Wot I Think – Alien Breed 3: Descent

By Jim Rossignol on November 22nd, 2010 at 10:11 am.


The recent Alien Breed series, Team 17′s episodic shooter outing based on the venerable 16-bit era titles, rumbles to a close with Alien Breed 3: Descent, which came out last week. I’ve been having a play of Descent and also looking back over the Alien Breed’s long and patchy history. Here’s wot I think…

There is some residual fondness*. Alien Breed was the second game I bought for my Amiga 500. I wanted something I could play with my mate Tim and the 2-player co-op aspect of the game was the only thing – aside from it having guns and monsters in – that my adolescent brain placed any significance in. It was surprisingly atmospheric, with its alien screams and throbbing background ambiance, and Tim sat with me to play through the entire thing in a couple of sittings. More than once. This time around, playing Descent (and the previous modern relaunch game, Assault), I was forced to pressgang the Lady Rossignol into service. She wasn’t anything like as impressed with this as Tim had been with the original games. She played through the first few matches, getting frustrated with the controls, before making some excuse about having to go and be alone in a corner of the house somewhere. She was right to be annoyed – the limited co-op options (which do not encompass the full campaign as the original games had done) seem neglected – a weak gesture towards the true nature of the source material. Hitting the single player campaign, I pressed on alone.

Of course Tim had seen through the appeal of the original games, too, in time. Once we’d been presented with something better they were all but redundant. In that younger, more innocent era, we were disposed to play through games again and again, but reliving Alien Breed came to an abrupt end when we discovered The Chaos Engine, a top down shooter than was – as top down shooters from the 16-bit era went – a kind of definitive swan song. In both art and science it made Alien Breed seem primitive, unimaginative, and ultimately fairly awkward. The Alien Breed disc was left to gather dust, and the series was neglected, with only a flicker of interest generated by Alien Breed 2: The Horror Continues. Disappointingly, this sequel turned out to not be all that horrifying, although it was visually more splendid, and it still remained less interesting than alternative 16-bit shooters. It was workmanlike. Functional. Acceptable. Reasonable. And that was never going to be enough. I didn’t even bother to pick up the final 2D game, Tower Assault.


Peculiarly, I think this exact fate has been mirrored by the new Alien Breed games, some seventeen years on. They are now third-person shooters (presented at an angle, rather than top-down this time) in full 3D, thanks to the Unreal engine that powers them. You can spin the camera about left and right, to get a better view by degrees, a mechanic that, from the off, feels a little clunky. The environments are suitable murky and threatening, with aliens busting through walls and floors to get to you. I genuinely enjoyed running about, fighting off the baddies, finding the next thing on the list, although it never really felt like a challenge – just follow the waypoint and be quick with that mouse-trigger. The Unreal technology also enables cutscenes, and a host of visual effects to make things seem like a glitch in the wildest dreams of teenage, Amiga-owning Jim Rossignol.

This technology is robust and reliable enough for the game to never feel like it’s going to let you down. It’s stable, precise, and works just fine with mouse and keyboard. The pace of the main character is slow – although he can sprint – but that only adds to whatever tension the levels are able to create. Your enemies are always faster than you are, and Alien Breed becomes solidly about keeping the monsters from getting to you, and watching both your back, and your feet. The level design also moves between different levels, thanks to the tracking camera that the game is delivered with, which gives some depth to what could have been quite a flat world. It also mixes scripted events with general running about and shooting – everything you’d expect from the modern shooter. In many ways I think that’s just what many of us want: a tiny world to explore, things to shoot, weapons to unlock. It’s satisfying to do so.


