Alien Breed 3D 2: The Killing Grounds logo AGA

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

It's been a long wait, but now it's finally here. The Killing Grounds must be the biggest Amiga game to come out since, ooh, Sensible World of Soccer? It's been hyped up quite a bit, with claims flying about that it will be so much better than its competitors. The whole Amiga Doom scene now seems to have died down, and the fuss around Gloom, Fears and Breathless has pretty much dispersed. This may explain why The Killing Grounds was delayed for around three or four months.

I was quick to install AB3D 2, but as the game began I did feel unbelievably disappointed. However, this was almost entirely due to the fact that I had just played Alien Trilogy on the Playstation, and unfortunately this only made Team 17's little baby look pretty bad and unplayable. But there wasn't much I could do about that.

Even though the PC and the PlayStation are technically superior, I still think they should be compared with the Amiga - they are in direct competition after all.

If a home computer is needed, it's usually a tug-of-war between the Amiga and PC, but even as a games machine the Amiga would unfortunately be the last choice. Clearly the Amiga cannot match the PC graphically, but other aspects should not present so much of a problem.

In terms of playability, for example, Amiga games should be as good - if not better - than their PC equivalents. There can be no excuses for meeting these standards.

The Amiga games scene has been at its worst recently, and it has affected me personally. I have become very skeptical about any game that comes into the office for review - some of them even end up in the bin, as they are not even worthy of inclusion in the magazine. This has been the story for quite a few months, although admittedly there have been one or two decent footy games which have managed to hold my attention recently.

Anyway, enough of the ranting. The question on everyone's lips is: "Is AB3D 2 the best Doom clone on the Amiga?" Well, let's find out.

To be honest, everyone in the office agreed that it wasn't as good as we had imagined. Don't get me wrong; it's not a bad game, it still presents a really good challenge...

The game comes on five disks, with one disk for either the 2Mb or 4Mb version. So, if you do want to upgrade to 4Mb, Alien Breed 3D 2 will happily comply without you having to incur any unnecessary expense.

The other disks are for the levels, sound effects and the level editor, which allows you to design your own custom level and maybe uploaded it to Team 17's Web page for others to play. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there is a problem with the game editor, which is apparently missing a file. To get your hands on this missing piece of software you can either ring Team 17 and explain the situation, or download the file from its Website,.

The major problem for unexpanded or, if you like 2Mb owners, is that you won't be able to use the editor. At least that might give you the push you need to purchase more memory or an accelerator. Having said that, this version is much faster, and I'd rather have speed than graphics anyday.

Also, with the unexpanded version, you have to concede all the floor textures, weapon graphics and just about all the graphical atmosphere, so it ends up looking like a very bad version of Gloom. However, the same game is hiding behind the dire look, and it is more playable than the 4Mb version, which is littered with good graphics and no speed. In fact it's no better than the first Alien Breed 3D, and here's me thinking this is supposed to be a sequel.

At first I tried the 4Mb version of Alien Breed 3D 2 on a 060 with 6Mb, but found I couldn't play it full-screen. It was far too jerky, so I resorted to playing it half-screen turn with the lighting effects turned off. I still have no idea why a full-screen mode was included, as its pointless unles you want to see what the game's like when it's unplayable.

To be honest, everyone in the office agreed that it wasn't as good as we had imagined. Don't get me wrong, if's not a bad game, it still presents a really good challenge, and will have any Doom fan going ecstatic, although there are too many minor problems to attain a commendable score of around 90%.

The HD installation for the 4Mb version refused to work on our A1200 and A4000, although the 2Mb version was fine.
The monsters are supposed to have some intelligence, that is if you call being cornered and continually blasted from all angles by about 10 dense robots intelligent. They're not even clever enough to work out how to open doors.

Overall the game is just about above average. The graphics do not make up for the speed in any way, and when you turn off the lighting effects and shading you end up with a fast game with absolutely no atmosphere.

Final word

I know there'll be Amiga gamesplayers everywhere who will disagree with me, but nothing will make me forget the smirks I received from the PC department as they loaded up Quake and Duke Nukem - the two games just overshadowed it completely. Can the Amiga compete with the PC? I don't think so. Not now.

Alien Breed 3D 2: The Killing Grounds logo AGA Amiga Format Gold

A gang of crazed aliens burst out of our postbag with all manner of evil alien weapons blazing. We just pointed them in Andy Smith's direction.

This is it - possibly the most important game release for the Amiga this year, and possibly our last, best hope for a decent Doom clone. The plot follows on from the first Alien Breed game, so I'm not even going to start getting into the storyline here. Also, as you complete each of the 16 levels in this game you're given a screen or two of text which fills you in with exactly what's going on anyway.

Besides, the last thing I want to do is ruin the fun you're going to have when you buy the game and start to discover what's going on for yourself. Suffice to say this game's got a cohesive storyline running all the way through it that adds to the atmosphere and excitement.

