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                          Review: Alien Breed 3D
                            By:  Jason Compton 
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HOW long were we waiting for this game?  It seems like forever ago that the
demos came out, with what looked like the most complex Doomish game engine
for the Amiga, if not the one with the biggest screensize.

Now the real game is out.  Yet another installment in the overworked Alien
Breed franchise, AB3D retains the rather small viewing window of the demos
but does indeed sport a gaming engine in some ways more advanced than the
standard benchmark, Doom for the PC.  The reflective/refractive/noise
dampening water is the best example.  On the other hand, AB3D has less
weapon choices, no automatic mapping (the lack of which has been defended
by author Andy Clitheroe as unrealistic--Would you map if you were running
around shooting aliens?), and saving can only be done between levels, with
a password.

No, it's not perfect.  But it is pretty fun to play, and has been designed
for playable speed on low-end AGA Amigas, which results in lightning
quickness on an 040/25 or so.  The aliens are actually pretty disgusting
and scary and sound like it, both when shooting at you and when dying.  The
game's sound effects and scarcity of resources (it's not difficult at all
to run out of ammo completely) create a very claustrophobic atmosphere,
which is diminished somewhat by the static border that surrounds the
viewing window, which shows you which of the 4 colored keys per level
you've collected.  There is a human heart in the center, which presumably
is supposed to do something, but doesn't.  It has the look and feel of an
unimplemented idea...

Speaking of unimplemented ideas, Clitheroe is working on what is
tentatively being called Alien Breed 3D Special Edition, a new game engine
which will allow for more resolution flexibility (as it is now, you are
stuck with what you are given, period), more engine features and shading
advancements (right now your big choice is to decide how much texture the
floor has), and new levels.  Initially, there was to be a free patch for
certain new features for existing owners but Team17 was encouraged enough
by the brisk AB3D sales to decide to market a new product, which will
include a level editor.  (The original AB3D levels will apparently not be
included but will be playable in the new engine provided you own AB3D.)

I found AB3D quite playable with a joystick, which is in a sense a bad
thing because you'll still be relying on the keyboard for such things as
strafing, ducking, and looking behind you (an excellent and obvious, yet
unusual, feature.)  Developers really need to start supporting the
CD32-style gamepads for non-CD32 machines, they're quite flexible and
useful.  Some might even like them to go a step further and support
PC-style analog joysticks, many of which support more buttons and switches
than seems reasonable.

The issue and idea of future releases is all well and good (previously,
AB3D was to be Team17's last Amiga release), but that's not important to
the question of whether or not AB3D is fun to play.  Yes.  Is it
frustrating to play?  Well, the interesting thing is that the more machine
speed you have, the more playable the game will be, yet the more you'll
want to have more screen resolution and a larger viewing area.  The game is
good enough to stand on its own, although the engine is not quite perfect,
as white pixels are noticable where some wall seams aren't rendered
properly.  But the satisfaction of blowing away the three red crawly things
around the corner soon makes you forget about that.

If there's one reason not to buy AB3D, it's the damned copy protection.
Look, I don't mind document protection.  But I find glossy black ink on
shiny black paper to be absolutely intolerable.  I'd sooner they ask me to
TRANSLATE the word on Page 23 of the manual from German to English.
Luckily, the game is HD installable with a minimum of fuss, but that
doesn't excuse the black-on-black.

It's not Doom.  I'm not sure it's really captured the excitement Doom
created when it was released.  But it is a very playable and quite polished
texture-mapped Doom-genre game with excusable flaws, a popular topic, and
with promised enhancements to come...