However, despite this solid foundation, the truth is that the game feels very much as if it has been pulled together with only a modicum of ambition. It – of course- sits squarely in that “Aliens, only two degrees different” bracket that has been the default palette for so many sci-fi games in the past couple of decades. You know this. You’re probably okay with it. I mean, it’s a visual language we’ve all come to accept, but the over-familiarity can still be a drag. You don’t even have to play it to have a handle on the monsters you will face: small skittery things, larger faster things, egg-sacs, and boss monsters that are slow but, by Jove, have a lot of hit points. You know these archetypes as well as, or better than, you know your own family. The weapons that are provided for their destruction sit in similar familiarity, and are entirely dependable. The assault rifle, the shotgun…

In fact these modern Alien Breed games faithfully mimic much of what was to be found in the original games, down to the computer terminals that allowed you to buy stuff, and the selection of weapons that you gradually unlock as you collect cash across the levels. There are new features, of course: can search human corpses for loot, as well as collecting the stuff you find scattered around the level, and there’s a lot more interaction with the environment through switches and terminals. But still the basic process is one of heading forward so that you can kill more aliens, open up more level, and ultimately defeat the mastermind engineer enemy who has made your life difficult. I suppose there’s far more story in these new games and in Descent that is even set up by a comic sequence to explain previous chapters.

Comics: they are words AND pictures
Yet it’s also nothing that you’d bother to mention to anyone, for any reason, unless you were born of a subterranean anti-culture: “Hey guys, have you heard what happens in the Alien Breed games? There’s this spaceship, right, and these men with guns…” And nor, really, are the puzzles and door-opening quests that Alien Breed lays out in front of you more than is necessary to make the game complete. Some of the firefights you get into are tough, often simply because you are facing enemies coming from multiple directions at once, but the curse of Alien Breed is that it has been done better elsewhere. Although more visually impressive than Shadowgrounds, it’s actually far less interesting in terms of level design – a lot of back and forth for this and that. And of course if you are wanting to play a true co-op game then Valve’s free Alien Swarm game shines like a laser beacon through the alien biomass.

In some respects it seems petulant to lay out all these criticisms. If you were buying into a budget remake of an old game, you can’t really expect aim-for-the-skies design brilliance. You can demand a reasonable well crafted game, and that’s what you get here. If I were remaking games in the spirit of the ’90s originals then they would have come out like this (although perhaps a little more austere and threatening). Team 17 have clearly kept themselves to a tight schedule and tighter design doc to make sure these games came out regularly enough to be kept in the consumer consciousness. They are neatly stacked within the parameters of what we have come to expect from these kinds of games, and go no further. No layers of RPG cleverness or non-linearity. They’re each a few hours long, and priced accordingly. If your gaming chum is either my mate Tim circa 1992, or a more tolerant girlfriend, then they do pass the co-op test with a C+, but nevertheless Could Do Better.

What’s frustrating thing is, well, The Chaos Engine. Where is the remake of that? If these solid and unremarkable shooters get a shake in a modern context, then where’s the stuff that outshone their source material? Where are the reborn versions of the games with true pace and a mad storyboard? Where’s my steampunk Victoriana nightmare revisited? Where, indeed. This has nothing to do with this game, in real terms, and everything to do with my own history and predilections. It’s not even anything to do with Team 17′s accomplishments or goals and yet… the bigger picture is where the niggles about sinking time into another Alien Breed game come from.

In conclusion? Well, I’m not going to recommend the Alien Breed games, they’re just not bold or exciting enough, but I am going to recommend you try them for yourself. Alien Breed 3 has a demo here, and currently boasts 10% of the full game. I know that some of you will find entertainment enough in those alien-lined corridors, even if there’s nothing truly remarkable to say about them. I’ve also discovered a freeware remake (faithful but not precisely the same) of the original Alien Breed games, called Alien Breed Oblieration. Actually not a bad sampler if you want to recall the original flavour, although I think it might need a gamepad.

If Alien Breed 3 represents anything worth talking about, it’s the power that single ideas have exerted over video games for decades now: science fiction procedures that are almost second nature: Aliens as shorthand for grit in space. It was once the brooding alternative to shiny space opera, and now that seems redundant, too. Where now for the future of conflict among the stars?

*”Residual fondness” is potentially an excellent euphemism, no?

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74 Comments »

  1. clownst0pper says:

    The fundamental question though is why ever purchase Alien Breed, when Swarm is free? The answer is you don’t!

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      AB is a longer, single-player experience. AS is better, but only if you have four people.