So what am I going to tell you about this game? I'm going to tell you what it's like to play Alien Breed 3D II. But first, a couple of lines of backgrounds: it's a Doom clone on the Amiga. It's you versus a whole bunch of flying, running, crawling - but all tough - alien monsters. Or, in two player mode, it's you versus a mate in a pure Deathmatch battle (c'mon chaps, good though the A1200 is, it's not going to handle the data flying between two linked Amigas fast enough to have monsters running around in there as well.)

Collect 'n' Kill
Rush around the levels, shoot pretty much anything that moves, collect ammo, collect medikits, collect security keys and passcards that allow you access to otherwise inaccessible parts of the level, collect 'n' kill. In a nutshell.

It's 2am. You're a 19 year old bloke. It's Saturday night and the clubs are kicking out - that includes you. You have spent the night chasing this gorgeous girl in the club, the kind of girl that encapsulates everything you could ever wish for in a young woman. It wasn't until you'd bought her second drink that her gorilla/thug of a boyfriend made his presence known and made it clear that he wasn't impressed with you giving his young lady your attentions.

You know she doesn't like him as much as she likes you (hey, you're 19 after all), but you also know that you don't want a broken nose. It's definitely time to find your mates.

They've all left. You stand in the drizzle outside the club for a few minutes before deciding they've probably all left and it's time to head for home. Forgoing the burger van you head for the shortcut through the park to your side of town.

Watching your feet as you walk along - amazed how they just seem to run on autopilot - they just keep going one in front of the other! Incredible! You don't even have to think about walking as you amble from one side of the pavement to the other but still going vaguely forward. Anyway, you're mind's on something else. Someone else.

You remove the cigarette dangling from your mouth as you reach the alleyway that is the shortcut. You look up and your heart drops. Up ahead is gorilla/thug and three of his mates. They're stood around, laughing. They spot you a second after you spot them. Your heart's pounding.

Gorilla/thug stops laughing when he recognises you. He pushes himself up from the railings he's been leaning against. His mates stop laughing as they first look at him and then follow his gaze to you. Your heart is absolutely pounding.

To achieve the same effect, turn the lights off, plug your A1200 into the stereo, shut all the doors and start playing Alien Breed 3D II. Yes really. And how's this feeling achieved? Through a combination of several factors, so let's take 'em one by one (c'mon then! C'MON THEN!)

Factor one: lighting. Dark and eerie for the most part but with excellent highlighting throughout - you just feel that the lights you see up ahead are real. Likewise, the dark tunnel up ahead could contain anything - you fire a plasma bolt down the tunnel and watch the light the plasma bolt emanates to see if anything shows up. You watch as the plasma bolt impacts on the wall at the end of the tunnel - lighting up the area around the impact for a few brief seconds. Tremendous stuff.

Factor two: weapon variety - you know all about this really, how it's best to use some weapons in some situations and others in er, others. Like lobbing grenades into areas thick with baddies and saving the big lasers for the big baddies. Common sense really. One thing that must be mentioned is the explosions - Tremendous stuff!

Factor three: enemies. Loads of 'em. Loads of different kinds and yes, they do have some semblance of intelligence in the way they gang up on you and move around so it's harder for you to hit 'em. And they only track you by sight, so if you're a good ducker and weaver, you can surprise them. One point here though - I found it bloody difficult to shoot at things in the air - especially when you have two or three baddies on the ground as well.

Your shots tend to go for the ground targets first which tends to give the airborn baddies a free hand at your energy level. The thing to do is run around (if possible) until you can get 'em separated (but that does usually mean you running around into a new bunch of baddies).

Find your way
Factor four: auto-map. This superimposed map is a Godsend. Use it often. You don't end up playing off the map because it becomes too confusing to look at both, but when you've got a spare moment to call the thing up it's mighty handy.

Factor five: sound. Spooky. Extremely good attempt to make sound cues a vital part of the gaming experience and they work too. Some of the sounds are crap though - the levels with metallic floors are a pain because your tin shoes clatter along them constantly. The "monster-dying" sounds also grated on me. But maybe that's just me.

Overall the way sound's been used in this game is a great example of how sound, when used well, can really enhance the playing experience - and I'm not talking about jolly little ditties that spark the action up, I'm talking the eerie sounds of monsters-in-a-room-not-too-far-away.

All the other factors: level design - varied, challenging, including areas you don't have to go if you don't want to. Difficulty curve: starts out bloody hard and gets bloodier and harder.

Put that lot together and you have a formidable combination that is fun and exciting to play. Apparently, the game's full of secrets to discover as well (we all know the first one was full of secret areas to find) and I have to come clean here and tell you I didn't find any (the only thing you can ever find is a pint at the end of your arm - Ed).

