Alien Breed 3: Descent

It makes sense that Team 17 chose to resurrect Alien Breed after telling the world that they were going download only. The original, released on Amiga, was in the charts for over a year and is still frequently mentioned in the likes of Retro Gamer magazine and on retro gaming forums. This is the third and final instalment in Team 17’s series of revamped virtual bug hunts, but don’t worry if you missed the other two: there’s a handy recap at the start.

The original Alien Breed games were chaotic top-down shooters, and although this new version is viewed from a similar perspective it is slower paced, with alien encounters cleverly drawn out to create tension. In some ways it’s comparable to EA’s Dead Space, with upgradable weapons and terminals where you can buy new items and sell things in your inventory that are no longer needed. Human corpses can be searched for items too and there’s certainly lots of those around – Descent is set on a spacecraft where an experiment has gone magnificently tits-up.

A radar on the top of the screen helpfully points out where to go next and will blip if aliens are nearby. The camera can also be swung round 360 to prevent things of importance being obscured from view. Controls are a little fiddly; the inventory has to be accessed by pressing the d-pad up and down. If you’re being attacked and need a health pack urgently then it does come over as a rather cumbersome way of doing things.

If you do just want to mindlessly blast aliens instead of playing through the story mode then you’re in luck – there’s an online survival mode. Three arenas can be chosen and at the start you get to pick weapons to take into battle including the Project X laser rifle – which is named after another old Team 17 game. Enemies attack in waves, becoming stronger and greater in number as things progress. It’s punishingly hard – for the first few attempts don’t expect to last much longer than three minutes, but once you learn to reserve health-packs and use grenades sparingly it becomes a lot easier.

Despite decent visuals – the shadow and lighting effects are rather impressive – dull mission objectives and samey environments stop Descent from being an essential purchase. However, it’s not a bad way to waste an afternoon and it’s one of the more polished Xbox Live Arcade games of recent times.

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