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Alien Breed 3D II - The Killing Grounds
By: Ken Anderson
At last - Yes, it's here. The wordily-named "Alien Breed 3D II - The
Killing Grounds" (hereafter TKG), the most eagerly awaited game for the
Amiga since the last Alien Breed 3D, slipped into the shops on the 24th
July, after what seems like years of waiting.
The first thing to point out is that TKG loves power. Nay, it demands it.
Playing this game on a stock A1200 is like having sex with 3 condoms on -
better than nothing, but it's slower, more difficult and generally not as
good as the real thing. The game is shipped with both 2 and 4 megabyte
version - the former runs in 2x2 mode, meaning every block on the main
playing screen is made up of a square, 2 pixels wide. It gives you enough
detail to see what's going on, but you can't appreciate the true hard work
that has gone into TKG. Showing this mode to a PC owner will result in
minus several thousand street cred points, so don't do it.
Feed TKG to anything better than an 68030/25-equipped Amiga, and you start
to see things a little more clearly. Coupled with 4Mb of memory, the extra
power will allow the 1x1 mode, where the screen is made up of individual
pixels. Robots that were a mass of blocks in chunky old 2x2 mode show up
as lean, mechanical killers in 1x1. The ankle-biting aliens that
previously looked as if they were being viewed through your bathroom window
now look fearsome, deadly, and to be avoided.
The second thing to point out is that TKG is very, very tough. It took me
3 days of on-off playing to get past the second level, and that was only by
the skin of my teeth. Ammo, in the initial levels at least, is scarce,
forcing you to make every shot count. The aliens attack in ferocious
waves, enducing panic-filled spinning around, desperately trying to
orientate yourself enough to get a clear shot. The levels are
well-designed, with secret passages, hiding holes and even the odd
ventilation system for you to crawl around in, Bruce Willis style.
Of course, you are not alone in this playground - the Alien Breed of the
title are out for you. In the first game, they weren't such a clever
bunch. You could rely on them to follow certain patterns, and take
advantage of such rigid artificial intelligence. In TKG, no more - those
damn aliens are smart (except for the stupid ones, of course). Even though
they can't see you, most can hear you - a missed potshot at a dozing robot
will result in the thing chasing after you. This can also work to your
advantage, of course - no better way to lure the scum out that to loose off
a few rounds outside their hiding place.
The game engine has been improved almost beyond recognition, so you can now
look up and down - especially useful in some levels for peering down over a
ledge to blast an unsuspecting beastie. Every level is now lightsourced -
blasts from guns will temporarily light up dark caverns, and aliens and
objects are silhouetted by explosions beyond them.
The light effects, and in particular the sound effects, give the game a
very strong atmosphere - play the game with the lights off and the speakers
turned up, and I guarantee you'll jump backwards when that walker appears
around the corner, headlights - and laser cannon - blazing. The pounding,
almost subliminal, sound effects grow steadily quieter and louder as the
game and the pace vary.
In fact, technical issues aside, it is the atmosphere generated by TKG that
sets it apart from the rest of the croud. You ARE the lone fighter, stuck
in a room with a family of blood-sucking mutants after you. Your task
isn't simply to get from the start to the end of the level; it's to blow up
X, find out more about Y whilst crawling around Z.
Once every last bit of playability has been exhausted from the game, you
can resign just about all of the game with the supplied game editors. The
level design, alien intelligence, objects and most other game elements can
be customised, enabling the player to create their own little world in
which to kill things. PC fans will know that there is a wealth of
user-created Doom levels on the Internet, and I expect this will become the
case with TKG too. Sadly, a vital file required for the running of the
level editor was missed in the final distribution of TKG. Team 17 should
have the file ready for release by the time you read this.
In summary, TKG is the finest Amiga "Doom-clone" ever written, and can hold
it's head up against other platforms too. It combines atmosphere,
technical genius and sound gameplay design to produce an instant Amiga
classic. This is the standard on which others will be judged.
Team 17, once the darlings of the Amiga games scene, have been publicly
pessimistic about the Amiga's future. It is only the instinct that has
been bred into them and the sheer skill of TKG's programmer, Andy
Clithereo, that has brought TKG into existence. Do not let their skill and
trust go unrewarded. If you like what you have read here, buy the game.
This time, the Amiga's future really IS in your hands.
There are also reported problems running TKG from a hard drive. Exactly
what causes the problem is unclear at the time of writing, but various
suggestions have been put forward in comp.sys.amiga.games. Anyone having
trouble with the game would be best advised to keep an eye on c.s.a.g and
Team 17's Web Site (http://www.team17.com).
Pros: Unsurpassed atmosphere, and probably the most technically advanced
game ever written for the Amiga. Enough challenge and levels to keep you
at it for a long time to come, and when you've finally beaten it, there's
the level editor to keep you going. Oh, and one more go, please.
Cons: Incredibly tough, which creates frustration. Needs a pretty porky
Amiga to get the best from it.