed 3: Descent attempts to go out all guns blazing. While we enjoyed the past titles, gameplay was relatively shallow in places, hence we were hoping Descent would treat us to some epic set-pieces along with more of the same.
While there's no denying that new boss fights and set-pieces keep the spark alight, all of the issues we had with the rest of the series are still very much present, and by now are starting to grate, emphasized by hours of trudging through dull, metallic corridors and fighting off the same old enemies. Fans of the series will no doubt want to see the story through, but anyone else will be able to shrug the series off with a 'meh'.
It's Alien Breed 2.5!
The story begins where Assault left off, but it's taken quite the mental twist, with a sinister voice mocking your every move and your female ally's secret exposed. The first fifteen minutes of Descent are familiar yet awesome territory, as the story really gives this installment an edge. Unfortunately, it isn't long before the game falls back into its original steady momentum, with claustrophobic, dark corridors to navigate and quick-footed aliens to blast.
As with the titles that came before it, there's nothing particularly wrong with how Alien Breed 2 plays - shooting and moving is tight, and feels wonderfully powerful and hectic at times. The issue comes with the shallow missions you've given: Go here, press this button, now move here, shoot this thing, now go and press another button... there just isn't enough variety in gameplay, and after you've played through the first two releases, the third really starts to feel dull as ditchwater.
Descent really doesn't feel like a proper sequel either, as the majority of the game appears to be completely reused from the old releases. If you showed us screenshots from Descent next to screenshots from Assault, we honestly wouldn't be able to tell the difference - everything is the same, from the environment visuals to the enemies to the interface. This could quite easily have been a DLC expansion.
The fact that everything looks and feels the very same works to emphasis the series' issues. The sinister, metal surroundings that were once atmospheric now feel generic and boring, while there's just no excitement in enemy rushes anymore.
Boss battles are fun, but far too overpowered
That's not to say there are no new features at all. Descent attempts to mix the action up a little with special set-pieces, such as flooded levels and trips outside of the ship. There are also new 'behind the character' sections, that give the game a proper shooter feel. These parts do indeed work well to get the excitement going, but whenever these parts end and you're dumped back into the mediocre sections, it makes the gameplay feel even worse.
Of course, you've also got new weapons and some new enemies to dissect, but really these types of features should be a given for any sequel, not one of the main features of a game! Annoyingly, the difficulty levels are not balanced well at all - you'll push through the story with relatively little trouble until you reach a boss battle, at which point suddenly the action in insanely difficult, and you'll need plenty of health kits.
As with number 2, the online co-op is a saving grace. Blasting aliens with a friend is great fun, and you'll most likely opt to beat the multiplayer levels before even finishing the single player campaign. Sharing weapons and credits equally requires great balance, and it's always good fun, if a little samey.
Not that Descent has any new modes to shout about - everything available is the very same as the original games, including the single player Story, Free Play and Survivor options, and the co-op play. Even the menus are the very same - apart from the background logo, you could very well be playing the second installment. It all just feels rather lazy, as if the whole series is based around a template design.
This ain't Seaworld, kids
We really enjoyed Alien Breed 2 thanks to its tension-ridden atmosphere and action-packed swarm sections, but rather than build on this excellence and iron out the problems, Descent works to emphasise them. The question should be raised: Apart from the conclusion of the story, why should we want to play Alien Breed 3? Number 2 already did everything you see here at an OK level, and we don't particular understand why Team 17 believe gamers will want to play through what is essentially the very same game all over again.
Same old same old, then - Alien Breed 3: Descent is not the sequel we were hoping for, dragging the series out rather than building on it. Still, for Alien Breed fanatics, the story will at least provide closure and more of the same. If you haven't played the rest of the series, don't bother starting here.
ALIEN BREED 3: DESCENT VERDICT
Alien Breed 3: Descent is available now on PC and Xbox 360.