I don't doubt that there are loads, but I'm a more kinda progress player - all I want to do is find whatever it is. I need to get me onto the next level. I dare say that some day I'll go back to look around for secrets and stuff - especially on the levels I'd got to know like the back of my hand.

The Best
But surely 16 levels isn't going to last? For a start, yes it is. These levels are tough! You'll be crying they're too tough at some points and I'd probably have to agree with you. The most noticeably difficult ones are when the level starts with you facing half a dozen monsters who are in the air and another half a dozen lumbering their way towards you on the ground.

But there's the level designer included in the game. Now you can make up your own levels, swap 'em with mates or even upload them to Team 17's Web site (well the good ones anyway). You can even use your own textures and graphics. Blimey! The fun just never stops!

It's unoriginal. It's been done to death, as a gaming genre, and even the Amiga had its fair share of games of this type, but that doesn't stop the enjoyment. This game is a joy to play. No, it's still not as polished as Doom II or Quake, but then you don't have to spend £2,000 on a machine that will enable you to play one of those games. What you get is a bloody good approximation of those two games with the same level of excitement and tension, but with slightly less polished graphics.

If you've already got a good Doom clone like Alien Breed or Gloom, you haven't got the best. This is the best. Go and get it and don't worry about having any spare time for two or three months.


A bog-standard A1200 is fine to run this game. It just means you have to run the game in a small pre-determined window. if you've got an accelerator card of some sort, then you can run the thing at almost the same speed in full-screen mode. This is really scary when the lights are off!

Alien Breed 3D 2: The Killing Grounds
The very start of the game. Here's how the screen looks like in full-screen mode. It slows things down however, so most of the time you'll be playing the game like this...

Alien Breed 3D 2: The Killing Grounds
Exactly the same shot as the last one, but this time with a much reduced window size to keep things zipping along.


It's traditional in these games to find the biggest, hardest, porkiest weapon and stick with it (ammo allowing). That's not always such a tremendous idea in AB3D II because some of the bigger weapons get in your way. You can't really see much of the screen when you're using 'em! Of course they're still useful, but they're best used when you know that, say, there's a really big robot round the next corridor. Back off, switch the big weapon, rush round the corner, loose off a couple of shots and duck back down the alley. Change weapons again and then go take a tentative look around the corner.

Alien Breed 3D 2: The Killing Grounds
A situation you'll find yourself in a lot. Down there it's a bit dark and scary. Instead of just pelting down there blind...

Alien Breed 3D 2: The Killing Grounds
...try lighting the place up first! Pump a shot down the corridor and any potential hazards will be highlighted. You've got to have spare ammo for this though.

Alien Breed 3D 2: The Killing Grounds
And just to show you how much those big weapons can hinder your vision. Here's the same shot as the last two, but with a bloody great rocket launcher taking up most of the screen.

Alien Breed 3D 2: The Killing Grounds logo AGA Amiga Joker Hit

Der zweite 3D-Dungeon der englischen Aliens soll angeblich der letzte sein, um so genauer nahm man es bei Team 17 hier mit dem Feinschliff. Für die Fans bedeutete das einerseits monatelange Verzögerungen der Veröffentlichung, andererseits nun aber auch einen weiteren Meilenstein des Actiongenres!

Um Spaßeshalber mal mit dem Fazit zu beginnen: Alien Breed 3D II ist nicht weniger als der wohl packendste Baller-Kerker am Amiga überhaupt, basta. Hier kumuliert das in letzter Zeit weidlich ausgereiste Konzept in einer nahezu perfekten Mixtur aus fesselnder Atmosphäre, phantastischer Spielbarkeit und bahnbrechender Technik!

Kein Wunder, denn die Allianz aus Produzent Andy Clitheroe, den Codern bei Team 17 und dem Vertrieb Ocean hat das Flehen vieler Amigos erhört und ein Highend-Game geschaffen, das die Power eines A1200/4000 mit Turbo im Keller gnadenlos ausreist. Besitzer einer AGA-Maschine mit Speichererweiterung müssen dabei allenfalls ein etwas verringertes Tempo in Kauf nehmen, und für gänzlich ungetunte A1200er ist sogar eine Spezialversion inkludiert.

Diese verzichtet zwar auf etwas Sound, eine Screenausfüllende Sicht der Dinge sowie einige Grafikdetails, ist dafür aber schön schnell und macht vor allem beim Gameplay keinerlei Kompromisse.

Kompromißlos dürftig dagegen die Hintergrundstory, will sie uns doch weismachen, daß der Held des Vorgängers nach getaner Arbeit in einer Rettungskapsel durch das All treibt und vom Rettungskreuzer "Indomitable" aufgelesen wird - nur um sich dort sofort wieder mit dem außerirdischen Gesocks herumbalgen zu müssen.