    • frags says:

      Swarm is also really short. If another company offers something similar but with longevity for a small price, I’d take it.

    • kwyjibo says:

      Valve can crap out an Alien shooter with greater skill than the pinnacle of T17′s iterations.

      I mean, Team 17 are basically shit now. Just rename yourself “The Worms Company” and forget about anything else. A facebook microtransaction Worms would absolutely rake in the money, just do that.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      kwyjibo

      Transformice mixed with worms on facebook with a microtransaction system and persistant social aspects and you’d be a billionaire for life

  2. Bornemannen says:

    As someone that is still very interested in the old Amiga games (I still play them from time to time) I am having a hard time generating any interest in this. I think Jim is spot on in the review, although the first Alien Breed was really cool when it came out, other games did it sooooo much better and I would just love to see a remake of those games instead (The Chaos Enginge being the prime example).

    Since I have basically just rewritten what Jim wrote I figured I ‘d better add something new as well… Team 17 actually did two Alien Breed 3D corridor shooters (very doom inspired) back in the 90′s, they pretty much sucked and came out once almost everyone had abandoned the Amiga.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      AB3D1 was awesome, and not just because I did 12 pages of tips for it for Amiga Power and named all the bad guys after characters from My (So-Called) Life.

      AB3D2 was nob, but its review in the last issue of AP was a thing of beauty, complete with fake mark.

      (The full thing is here)

      Sniff. The last issue of AP. Awesome.

      KG

    • CraigT says:

      I thought the first Alien Breed 3D was pretty good. It had a decent Doom atmosphere and a very satisfying shotgun. However, you did need a decent Amiga spec to get any fun out of it otherwise it was just unplayable. An unexpanded A1200 just wasn’t powerful enough which is why I think most people dismissed it as crap.

      Unfortunately they got overambitious with Alien Breed 3D II. They tried to cram so much into the 3D engine (dynamic lighting, water effects, AI which would respond to sounds and alert fellow AI etc) that they pushed it way over the spec of the standard Amiga. You had to have a real powerhouse to get any playability out of it, and even then you will find youself trugging through empty corridor mazes for the majority of the time.

    • Hodge says:

      People tell me how great it was, but I could never get past the 2×2 graphics. I remember playing the demo, and I had motion sickness well before I made it to the end of the level. As far as I know, it was never patched/fixed for proper resolutions or ported to more capable hardware. Oh well :-/.

    • Bornemannen says:

      I think the problem was that you needed an expanded Amiga to play it (as CraigT says) and most people I knew that had Amigas couldn’t be bothered to expand them. I remember trying AB3D1 a couple of times but I just couldn’t get it to run properly on my vanilla A1200.

      I tried both of them a year ago or so on an expanded A1200 but I guess you need a certain amount of nostalgia to be able to look beyond the horrible graphics and enjoy the games.

      • wodin says:

        I gave away my amiga 1200 for free..in about 97..of what fool I was..it was in mint condition and boxed and everything..they go for a decent price now..

    • decanem says:

      i thought the ab3d games were both ace. i would love to replay them on a modern pc but i think it’s pretty impossible right?

    • tssk says:

      I had the CD32 version of Alien Breed 3D and it was very clunky. However with my SX-1 expansion and 8 meg of fast ram that game flew! Don’t know why adding fast ram made a difference over the chip ram. For the time it had some amazing level design that seemed to outdo Doom in some aspects. You could have levels and areas stacked on top of each other allowing walkways and the grenade launcher was a thing of beauty once you worked out how to bounce them off corners, something that came in useful when I played Battlefield 1942 with my mates years alter.

      And god help me, I even copied the soundtrack to my i-pod.

    • Bornemannen says:

      @decanem You can always run them on WinUAE (http://www.winuae.net/). You’ll need a kickstart (more or less a genuine amiga boot rom) file in order to run WinUAE but I’ll leave that to your internet skills.
      If you go to the excellent English Amiga Board at http://eab.abime.net you’ll find lots of information on how to get things to run properly etc.
      I’d also take a look at Hall Of Light at http://hol.abime.net, more or less a catalogoue of all known (and unknown) amiga games.
      Finally, in order to get rid of all the pesky disk-swapping go to http://www.whdload.de and download the excellent hd-install scripts, that will let you install the games on you hd, useful both on real amigas and emulators. You should be able to find packs of already installed games either on EAB or some torrent sites (almost all amiga games are abandonware).

