Unreal 2: The Awakening

February 17, 2003

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/unreal2/cover.jpg[/floatleft]I cannot say that I have anxiously awaited the release of Unreal 2: The Awakening. I really don’t like first person shooters (FPS) all that much. But, I can say that I am very much looking forward to the future games that will use its graphics engine. In the past, some pretty spectacular games have come from semi-modified versions of other companies’ game engines. Deus Ex immediately comes to mind. So, when Unreal 2 hit the stores, I decided to take a look and see what the graphical gaming future holds for us.

First: the engine. Wow! It was everything I expected and more. “Stunning” is a good word for quality of Unreal 2’s graphics. I had most everything turned all the way up: 1280×1024 resolution, 32-bit color depth, with texture detail and decaling at their highest levels. The particle density setting was mid-way. The game was very playable. One graphics setting that is missing is anti-aliasing, which is the smoothing of the jagged edges of lines on the computer screen. I wasn’t terribly surprised by this since anti-aliasing is a big hit to graphics performance and I had a feeling the engine was pushing my card pretty hard already. The dynamic lighting and shadowing of the game are just plain beautiful. The textures are rich and colorful. The polygon count of the models seems adequate so that fairly complex models can be well-represented and still achieve a decent frame rate. The graphics engine in this game is first-rate. For the game, the graphics choices were good enough to show of the engine well. The particle and weapons effects were really nice. Lights seemed well-placed, the textures and models were well-done. Although, it is probably a little too colorful for a space game (think Walt Disney does Babylon 5).

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/unreal2/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]The sound effects added some nice atmosphere to the game and were well-placed. Far-off monsters howled and croaked in the thunder and rain of the swamp. Bullets ricocheted off walls and heated battles in enclosed areas had a crazy-ass-shooting -everything-that-moves chaotic feeling to them. I had EAX enabled, but couldn’t tell if it was ever used properly. The music was appropriate, but nothing particularly special. The voice acting was not very good. NOTE: if you experience sound-related crashes and are using EAX, there is a beta patch available that may reduce the problems. It did not help my crashing at all.

As stated earlier, Unreal 2 is a first-person shooter. Plain and simple. It uses the standard W-A-S-D control scheme so it is pretty easy to jump right in. No manual required. It handles really smoothly. There is a head bob control to control how much the camera bounces when you run. And there is also a dodge sensitivity adjustment, just in case you don’t like accidentally double-forwarding a stop-drop-and-roll right into a monster’s waiting maw.

As far as FPS’ go, it seems pretty run-of-the-mill. I did not find it particularly challenging. The monster AI was not bad but neither was it very good. The game resorted to the traditional triggered scripts and monster spawning, as well as on occasional jumping puzzle. *yawn* The missions and maps were 100% linear, as expected. The entire game is pretty much plow your way through 1 hallway at a time, press the candy-like red button at the end, and on to the next cut-scene.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/unreal2/ss05_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]While Unreal 2: the engine was absofriggin beautimous[sup]1[/sup], I did not find Unreal 2; the game particularly entertaining. The only thing that kept me wanting to see the next level was the prospect of a bigger gun. That… and boobies. Aside from being a snoozer of a game, the game suffers from some severe bugs. It crashes regularly (at least once every 30 minutes). The only patch for it, after 1 week, does nothing for me. Also, there is no multiplayer. That was probably by design. But, why the hell would anyone release a FPS without multiplayer? So, with all of these problems, it was impossible for me to play more than a few missions into the game.

Alas, I cannot recommend anyone buying this game. Although the game engine seems straight from heaven, the game content is just not much fun. If you absolutely must purchase this game, wait a month for the price to come down and a few patches to be released. I do indeed look forward to the future games that will use the Unreal 2 engine.

[sup]1[/sup] i.e. “really damn pretty”