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Alien Cabal

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Alien-Cabal-City

In-game screenshot

Alien Cabal is a 1997 first-person shooter published by QASoft and consisting of ten levels. Its distribution package also contains the "vedit" level editor. Although difficult to confirm, the game is claimed to be built on a modified version of Doom II, as stated by one of the game's testers, although this has been denied by an anon editor claiming to be Greg Taylor; and the game features menus and details very similar to the Doom games.

Plot

Local media writes off a near doubling of UFO sightings over "the city" as a hoax by "overzealous UFO fanatics", only for a secret government investigation to discover a massive covert base, built following years of unfriendly aliens "studying mankind and earth's resources" in prelude to invasion. Fearing public reaction but needing an evacuation of the area, the public are told of a virus outbreak. However, this only causes the press to swarm the region surrounding the city. Unable to stage a military operation unnoticed, it is concluded that a single special operative must be sent to enter the underground complex, and destroy all alien life encountered. The game's levels mark the player's progression from the streets of the city into the bowels of the alien base.

Gameplay

Alien-Cabal-Robot-Factory

Robot Factory

Although designed for DOS, Alien Cabal runs without problems on Windows XP and can be ran through DOSBox.

At the start of a new game, the player selects a "Skill" level:

  • Walk in the park
  • Let me at 'em
  • Death wish

A game can be saved / loaded at any point during game play; Alien Cabal provides six "Save" slots.

Although the player cannot modify Alien Cabal's controls, a simple "Help" screen clearly lists the control keys. A "jump" command does not exist. However, in some situations, the character can "walk through the air" from one platform to another platform if 1) the gap is small enough and 2) the character has a running start. By stepping on "half-height" items in the environment, the character can climb up to "full-height" items.

As additional upgrades upon the base Doom II engine, the game features sloped floors, tricked room-over-room and a variety of destructible items (as did Hacx and Hexen), alike to the Build engine games such as Duke Nukem 3D. This is factored into the game's scoring system where, instead of just items collected, enemies killed and secrets found, player's were also rated based on the amount of object's destroyed. This rudimentary statistics screen is shown after the player completes a level, alike to the Doom games:

Killsxxx%percentage of enemies killed
Destructionxxx%percentage of environment (e.g. windows, etc.) destroyed
Itemsxxx%percentage of objects picked up
Secretsxxx%percentage of secret areas discovered

The game environment includes objects (e.g. weapons, ammunition, keys, health kits, armor) that the player can pick up simply by walking over the object. The weapons include a pistol, shotgun, machine gun, grenades and a bazooka. Singularly, there is no melee weapon and the player is defenceless when out of ammunition. In fact, the normal 0th weapon slot is left empty, listed as "no weapon". Enemies include cloned government men, giant bees, androids and the titular aliens. Some enemies, such as robots, can only be killed using explosive weapons or exploding objects. The game does not include any bosses.

Alien Cabal has a few shortcomings:

  • The player must use the "look up" and "look down" commands to adjust the weapon to a good position; a cross-hair is trigged by the F2 key
  • "Mouse look" only on the horizontal axis (i.e. the player cannot look up and down with the mouse); mouse sensitivity can be adjusted
  • Very weak "Map Mode", which lacks a representation of the player's exact location
  • Enemies seem to damage the player's character from a further distance than vice versa
  • Occasional crashes (but Alien Cabal is very playable)
  • No in-game music and no audio or visual feedback for locked doors
  • Comparatively boxy and repetitive level designs, especially after level one
  • Like many Doom clones, its relevance was soon overshadowed by true-3D games like Quake

Sources

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