    • Old Sam says:

      The first AB3D is indeed brilliant, the best of those Doom clones on the Amiga. Both work fine through UAE on a modern PC if you particularly want to play them… the graphics are a bit ropey by today’s standards though.

    • Jonathan Drain says:

      I like the spread of reviews on AB3D2. CU Amiga 92% (Superstar!), Amiga Format 96% Amiga Power 54%. Even with Amiga Power’s lower scale that’s quite a gap!

  3. clownst0pper says:

    Oh and to accompany this, I’d definitely recommend you check out the Alien Breed vs. Swam comparison over at Tap-repeatedly.com.

    http://tap-repeatedly.com/2010/08/26/alien-breed-impact-alien-swarm/#more-10048

  4. K says:

    Games that are as generic as AB give me the yawnies.

  5. subedii says:

    I’m actually surprised you mentioned Shadowgrounds, didn’t think very many people had ever played it. Was a decent game, but I really liked Shadowgrounds Survivor. They make minor changes but the game feels a lot tighter and focussed.

    As an aside, whenever I see “Descent”, I keep constantly thinking instead of the Zero-G FPS series.

  6. JackShandy says:

    I’ve got to thank you, Jim, for introducing me to the Chaos Engine. This is fantastic.

    (You can get it free from here :

    http://www.abandonia.com/en/games/162/Chaos+Engine,+The.html

    Assuming no-one else has mentioned it yet.)

    • subedii says:

      I’m pretty certain “abandonware” is still classed as copyright infringement.

      Old and unsupported or not, I’m not sure RPS allows links to abandonware sites here. Although I hesitate to say that as definitive until one of those people with moustaches in the “About” section comes in.

    • CMaster says:

      Well yes it is copyright infringement. But copyright infringement is a civil offence, not a criminal one, and if nobody actually owns the rights to protect them then no legal harm will occur. Equally, it’s hard to argue that the morally superior stance is to have the game available to noone because there isn’t a suitable entity to pay, rather than making it freely available to anyone.

  7. Mike says:

    What happened to Tim? Is he no longer around for videogame funtimes?

  8. Choca says:

    Is there a coop campaign this time or is the game still irrelevant ?

  9. fuggles says:

    This! This! A thousand times This! The chaos engine is one of the most sublime games ever made in terms of the level design which even years on I cannot fully work out all the areas, I just know that sometimes I can’t get to keys embedded in walls.

    I could easily write hundreds of words on the beauty of the chaos engine* and how it’s almost flawless in every aspect, however a lot of this is to do with playing it on the Amiga 500. The music and sound for this was frankly awesome, check out the intro:
    Amiga
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55jpHprP_ao
    PC
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs9RRfit67I

    Or you can get it on the megadrive, but with no voices, so the iconic “NODE ACTIVATED!” is not present, which clearly sucks, as does renaming the Preacher to the Scientist, whose perverse nature can presumably then be trusted. Even with this though, get any version you can and appreciate the world, the level architecture, the co-op brilliance and all round masterpiece that is the chaos engine.

    Curiously it looks like it was originally a 3 player thing:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOgkKiwnTwA

    and that the bitmap bros have been planning a remake since 2002:
    http://www.bitmap-brothers.co.uk/our-games/future/chaos-enginegba/body.htm.

    So come on bitmaps, just use the exact same code but make it go co-op on the internet with decent sound and I will one day expire a happy man.

    *so if you would like a gushing retrospective RPS, then I will very happily create one.

    • MadMatty says:

      hell, i even played Chaos Engine last year with a mate- still fun, although 8-way moving and shooting has had its time.

