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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Infogrames

 

Developer

Legend Entertainment

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q1 2003

 

 

- Fast-paced, straight-forward action

- Beautiful Graphics and Art Design

- Compelling, if clichť, plot

 

 

- New dialogue tree elements slow pace

- System requirements seem steep for what the game delivers graphically

- Long, large cut-scenes mean enough load time between levels to head off and fix a sandwich

 

 

Review: Unreal Tournament 2003 (PC)

Review: Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza (PC)

Review: Halo (XBox)

 

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Unreal 2: The Awakening

Score: 8.7 / 10

 

Unreal 2 does not represent a leap in graphics or game play to the degree some expected, but it is a solid first-person shooter with a decent difficulty level and some stellar moments. Only the lack of a rich multi-player section and some odd design decisions keep Unreal 2 from being one of the best FPSís in recent memory.

 

unreal 2 the awakening pc review          unreal 2 the awakening pc review

 

Though the Skaarj return, Unreal 2 is thematically rather dissimilar to the original game. This time the player plays a wannabe marine who gets the chance to prove that he has what it takes. "What it takes" here means a fast trigger finger. Much more so than in the original Unreal, creatures are thrown at the protagonist in waves. The best moments in the game are hectic firefights with dozens of critters swarming overhead and underfoot. The Skaarj themselves remain the main threat, but the new menagerie of beasts are also attractive (in the well-modeled sense) and threatening.

 

The levels are good looking also. Though there really isnít a jaw dropping moment like the first look at the outdoor levels of Unreal, it isnít for lack of effort. The world of Unreal 2 is amazingly detailed and the art design is top-notch. In fact, if the game existed in a vacuum, so to speak, it would be fairly stunning; however, the multitude of gorgeous FPSís released over the past two years keeps Unreal 2 from seeming all that impressive. Still, there certainly isnít anything to complain about as far as graphics or art design goes.

 

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Though the game contains a lot of wide open space, the levels of Unreal 2 are short and manageable, giving the game a console-like pick-up-and-play quality. Players looking for innovation or tweaks to the conventions of first-person shooters arenít likely to find them here. The game is very linear and most levels are focused on simply blowing stuff up. Again, the game feels more like a console FPS. It is 

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enough to make me wonder how much of an influence the success of Halo and Red Faction on the consoles has had on PC developers. At a time when we see lots of genres adding role-playing aspects to deepen game play (heck, one of the text-based baseball sims on the market includes the ability to role-play the managerís love life), Unreal 2 seems to be heading the other direction, toward simply, straight-forward action.

 

unreal 2 the awakening pc review          unreal 2 the awakening pc review

 

Well, there is one new element stolen from the adventure game genreóthe dialogue tree. Before, during, and after various levels, players are often involved in conversations with various people, aliens and machines. These conversations, done giving the player multiple, mostly cheesy choices as to what to say, seem out of character for the genre and seriously slow down the games otherwise frantic pace. I could have lived without these conversations and, frankly, they add nothing but tedium to the FPS formula.

 

The only other complaint I have to levy against Unreal 2 involves the gameís load times, something I donít think Iíve mentioned in a PC review in a long time (though Iím sure some faithful reader will call me on that). Thanks, likely, to the long, beautifully rendered cut-scenes that begin each level, the wait between levels is embarrassingly long. This is on my new, fastest-on-the-market hard drive. Unreal 2 wonít run on the back-up system that I use to test whether people behind the upgrade curve will be able to enjoy a game, but, even if it did, I canít imagine how long the game would take to load on that computerís sad, Jurassic era drive.

 

These niggling complaints aside, I really enjoyed Unreal 2. It reminded me, more than any recent game (well, other than Serious Sam) of how fun a straightforward FPS can be. With little in the way of squad-based tactics or tactical combat, Unreal 2 is basically a start firing and donít stop till you're dead or they are kind of experience, and, as such, it was nearly completely satisfying though perhaps a bit short for the price.

 

- Tolen Dante

(May 10, 2003)

 

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