Lately I\'ve been noticing a trend that I?m not liking too much. Games who are innovative, for the sole purpose of being innovative. I\'m not going to name names, however, when a game developer brings something new to the genre, or takes it a step further and combines genre\'s, they\'d better have a good reason for it, and that reason had better involve enhancing gameplay. Luckily for us, there aren\'t any fools working over at epic games. Epic, best known for their unreal franchise, has made something very unique in Unreal Championship 2 (UC2). They crossed a FPS, with a Third person hack and slash, what many have been calling a fighter. The result is unreal at its finest.
A twitch shooter, and frantic multiplayer hack and slasher, a fighting game?what is this hybrid game Epic has created? Well whatever it is, it?s fun as hell. After spending a good amount of time with the game?s prerelease live enabled demo, and with the game itself, I have to admit I?m hooked, although, the learning curve did make it difficult for me to get hooked. This is a crossbreed game, and learning to master both attributes of the game is no easy task. A solid day of playing online will probably do the trick, but get ready for a lot of losing first.
First and foremost, the game is fast. Very fast. There a lot of jumping off walls, double jumping, charge jumping, and dashing. Epic was smart about this however, by adding a system that enables you to be tethered down to your opponent. It isn?t an auto aim system, but merely a system that keeps the opponent on screen, because the game does get very ?bouncy? at times. This alone makes the game work unbelievably smoothly.
The offline campaign is there, and it has been tweaked since its last iteration, but the core of the gameplay lies on Xbox Live. Offline you have three modes, which are the Ascension Rights, tournament, and challenge. All of which are fine, and Ascension actually has a story, albeit it is a little weak. However, this is all just to whet your appetite for the core of it?s fun. Multiplayer.
Live, and LAN alike are fun, with 8 player frag festivals happening at lightning at a lightning fast pace, this game becomes all about destroying your opponent in the most stylized form possible. The melee function serves well in adding close quarter combat to the game but also adds a lot to the style factor. Finishing off a guy with a gun to melee, air to surface combo is very cool, and even your dead opponent will admit it.
As cool as this game may make you feel, it will also induce some stupid feelings as well. It is a tad under balanced. The melee weapons are very powerful, and usually always win versus a gun. It?s especially frustrating when you snipe someone out, and then deflect the bullet right back at your cranium. Nothing makes you feel dumber than getting killed by your own sniper bullet, except the announcer who rubs salt in the wounds by adding his little insightful commentary of ?HEADSHOT? followed by ?REJECTED?. Also, usually the bigger characters and the smaller characters are balanced out with speed and power, but the bigger characters seemed to have too much of both. They can take a large amount of punishment, and dish it out as well, and are just as agile and bouncy as any of the smaller characters to. It takes a lot to take down one of the behemoth characters, and can be frustrating when you?ve inserted several rockets into him and he comes and gets you with one melee. These are minor issues, not enough to critically cripple the games balance in any way.
The unreal engine 2 has been licensed across many games, al of whom look great. So of course it\'s no surprise that Cliffy B and friends have used their own engine to its greatest potential. This is the best xbox game to use the unreal engine, period. The wonderful palette of colors work to compliment the environments, which I\'ll get to in a second. The textures are sharp, and this game (unlike UC 1) makes use of bump, and normal mapping well. The reflective mapping on the weapons are nice, and the design very well thought out. Of course, you\'ll hardly notice the graphics, as you\'ll be flying past them at blazing speeds with explosions surrounding you, and a guy dressed up as a wolf swinging an energy sword frantically at your face; but I was just stating it for the record.
The environments are something, quite literally, out of this world. The unreal franchise has always been about amazing weaponry and gorgeous environments and this one is no exception. The environments have the usual range (which is a lot) of maps to blow each other apart in, from ice caves, to underwater agendas, and from up high in the sky (outer space even), to under the ground where rocks flow in rivers of lava. All of it can be found in the unreal, and all of it delicious eye candy.
UC2 uses full Dolby Digital 5:1 channel surround sound. Hearing a rocket that is locked on to you swerve from speaker to speaker in your living room is nothing short of exhilarating. The sound is sharp, clean, and doesn?t get in the way of the frantic frag fest. Before, the announcer (aka the omnipresent all powerful voice that loved screaming ?HEADSHOT!?) was a bit annoying, but UC2 has addressed that issue, in a rather stylish manner. The announcer now sounds like the announcer from the Mortal Kombat series. You know the ?FINISH HIM? guy. After finishing someone off with a coup de grat, his voice sounds rewarding as you hear him announce the words. Its also satisfying to hear the ever-rewarding ?HEADSHOT? followed by ?REJECTED?. Oh so sweet.
They?ve brought back lots of music from the first Unreal Tournament game from pc in 98. The title theme has been brought back, but revamped a little and other music made its way back too. The music isn?t as loud as the sound effects, which just keeps you focused on the action better.
You?re fellow teammates, however, can get annoying at some points. Sometimes you?ll see you flag being taken away, and you?ll see a team mate run pass him and voice over the com ?enemy?s got the flag?. Thanks, if it?s not too much trouble, can ya get it back? Of course you have some preliminary control over your bots, but that?s something I?ll dive into later.
The conflict is not having broadband
Offline the game is sort of weak, unless you have friends over, but over live this is a MUST HAVE. It is THE mp player game to have, especially if you just like to go on and frag some friends. The game has everything you need, shine, polish, gameplay, and most importantly, style. If the learning curve doesn?t turn you away early, then the game will grow on you as it has so many others.
Suggestions: online, the game is a solid gem. One of the best controller internet games ever. My only gripe is offline. The bots, as smart as they may be, still dont compare to humans. Their near perfect aiming, or but lack of any coherent strategy is upsetting. The story can be a lot stronger too. AN immersive story can forgive poor AI or clunky controls, but since UC2 didnt suffer from either, i think a strong singleplayer mode wold have made this one of the best games ever.