Denn kaum ist der Schiffbrüchige an Bord, dockt auch schon ungefragt ein riesiges Schlachtschiff der Aliens an, nimmt die Besatzung gefangen und zwingt den mutterseelenallein zurückgebliebenen Heroen so erneut in die Rolle des Retters wider Willen. Unglaubwürdig? Schon, aber als solides Fundament für packende Action durchaus ausreichend. Und daß Euch die Aktion hier so richtig packen wird, das dürft Ihr uns nun wirklich glauben!

So Durchstreift der Spieler bzw. sein digitales Alter Ego 16 umfangreiche Labyrinthe, um die Geiselnehmer (darunter auch alte Bekannte wie z.B. die heulenden Hyänen oder die mit blauen Energiekugeln um sich feuernden Roboter) zu meucheln, wobei er sich oftmals mit völlig neuen Gefahren und Bestien konfrontiert sieht: Da lauern übel gelaunte Riesenhummeln, mit MPs bewaffnete Androiden, schwebende Einaugen, die nach Ableben die hinterbliebenen Klauen ins Gefecht schicken, und scheinbar stoische, aber mit gemeingefährlichen Strahlen ausgestattete Vogelscheuchen.

Intelligenz und Eigeninitiative dieser Gegner sind bemerkenswert, doch das sind die zehn umschaltbaren Waffensysteme (inklusive automatischer Zielhilfe) des Jägers auch. Bereits als Standardausrüstung verfügt er über eine beachtliche Schnelladewumme, außerdem finden sich in den hiesigen Kerkers des Todes u.a. noch Mörser, Raketenwerfer, Plasmakanonen in zweifacher Ausführung sowie ein Flummilaser, der sich insbesondere beim Ausräuchern verwinkelter Abschnitte als ausgesprochen nützlich erweist.

Sämtliche Waffen sind begrenzt munitioniert und Nachfüllpacks ebenso rar verteilt wie Erste-Hilfe-Rationen zum Auffüllen der rasch schwindenden Energiereserven. Strategische Planung wird damit zur ersten Heldenpflicht, zumal sich in den Hallen und Korridoren, auf Planetenoberflächen, Terrasendächern oder Wendeltreppen noch manch fiese Überraschung verbirgt.

Schrecksekunden sind etwa dann garantiert, wenn wieder einmal ganze Alien-Heerscharen unvermutet aus einer Nische hervorbrechen oder Teleporter den arglosen Wanderer in das Zentrum eines brandgefährlichen Gebiets voller überbildgroßer Megabestien beamen. Keine Überraschung hingegen, daß man auch wieder auf ausgefeilte Mini-Knobeleien der Marke "Finde Schlüssel A zu Tor B", Aufzüge und prall gefüllte Waffenkammern stößt.

Dazu kommen gelegentlich automatische Kamerafahrten, sobald via Schalter anderorts etwas in Gang gesetzt wurde. Bloß den versprochenen Leveleditor konnten wir ebensowenig entdecken wie ein Intro, dafür aber einen Teammodus für zwei per Nullmodem verkabelte Amigianer.

Der vermeintliche Nachteil, daß die Steuerung weder Stick noch Pad unterstützt, erweist sich indessen bald als Vorteil: Nur via Tastatur läßt sich die Flut von Bewegungsmöglichkeiten (zur Seite schleichen, rennen, Blick nach oben, unten und hinten, schließen, ducken, hüpfen etc.) in den Griff bekommen.

Das Gameplay ist also wie gesagt brillant, dazu gesellt sich beeindruckende Optik. Denn was die 3D-Kerker an Tempo vermissen lassen, das machen sie durch einstellbare Pixel- und Screengrößen, wundervolle Grafikdetails und viele bislang einzigartige Spezialeffekte wie Polygongegner, Beleuchtungstricks und animierte Texturen locker wieder wett.

Zur enorm dichten Atmosphäre trägt aber auch die schlichtweg geniale Akustik ihren Teil bei: Je nach Untergrund hören sich Schrittgeräusche anders an, hinter Türen verborgene Feinde verraten sich durch Scharren und Heulen, und auf drohende Gefahren wird man durch die laufend wechselnde Geräuschkulisse im Hintergrund aufmerksam - auf Wunsch sogar in Acht-Kanal-Stereo, sofern genügend Rechenpower zum Mixen der vier Hardware-Soundkanale übrig bleibt.

Richtige Musik ertönt erst nach Komplettierung eines Abschnitts, und selbst dort ist sie eigentlich überflüssig...