      Well put, Jim- i´ve had similar thoughts about games lately, aswell.
      Isn´t it boring to be alive, when people try to sell their games with ”Residual fondness”.
      “Aliens 1″ didn´t hit because it won in ”Residual fondness”, it was because it was fairly original, and it got pulled off extremely well.

      I mean, why use a Green Orc (TM), when you can stick parts of 6 different animals together??
      Is this ”Residual Fondness” really what a lad yearns for?

    • Gary W says:

      @fuggles

      The Chaos Engine and Speedball 2 are the only Amiga games I still play.

      All the remakes or re-releases of the latter that I’ve played have been either rubbish or flawed, so I’m not sure if I’d want a new Chaos Engine, even from the Bitmap Brothers themselves.

      “PARTY POWER!!!”

    • Stompywitch says:

      I would have bought the GBA remake instantly, but… alas, it’s not going to happen now :(

      iirc, Speedball GBA didn’t sell well enough.

      (The less said about The Chaos Engine 2, the better, really.)

    • Ringwraith says:

      If a Chaos Engine remake could be pulled off, I’m sure a lot of people would buy it.

      So so many hours I lost to that game.

      I do believe that a PC version existed, as I remember seeing a copy once in the distant past. Probably like gold dust now though.

    • Lachlan says:

      When the Speedball remake was mooted, a throwaway comment in one of the previews quoted the developers as saying that if it sold well, they would look into other Bitmap properties “like The Chaos Engine”.

      I immediately vowed to purchase the remake, no matter how poor, just to increase the chances of that happening.

      …never so much as glimpsed a box. I would still trade several organs (some of them even mine!) for a new Chaos Engine, though. Even as a Diablo clone, modern graphics could make those environments really shine.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      There was a Bitmap Brothers PC Collection with Cadaver, Gods and the like on it. But no Chaos Engine. I still want to slap them for that decision…

  10. Canape says:

    Chaos Engine! How does it run, Win UAE or dosbox?

    To be honest I found Team 17 releases were never outstanding. But they were very much an amiga developer, and respected the way they would jump from one genre to the next. Bitmaps just did it a little better, I guess.

    Amiga is a strange beast to attempt remakes; the Speedball redux…well, less said. A difficult era to recapture, maybe. PC/ 16-bit consoles have consumed that space.

    Although..Body Blows= better than Streetfighter 2, Gloom= better than Doom
    (I didn’t actually believe this)

  11. Mooglepies says:

    I love the original Alien Breed and the sequel. It was like Gauntlet in Space, with the stylings of Alien(s). Those last levels in the dark with the red flashing emergency lighting. Ack.

    PLAYER ONE REQUIRES KEYS.PLAYER ONE REQUIRES KEYS.PLAYER ONE REQUIRES KEYS.PLAYER ONE REQUIRES KEYS.PLAYER ONE REQUIRES KEYS.PLAYER ONE REQUIRES KEYS.

    • Sunjumper says:

      I loved the original Alien Breeds and I still like to play both part 2 and Tower Assault even now. Especially when there is a friend for co-op at hand.

      What puts me off of the new games is that it misses some of the originals virtues. For one it does not feel like Alien Breed, which at first I thought was because it was just such a generic setting. But Alien Swarm does, strangely enough.
      Also the levels are so very linear. The old game had rather large levles and there was always a sense of exploration and of space. Again gone from the new version as far as I can tell.
      It is so frustrating for me because it could be so much better.

      Well if the games come out in a tempting bundle I will get them. In the end I want them to succeed. I want Team 17 to be able to try again.

  12. Pianosaurus says:

    What we need is an Alien Swarm with Alien Breed art style. Also, it should run on my 5 year old laptop. And make coffee.

    By the way, who is this Kieron Gillen, with his differently coloured comments? He’s brilliant. You should hire him.

    • subedii says:

      Maybe this is me, but I hate the new Alien Breed’s art style, it’s like they hit Breed with Gears of War and expected it to stick.

