Breed Download (2004 Arcade action Game)

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Breed is a 3D action game with elements of a space strategy, a combat flight simulation, and a first-person shooter. Players command a faster-than-light ship through the voids of space, pilot an agile shuttle to the planet's surface, then take the first-person roles of commando soldiers to eliminate enemy forces on the ground, all in one smooth transition.

In a distant future, mankind has learned to travel between the stars and has founded a new colony on a distant planet. With no warning, the colony is attacked by a strange cyborganic race known as the Breed. Forces are sent from Earth for protection, but by the time they complete their long journey the colony is nearly destroyed.

After a devastating battle the colonial defenders are victorious, but at a great cost. It seems the attack at the colony was merely a diversion, for they return to Earth to find the home planet has been invaded in their absence. In command of one of Earth's few remaining battle-worthy space ships, the player must wage a desperate struggle in space, in the air, and on the ground to protect the planet from the ruthless invaders.

To get a sense for what Breed is trying to accomplish, just think Halo, but with budgetware production values. You've got a similar storyline, the same visual aesthetic, and the same gameplay elements. In Breed, a squad of marines squares off against a swarm of gibbering aliens. You're limited to carrying two weapons at a time. You have several sequences where you drive buggies, tanks, or aircraft. Most of the game takes place in large outdoor environments. Bullet point for bullet point, Breed seems to be imitating Halo.

But that's in theory. The execution is a bit different. The story, as such, consists of a single character: a gruff drill sergeant fellow characterized by some of the worst voice acting this side of your local auto dealer's AM radio commercials. Every now and then, this sergeant delivers a bit of exposition about aliens called the Breed. But most of the time, he just tells you what to do, which usually involves traveling to a waypoint and shooting at stuff along the way. There are a couple of escort missions and timed missions, but the point is still to shoot stuff along the way.

There are basically two enemies you fight: the Breed, which resemble the hair-dryer-headed robots from the recent Star Wars movies, and their little robots, which resemble tiny television sets with legs. Everyone you meet tends to run straight at you and then stop to fire. Every so often, the A.I. will execute a lateral roll that was kind of cool six years ago when you saw the Skaarj doing it in Unreal.

Then there are your teammates, who are competent enough when it comes to shooting at things. They're even pretty good about keeping up with you and only occasionally getting in your way. They'll share health kits and ammo with you. You can break their pathfinding if you get too far ahead or try to do something radical like ride an elevator. But one of Breed's few innovative touches is the way you can jump into the skin of each of your teammates by tapping PageUp or PageDown. This lets you unstick lost guys, although sometimes it's not worth it. Sometimes one of them will fall down a long insurmountable incline and you might as well leave the poor sucker down there. Jumping into your different teammates is more valuable for the way it lets you use different weapons. Assuming the A.I. hasn't blown all the ammo, many of the missions are made a lot easier by jumping into your sniper to clear towers and gun emplacements.

Unfortunately, there's nothing the least bit imaginative about the weapons. Stop me if you've heard this one: automatic rifle with a grenade launcher, shotgun, rocket launcher, machinegun, sniper rifle, flamethrower. Then you've got the Breed's arsenal of glowing blue energy versions of these guns. You could use them if you wanted, but they seem to have been designed to fire everywhere except where you're aiming. Most of the guns, human and Breed, seem to fire with a polite cough, lacking any sense of oomph.

Some of the vehicles, however, do have some oomph. Perhaps because the handheld guns are so deferential, Breed's tank is a hoot, sporting three firing positions and a main gun with four different kinds of ammo and separate firing modes for ground and air targets. When you hop into this, there's a sense of "yee-haw, now we're getting somewhere!" But five minutes later, you're back to an on-foot mission. There's also a buggy, which is less of a hoot because the vehicle physics don't have any of the freewheeling daredevilry of Halo or Far Cry. And all of the aircraft are absolute killjoys, especially the jet pack, which is like trying to play Lunar Lander with a broken mouse. Breed is the first action game I've played in which I died because my space fighter stalled.

Breed's graphics are serviceable in a 1990s, pre-Far Cry kind of way, with low-resolution textures, stiff animation, and clunky smoke and lighting effects. The world is bright and colorful with an almost cheery Dr. Seuss palette coloring the derivative artwork. It's like a children's version of Halo. Although the environments tend to be wide-open areas, the level design uses islands, cliffs, roads, and bridges to shunt you from waypoint to waypoint with little freedom. It is nice to see towers that can be destroyed and trees that can be knocked over. It would be nicer to see them in an engine that didn't crash so often and take such a long time to load.

Okay, so you're thinking that maybe multiplayer might be Breed's saving grace. With these big island levels and muscular tanks, maybe there's a hearty assault mode or even some team-based capture the flag kind of stuff for people who don't have the hardware for Unreal Tournament 2004. No dice. Unlike the huge-scale team games that were originally touted, with battles happening simultaneously on and above the planet, there's only deathmatch. In fact, some of the maps include vehicles, as if someone forgot to remove them when teamplay was scrapped.


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