Unter dem Strich bleibt somit ein Meisterwerk, wie wir es gerne (wieder) öfter am Amiga sehen würden: Alien Breed 3D II - Killing Grounds bietet fulminant spielbare, enorm spannende und dabei ziemlich unblutige Baller-Action und hat sich seinen Megahit mehr als redlich verdient! (rl)


Der Meilenstein rollt nur mit Turbokarte und/oder 2 MB RAM-Erweiterung vollständig rund, denn bei der inkludierten Spezialversion für den Standard 1200er ist das Sichtfenster kleiner und die Auflösung nicht variabel, zudem fehlen viele Sound- und Grafikdetails. Dafür scrollt der 3D-Dungeon dann aber etwas flüssiger.


Eine in Amiga-Dungeons nicht alltägliche Einrichtung ist das Automapping: Beim Alienbraten wird die Karte automatisch mitgezeichnet, auf Wunsch in den Screen eingeblendet und beliebig gezoomt oder verschoben. Unter Verwendung der niedrigen Grafikauflösung franst sie allerdings aus.


Ganz neu ist auch das in Echtzeit berechnete Miteinander von Lichtquellen und Objekten: Schüsse oder Explosionen leuchten hier dunkle Schächte aus, Nebelwände oder Wasserbecken scheinen von innen heraus zu glühen, bewegte Lampen zaubern ein sehenswertes Schattenspiel an Decken und Wände.


Ein Grafiknovum: Sowohl die Waffenhand als auch einige Gegner werden nicht mehr als platte Bitmaps auf den Screen geklatscht, sondern präsentieren sich als aufwendig texturierte und beleuchtete 3D-Polygone. Soviel Detailreichtum ist bislang einzigartig im Genre - nicht nur am Amiga!

Alien Breed 3D 2: The Killing Grounds logo AGA

It's a bit of a revelation.

Ah, hello readers. (You'll have to imagine I've turned from my study desk here; Stuart bagsied writing his review as a script, which is irritating, but there you go.) I've been awaiting AB3D2 with excitement, not only as the sequel to the comprehensively great AB3D (AP56, 91%) but also as an opportunity to mention the internet.

You see, I've recently inherited an e-mail account (address@address if you're at all interested: do pop in for a bit of a chat) and was directed to investigate April's comp.sys.amiga newsgroup discussion of the wheezing decline of AP. Mirthlessly ill-informed, of course - one participant perceptively noted, "I think they're just style- incompatible with your typical Net-Amigan," but entirely failed to stop typical Net-Amigans complaining about a mag which cares for nothing but the quality of games and Andres Escobar jokes.

Slap in the middle was Marcus Dyson of Team 17, giving his individual, unendorsed, independent opinion of the mag (though - oh no! - at one critical point using "we") and fomenting astonishing nonsense about relying on AP to "get our opinion across, and very often they distort it for their own ends."

All thrilling stuff, and my cache of satsumas dwindled as I read the seemingly inexhaustible supply of whining, childish hatemongering. It was at the point an endearingly scattered defence of AMIGA POWER mentioned the phrase. "Jonathan Nash (writer on AP) called Team 17 whining childish hatemongers," that events took a nasty turn. (You'll recall this was after their ridiculous lawsuit claiming malicious falsehood over the reviews of the terrible ATR (AP48, 38%) and the 9%-less- terrible Kingpin (AP48, 47%), and the campaign of requiring sister mag Amiga Format to sign documents pledging they'd withhold any review copies from us before being permitted to review Team 17 games.)

In a reply of - oh no! - whining childish hatemongery. Marcus Dyson battered me with amazingly poisonous personal abuse (incidentally, all this can be found at Bring your own satsumas), entirely forgetting we know each other no more than to have exchanged a civil hello during his days at AF. Could the poor fellow really hate me for reviewing some games, or was he playing up the anti- AP stance to please his public, or was he just a bit mad in the head? We'll probably never know. And if you couldn't care in the slightest. Remember I'm contractually obliged to be dead by the end of the review, so indulge me.

But anyway, Alien Breed 3D 2 is dizzyingly slight, discounting the excellent fun-to-play qualities of the original for an unfathomable retread of the faults that sank Fears and Breathless.

Just a bit mad in the head

Monsters behind doors, for example. After the first scrap in AB3D2, where you are pleased by the reappearance of the bleating hounds, slightly baffled by the big stupid unfrightening robots which turn out to be the staple villain of the game and infuriated by the fireballs they spew out which you can't possibly dodge with any degree of success due equally to their randomness, their deceptive, jerky speed and the fact that at a distance they are indistinguishable from the effect of your shots hitting their target, you come to a door. From the other side you can hear suspicious footfalls.

Clearly a robot is waiting. You poise by the side of the door for him to emerge. He doesn't. You fire a shot to inform him of your arrival, much play being made of the intelligence of the monsters and how they can hear you and track you down in teams. Nothing. The footfalls have died away. Quickly you spring in to open the door and catch him unawares on the other side of the room. Except he's standing in the doorway like a big metal buffoon and blasts you immediately.