      I’ve had the same problem with pretty much all of Epic’s recent games too. Ever since Gears of War (where they actually had a better outcome in making the look more cohesive and where it fit with the game more) they’ve been stuck not being able to get away from the “chunky chunk” space marine look. I hated that in UT3 as well. They got rid of the awesome day-glo sci-fi visuals of UT and turned the contrast knob down to “mostly monochrome” in an a bad attempt to make it look more GrimDark. Just didn’t suit the game.

      Then again, a lot of their decisions with UT3 just didn’t suit the game.

      But yeah, not terribly fond of the art-style.

  13. noobnob says:

    If anyone is interested in this game and its previous iterations, you should play the waiting game. A Team17 representative said that a bundle with all 3 of them will come in the future, probably in the beginning of the next year.

  14. internisus says:

    “Although more visually impressive than Shadowgrounds, it’s actually far less interesting in terms of level design”

    That has been my impression as well from the demos of these three games, and I am sorry to hear it confirmed. I quite like the Shadowgrounds games and am generally drawn to the sort of overhead perspective matched with tense flashlighting and creepy scripted things happening around the environment.

    I do very much wish that someone would make one of these that reversed the amounts of killing versus finding/fixing things. I mean, ideally the finding and fixing of things would be more interesting than it usually is (perhaps following the example of Dead Space’s machine bits), but in general I would just like to have less frequent but weightier for it fright/combats.

  15. Reverend Speed says:

    There’s a lot of problems with the Chaos Engine if you play it today. Motion AND aiming on the same stick? Really? Holding fire to get the special weapons? And, man, that game starts hard and ends on difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

    I can actually remember killing Baron Fortesque when I was, I guess twelve, and realising that my heart was beating so hard and fast in my chest that it was shaking my whole torso. Only game I’ve ever had to actually sit down and breath calmly to recover from.

    My GOD I love The Chaos Engine.

    Alongside Monkey Island 2, it’s probably the game that made me as a gamer. I love how it looks, I love how it sounds, I love the fact that it – one fantastical element aside (the Chaos Engine’s reality-warping effect) – it’s solid realist steampunk, a genre I was introduced to about the same time (with the difference engine).

    The graphics are still held up in pixel art circles as one of the finest examples of that medium, the sound is distinctive, sharp, original and highly informative… The music is exciting, industrial, atmospheric and ADAPTIVE TO YOUR LOCATION AND THE GAME EVENTS.

    Your AI companion isn’t shit…!

    I have obsessed too much about that game over the past twenty or so years and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so. I’ve got sprite sheets. I’ve got sound samples. I’ve recreated little bits of it in Alien Swarm. But would I welcome a remake?

    Well, I’ve actually got a perfectly fine modern replacement: Devil May Cry and its sequels. The atmospherics are off and (fond of them as I am) Dantés macho-camp antics are a far cry from the sober, industrial, repressive atmosphere of the game as I imagined it. But the gameplay is a PERFECT update for The Chaos Engine, it’s got that joy, that sense of risk, the crazy monsters, the colour and detail in the environments.

    That said… if somebody created a new Chaos Engine that combined cover elements with the free-form mayhem of DMC, kept it industrial Victorian steampunk… AND made it two-player?

    I would buy that in a body-slamming heartbeat.

    (MUST… NOT… RAMBLE ABOUT CHAOS ENGINE DESIGN FANTASIES)

    By the way… the artist behind The Chaos Engine is still around – Dan Malone. http://danmalone.deviantart.com/ Even just thinking about the portraits he drew for the six characters of The Chaos Engine gets my brain excited and thinking up stories for The Brigand, The Thug, The Gentleman, The Mercenary, The Preacher and, my favourite, The Navvy. I know, a lot of this was nostalgia, but those archetypes carry a lot of potential for a steampunk story and I can’t help but dream. =)

    Notice how I keep repeating the name ‘The Chaos Engine’ just to keep you thinking about The Chaos Engine which may lead to you trying The Chaos Engine and perhaps passing The Chaos Engine onto others? Yeah, that’s another influence talking. =)

    • Ringwraith says:

      Well, the companion AI wasn’t terrible provided you invested some cash in that department.

      ..and only if you hadn’t picked the Navvy as backup, as his max intelligence was by far the lowest.
      He’d be more stupid than the others anyway.

