Alien Breed Evolution is a dual-stick shooter, a genre well-represented on Xbox Live Arcade. So what does it do to separate itself from all of the other twin stick shooters out there? For one, it leans on its narrative and atmosphere. Alien Breed Evolution feels a bit like Alien and Dead Space merged shifted perspective from third person to isometric. The atmosphere is creepy, the main character is fragile, and just because a room was deserted last time you were there does not mean that it is safe now.
Everything in Alien Breed Evolution is a choice. Do you waste ammo for your powerful SMG or plink away at enemies with your trusty pistol that has unlimited ammunition? Do you move toward your objective marker or explore the ship for lockers to loot and ammo pickups and risk finding more aliens than useful pickups?
Alien Breed controls, generally, as you would expect a twin stick shooter to control. Move with the left stick, and aim with the right stick. These two basic functions work well, but weapon and secondary item (i.e., grenades and health packs) selection are both mapped to the d-pad. Weapons are on left-right while items are on up-down. This works well enough when you’re not being swarmed but proves cumbersome when you need to switch right now because there is a swarm of tough aliens running at you and your pistol just won’t do the job.
Alien Breed Evolution also channels one of my favorite segments from Half-Life 2 – turret fights. You can (and will need to) hold turrets in your backpack, and at key points in the game you’ll need to mount a defense against a huge wave of enemies, and it is immensely satisfying to throw down three turrets and watch your helpers dispatch alien after alien while all you need to do is watch the carnage.
XBLA games have come a long way since the service’s inception, and games like Alien Breed Evolution and Shadow Complex are proof that just because a game is cheap doesn’t mean that it has to look it. Alien Breed Evolution looks like it could have been a licensed Alien game. The derelict ship looks sufficiently run-down and creepy, and the various alien types are all easily discernible from one another. If graphics are important to you then Alien Breed Evolution won’t disappoint – it conveys its spooky sci-fi atmosphere very well.
Where Alien Breed Evolution falls short is in multiplayer. I would have loved to play through the main campaign in either local or Live-enabled cooperative play. Alien Breed Evolution does feature cooperative play (both online and off), but the coop campaign is a scant three levels. These levels are fun, but they made me want to play through th main campaign with a friend instead of make me appreciate the coop I have.
I you enjoy dual-stick shooters and enjoyed Dead Space, then Alien Breed Evolution should be the next XBLA game that you purchase. The campaign is lengthy for the price, the gameplay is solid, and you get to turn aliens to goo with a small army of turrets.
Pros: Great atmosphere, good mechanics
Cons: Lack of main campaign coop
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