This happens all the time. Like in Breathless and Fears, which we said were awful. The monster intelligence is crap. Seemingly randomly your foes will either rush in and overwhelm you or get you in their sights, lose interest and wander away. Mostly, of course, everything in the game walks towards you firing all the while until someone's dead or you're pushed into a corner, whereupon they're so close that your bullets explode behind them. The only solution is to run through the monsters and flee, because they aren't treated as solid objects. Lummocks.

Perhaps these faults were present in AB3D. I was too busy having fun to notice. But the sequel's limp design and palpable sense of going through the motions amplify even the most piffling errors to gruesome levels. It's hard drive-installable, for instance, but you have to reset to leave the game. The copy protection uses an ambiguous futuristic typeface. The passwords have been dropped for saved game slots which only save between levels and so act exactly like passwords, except you just have five of them for the sixteen levels and so can't jump between favourite screens later on unless you happen to like less than six of them.

The 2Mb version of the game lets you use the brilliantly implemented CD32 joypad in the menus, but the 4Mb version doesn't. When dead, you have to press the escape key to restart, rather than, say, the fire button. Exits aren't marked, presumably to give the impression of a continuously unfolding story but in fact making you kick things, as you run pell-mell up some stairs chased by a squad of monsters, your marine starts to think in a slowly-printed message, "Perhaps I should check I haven't missed anything," and suddenly you've finished the level. Things that you'd expect to be picked up in playtesting. You know.

That limp design then. As in AB3D you run around buildings and tunnels, then outside for a bit. You also run around a spaceship, which is like a building with tunnels in it. You can jump. You can fly with a short-hop jetpack. You can look up and down, which is so thoughtlessly underused I'd been playing for days, all of a sudden remembered there should be such an option, found it, smoothly looked up and down for a bit, went "Pffff" with my lips and carried on as usual. Ingredients, then, for some clever excitement.

But as going "Pfff" with my lips and another f has tipped the wink, no. There's a lack of care that's hurtful. The situations are familiar, the surprises non-existent. The pacing of the levels, spot- on in the original, is miserable. It's that type of game where, if you don't make it through a fight with a certain percentage of energy, you must quit and try again, because regardless of skill you simply will not survive to the next medikit.

And any game that makes you consciously give up before you're dead has something seriously wrong. If only you could save at any point, or at terminals or something, or Team 17 stopped thinking that Tower Assault was a good idea and put in more medikits.

Remember, kids, a balanced game is a fun game. I didn't think it much fun to fight like a demon to complete a level with a tiny amount of energy left, then start the next facing a locked door and four giant lava pools to cross to reach the key. In AB3D you zinged around, wading in and scrapping with enjoyment. In the sequel you nurse your marine from one farcically unconsidered encounter to the next.

Why, then, you may muse, have I awarded it 98%? I haven't, obviously. I'm lying. I've always wanted to do a false The Bottom Line. In fact I've given the 2Mb version of AB3D2 59% and the slothful 4Mb version 54%, speculatively edging up into the mid-60s if you have a fast enough Amiga run it properly, which we don't.

I strongly dislike the idea of neat little summaries absolving people of reading the review and await someone rushing in to say, "AB3D2 has scored 98%!" at which I'll raise my head from the crumpled heap in which I'm contractually obliged to lie, ha ha at them and then fall lifeless.

Strike home the appalling graphic

Mechanically, AB3D2 is a mess. (Except for the transparent automap, which moves and everything, and is completely great.) (And the still lovely health and ammo reservoir, which pleasingly mean you can carry more than the screen can show.) Commendably there's an enhanced version bundled for faster Amigas with at least 4Mb of memory, but playing on both a 68030 A1200 and a 68040 A4000 gave nothing beyond unacceptable sluggishness in full-screen high- res mode, those eight or so of you who own such machines will be slightly miffed to know. (But phew, a sheet in the box offers £40 off accelerator boards costing £200 and £600.)

The 2Mb version, for unexpanded A1200s, is pitifully cut-down, with a small screen, chunky graphics and (a fact Team 17 naughtily fail to mention on the box) uniformly-shaded blankness for floors and ceilings. This means you can't discern floor depths and will frequently blunder off ledges which look like level paving. This version does, however, maintain an extremely acceptable running speed right up to about halfway through the game, when the architecture becomes too complicated and everything starts moving with hyphens in between.

AB3D2 isn't meant for standard A1200s, which the staggering majority of A1200 owners have. Your fault for not investing in the future of the Amiga, you pigs.

It isn't really meant for unaccelerated A1200s, either: AP's less common but nevertheless well-known 4Mb machine. upon which I largely tested the game. went a bit cranky until I fiddled with the controls to make the screen the lowest possible resolution. The result - an acceptable speed until fights happened, at which point it went a bit cranky once more.