    • Chris D says:

      @Reverend Speed

      “Motion AND aiming on the same stick? Really?”

      That might be because in those days we only had one stick. With a single red button, maybe two if you were posh and had the swanky, deluxe version. Traditionally I should now go on for a bit about how those were the days and the youth of today don’t know they’re born but my heart isn’t really in it.

    • Reverend Speed says:

      Re: One stick, dude, I was that soldier. But it’s constructive to mock older, helpless games by comparing their control methods to modern systems.

      Basically the Alien Swarm method should cover that, if you wanted to do a ‘faithful’ remake.

  16. ran93r says:

    Also raising hand for Chaos Engine reboot, loved that game, The Bitmaps at the time could do no wrong in general.

  17. Hippo says:

    “The Chaos Engine”

    OMG

  18. Vodka & Cookies says:

    I’d love for someone to interview the Bitmap Brothers (hint) they had such a distinct style to their games even across different genres. It’s a shame they bowed out of the games business I think a remake of Z called Steel Soldiers was their last title.

    The opening music from God and Xenon 2 are burned into my brain forever.

  19. Canape says:

    Opening music to Xenon 2……that was Bomb The Bass, right?

    Awesomeness.

    • Στέλιος says:

      Oh yes. Bomb the Bass – Megablast. Dont’ forget Gods!

    • Angry Internet Man says:

      The Bitmaps had some kind of cross marketing promotion with the label Rhythm King back then, resulting in lots of cool title tracks. Xenon 2 had Bomb the Bass (Megablast!), Gods was Nation 12 (Speedball 2 too I think), and The Chaos Engine had an awesome Joi track. And then there was Betty Boo on Magic Pockets…

  20. chrząszcz says:

    Tower Assault was the pinnacle of the series.

    Also, back in the 90′s it was the only (or one of the few) top-down shooters in an Alien-esque setting. The theme has been done to death in the last few years, so no wonder a straight reboot/remake will generate a “been there, done that” impression in 2010.

    • Martin Kingsley says:

      This! Tower Assault was well brilliant, so it was. And remarkably gory, too (at least, on the PC, where I played it). Those first few levels, entering the hospital, the blood-smeared walls (and corpses, too, as I recall). Incredibly atmospheric.

  21. Fwiffo says:

    Well this article fast became Wot I Want: Chaos Engine Remake. And all the better for it.

  22. Reverend Speed says:

    Just for fun, here’s a scan of Dan Malone artwork from The One magazine circa 1993. I’ve got a bigger version, but this should do for nostalgia…

    http://yfrog.com/18chaosenginegroupcastimap

    And don’t look at me like that for owning a copy of The One. It had images of THE CHAOS ENGINE 2 in it, along with sprite sheets. How could we have known the sequel would have been so…

    …ambitious?

    You’ll note The Navvy was clearly the hero of the group. Look at that mustache – it takes guts and leadership to wear one of those in public.

    Back to dreams of a Chaos Engine RPG/Devil May Cry hybrid that sees our intrepid heroes making a turbulent landing on the shores of a ruined, mutated steampunk England…

    NODE ACTIVATED.

    • fuggles says:

      Clearly Sir, the Gentleman, going in with a trench coat, pipe and a pistol, was clearly the star. Now there’s a man with a plan – why take any heavy duty firepower when you can have a map?

  23. Reverend Speed says:

    I’m sure the Gentleman would have an input, but I had always felt that the Navvy would have had the engineering skills and personal strength to make the largest contribution in shutting down the Engine. And then there’s the themes of a rising (?) working class, that many navvys of the time were Irish, the growing activities of the IRB (as mentioned in the Difference Engine)…

    …Just seemed like a natural anti-hero to contrast with the thug, the adrenaline junkies, the gentleman and the man of the cloth that comprised the rest of the party.

    Making the Gentleman the key figure seems a little… obvious for steampunk? Then again, why on earth is there a Preacher mixed up in all this? Is he Catholic or Protestant? What would those choices imply for a story set in that period?