Again, the slipshod design of the game amplifies the problem (AB3D escaped penalty for its fits of temper by virtue of being fun to play, you'll recall) but settling for the game lagging behind so you overcompensate your movements, ending up pointing in the wrong direction over and over again is unforgivably slack. Jetpack and jump aside (the latter being horribly disorientating, ridiculously variable in height and absolutely not worth the bother) AB3D2 does nothing clever that AB3D hadn't, so what on earth is going on? Team 17 can't be intending for you to buy a £1,000 Amiga to play their game.

More easily pinned down are the howling errors in non- projectile weapons - when attacked by monsters with machine-guns or mind blasts (or whatever those frocked stickmen are supposed to be doing) you haven't a clue where they are as their invisible shots strike home; the appalling graphic glitches which occasionally leave you fatally stuck in a wall; the sound bugs so monsters only erratically announce their presence; the monsters' shots knocking you backwards, but yours not debilitating them; and the heading- for-a-deading doorknob idiocy of having a button to open doors, but then having some doors open automatically if you touch them, so when you're circling and sidestepping an attacker and naturally brush against a wall, if it's an automatic door, it opens to release more monsters. If only they'd used 4Mb accelerated playtesters.

Splendidly, Team 17 have included the editors used to write AB3D2, which are always fun to play around with and make new levels for the game if it's good, which as all readers know, ha ha, it isn't. Still. Perhaps you could convert some levels of Quake. The two-player mode, so poor in the original AB3D, is back, you still wander around the normal levels with no monsters and all the doors open, and it's still a waste of time.

There you are, then. Enough of the original remains to float AB3D2 the right side of 50% - the strength of the idea's to thank for that, and it's certainly better than Breathless - and the 4Mb version has a marvellously atmospheric grinding sub- noise soundtrack that impressively succeeds in making unexpected appearances of the rubbish monsters scary.

But the game is a comprehensive disappointment, especially as all the original people were involved, requires an absurdly expensive machine to run properly, and is unfit to box in the ring with Gloom. (You'll naturally have AB3D already.) If only they'd paid more attention to balancing out the levels. It only they'd tweaked the monsters so they didn't activate until you'd walked somewhere near them and so had an idea of where they were on the map. If only - but hist.

At this point you'd likely expect a description of doors bursting open and an entertainingly slow- motion gun battle with pistols ejecting from sleeves and opponents aimed with Thompsons, possibly spilling over into a visually arresting climax aboard a hijacked off-service double-decker as 412,618 rounds are fired within the confines of the lower deck, but Stuart has bagsied the permitted script review so you'll have to use your imaginations.

Now cut mentally to a shot of my victorious assailants crowding round in such a manner as to conceal me from camera, observing, "Why, it's just a cork pop-gun," then in a surprise twist shock reversal bluff ending saying, "Wait a minute - this is just some kind of highly advanced automaton big doll thing." and the sound of me chuckling a-ha ha ha, correctly punctuated, as you see a complicated shiny control panel that is shut into a roll- desk by my figure which passes from shot, a final pull-out showing the desk in the study from the first scene, a quite beautiful view of Canada framed in the window. Good heavens: I've escaped.

Alien Breed 3D 2: The Killing Grounds logo AGA CU Amiga Superstar

Price: £29.99 Publisher: Team 17 01924 267776

Entering the docking bay I found myself on the receiving end of 10 alien guns... bye, bye cruel world.

If you want to know just how far the Amiga can wander down the Doom road then this game will provide you with the answer. And as for Team 17, they're full of contradictions.

After Christmas last year Martyn Brown was reluctantly telling the world that there would be no more Amiga products from Team 17. Although bullish about this at the time you could detect more than a hint of sadness from one who saw the machine rise and fall and whose personal fortunes have depended so much on it.

But times change and a company like Team 17 has to change too or Martyn and the Ossett team would fast find themselves becoming familiar faces down the labour exchange. Their development has become PC and Playstation centred and new multimedia (PC) and On-Line services have also been started.

But you can't keep a good man down as the saying goes - or in this case a good game. Soon after the pessimisim of late 1995, it was revealed that Team 17 was indeed developing a follow-up to Alien Breed 3D: The Killing Grounds.

As regular perusers of our next months pages will have realised TKG has been heavily delayed - it's nearly four months late in fact. But all those months of extra development have smoothed out the rough edges and Andy Clitheroe, its developer, is now confident that it's in a league of its own.

On accelerated Amigas with 4 or more Mb of RAM it really looks the part. This was the version I first saw and it's still impressive. The 1x1 pixel graphics are beautiful on walls, ceilings and floors and the lighting effects are original for an Amiga game. In places they're simply breathtaking.

But it does suffer from two problems in this mode. Firstly, so much has been put into the lighting effects in a couple of places the game is just a little too dark for its own good. One of our criticisms of Breathless was that it was too grey - TKG is too dark because this is the only way to show off the lighting effects.

The second problem is with speed: 1x1 pixel graphics may look beautiful but they're a real dog to shift about on screen. Our standard spec games testing Amiga is well equipped with a Blizzard 1230IV with 8Mb RAM. This has a 50Mhz processor but it struggles with TKG.
In 1/2 screen size it's very playable but responses can still be jerky when tackling large or multiple enemies. In full screen it's a joke.

With a 50Mhz 68060 accelerator it's possible to play TKG at full screen size, but again once you get bogged down in combat you're better off at 1/2 size - it's just much more playable.

This is a serious issue for Team 17 and one they've obviously thought about for a while. In order to produce the be all and end all of Amiga Doom clones they've just had to compromise speed. Just like iD's new PC game Quake (iD made Doom) needs a ridiculously fast processor. TKG needs more than most Amiga owners have in the way of power. Some say this is unnecessary... I say it's progress. And TKG is not alone. Even Andy Davidson's new Worms project will only work on AGA machines and if you have more RAM it'll be better.

To help out here Mr Clitheroe has done a sort of TKG Lite for those not so well equipped. This will work on 2Mb Amigas and exclusively uses the older 2x2 pixel format with floors and ceilings greyed out. There is also no option for full screen mode in this version. That said, it really flies, especially if you have an Amiga with some fast RAM in it. In fact it's faster than the original Breed 3D in these circumstances, but it has much less features, though.

Wide screen
Another way of getting the playing speed right is go for a 'wide screen' option. On the 4Mb version of the game you can narrow the screen for that lovely Star Wars effect. Yes, it increases the speed but unfortunately can also lead to some problems seeing what's on the ground in front of you and what's flying overhead.

Other nifty ways of squeezing more from less on the big version is to switch lighting effects of and reduce the rendering and sound quality, all of which are accessible via the F keys. Finally you have the option of altering the pixelisation to 2x2 1x2 or 2x1.

The fact still remains though that even with fast RAM you would only load the 4Mb version at your peril. The game is so unplayable without at least a fast 030 accelerator it is ridiculous. Directional commands take a second to implement and you really are only operating at around 2 frames a second.

Speed is one thing that affects playability but the level layout is equally important. Luckily here Andy Clitheroe has demonstrated that he still has a grip on reality though he does appear to be operating on a plane above the rest of us on some levels.

The enemies are as good as they were in Alien Breed 3D and Mr Clitheroe really has injected a sense of menace into them that has not been matched by creatures on any of the Amiga's other Doom clones. But wow, some of these levels are very difficult. Frustratingly so at times. In fact right from the second level the odds are stacked against you until you find a way around. This often includes going back and completing previous levels to get more ammo and life before re-attempting later ones.

There are six save slots to enable you to do this though, so all is not lost. That said Breed virgin are likely to find this game impossibly difficult.
Some enemies just do not want to die, or are incredibly hard to target, and although the game now features a look up and down function, targeting troublemakers on higher or lower platforms is still a hit and miss effort.

The artificial intelligence we were told about is a bit weird too and takes getting used to. You can run and hide and enemies will sometimes appear right past you, allowing more forward progress. However, because of the level design, which sends you off into the distance looking for keys and objects, you are very likely to encounter them again at a later stage on the level as you double back.

Though by then you might be equipped with a bigger gun! The way it has been programmed makes playing a lot less predictable than any other game of its kind. The bad guys don't just sit there waiting for you, they gang up and sometimes even seem to run away when fired upon, coming back in greater numbers.

The weapons are an interesting bunch, with plasma guns, grenade and rocket launchers and a complete useless blaster available along the way. Mines are useful too. One of my biggest criticisms of the weapons is that you should automatically be switched to another if your current one runs out mid battle. But sadly not here so frustration reigns.

Epic ending
In the final analysis The Killing Grounds is a revelation, if a tainted one. It's kind of like one of those big Cecil B DeMille movies: vast, lavish and expensive (on your eyes, brain, fingers and in terms of the sort of Amiga you need to run it properly). The massive cast of aliens are difficult to defeat, full of surprises, the atmosphere is, in a word: scary and the graphics and lighting are just excellent.

What a pity then that all this is compromised by game speed. The simple fact that the Amiga is really not able for the 4Mb version of this game without serious acceleration. The 2Mb version is similarly compromised by its crudeness - though there's no doubt about its speed and playability.

In the final analysis The Killing Grounds' biggest enemy is actually, believe it o not, the old Alien Breed 3D. To crate TKG the original has grown in two directions, both of which have unavoidable faults - so it could never be as complete a game as its predecessor.

The two scoreboxes tell their own story - one of top graphics versus speed. But I've got a fast Amiga so I know which one I ultimately like the best. By the way, they both come in the same box, so if you do upgrade your A1200 you can taste the fancier fruits at no added cost.