    Also, must not forget that the original design (as discussed in said One article) revealed a dropped character, the Lady. Gowns and bustles and pistols oh my.

    Who in England’s green and unpleasant wasteland has survived the chaos, and how? What IS the chaos? How do you account for the monster generators in the game? What’s the purpose of the nodes? If the Navvy is an outlaw, why is he trying to help England and how does the law treat him? And on and on…

    Obv. a fanboy as big as me has his own ideas about these issues, but they’re kinda fun questions thrown up by the scenario.

    I imagine this thread will submerge without trace in an hour or so, but it’s been fun to air one of my little obsessions. =)

  24. Adam Whitehead says:

    Something I never entirely got was why both ALIEN BREED 1 and 2 were full-price but they were also rather short but extremely tough, whilst their budget-priced spin-offs (ALIEN BREED SPECIAL EDITION ’92 and TOWER ASSAULT) were much bigger, more interesting and, whilst still tricky, weren’t as frustratingly hard.

    TOWER ASSAULT I think was the best of the 2D games, due to the open level design and the (somewhat) greater freedom, not to mention you didn’t get stuck in walls as often as the other ones. Being the last, it also had the best, crispest graphics. The only problem was that it was often unclear where you had to go next and whether blowing up the building or level you were on was a good idea or not (as sometimes that would cut off the rest of the base). Still, great fun.

  25. wererogue says:

    2 years ago, I worked for the small, now defunct, company that held the rights to make games from the Bitmap Brothers back catalog. According to our CEO, the reason we weren’t making a remake of The Chaos Engine (which I asked him repeatedly – it became a running joke) was that every time he pitched it to publishers, they couldn’t care less. Damn shame.

  26. MD says:

    I’ve tried everything, but I can’t get the scent of residual fondness out of my bedsheets :-(

  27. Jez says:

    Skipping Tower Assault was a bad move. Tower Assault made up for AB2 sucking. ABSE and AB:TA were where it was at.

    TA was even a little non-linear! Yeeaah, memories. Memories that avoid AB3D2 as much as possible.

  28. Pantsman says:

    ‘sits squarely in that “Aliens, only two degrees different” bracket that has been the default palette for so many sci-fi games in the past couple of decades.’

    If only every game meeting this description would put it as a quote on the box. Sadly we don’t live in that world.

  29. Melf_Himself says:

    Liked: The way they did the comic-style narrative. I actually found it a really refreshing alternative to boring old cut scenes and haven’t played another game that did it quite like this.

    Missed: That sense of oh-my-god-what-the-fuck-do-i-do-where-is-the-exit-the-whole-fracking-level-is-about-to-explode from the original Alien Breed. You and your friend clocked it multiple times? What. The. Me and my friend that played his Amiga 500 every possible morning all day every day could only manage to get to like the third level. It was nuts hard. This game just didn’t feel the same.

    It’s a shame you say the co-op doesn’t work. I had ear-marked it for girlfriend rainy-daying myself (she being of some strange subspecies that is more amenable to playing the pointy shooty games than it sounds like the Lady Rossignol is).

    Chaos Engine was awesome. Bitmap Brothers were awesome. In fact it seems as though just about every other game on the Amiga was awesome (Speedball 2, Monkey Island, Lemmings, Prince of Persia, Syndicate… such classics).

    Why are game developers so much less awesome nowadays? Even the ones who previously were awesome, like Team 17. Is it just getting harder now? Is it kind of like if Isaac Newton were re-incarnated and he was all like…. “the apple! it falls from the tree, now I understand!…” and everyone was like lol, noob.

  30. Easydog says:

    It’s great to see Chaos Engine getting a little love here, I find it’s rare to even find people who know what the hell it is. Incidentally I find that the easiest way to play it is to get a Sega Genesis Emulator and the ROM. I still struggle with DOS Box.

  31. roryok says:

    For one horrible minute there I thought this article was cheering Breed, which is possibly one of the worst games I’ve ever played a demo of. It left me horribly disfigured.

    I got better…

  32. stahlwerk says:

    Oh my, first steps towards self-awareness detected!

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