February 2003

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/doaxbv/cover.jpg[/floatleft]First off let me just say that I am not entertained by sports game at all, but there is one exception…and it’s not this game. Before I begin talking about the games quality, I am one to say the only reason I played this game was for the chicks. I was sucked in and brainwashed by the games deceiving and conniving tactics of beautiful half naked women rolling around giggling. Wait…how is that any different from real life?

Once you pop this game into your Xbox its nothing but half naked women. The introduction to DOA has some amazing cinematics and graphics. The story begins when you are sipping on a glass of champagne with Zack on a huge cruise liner. You then are introduced to Zack Island, with some whacky and goofy cinematics. Once you land on Zack Island you are partnered with one of the islands inhabitants who happen to be on vacation as well. They give you a quick low down on the haps of the Island and the different things that you can do, which let me tell you are not much. Before you begin the game you have the option of choosing one of the 8 girls. Blonde, brunette, red head, pink haired, big boobs, and small boobs you pick from the eight that are given to you. Once you are partnered up, that is your volleyball teammate. Since you are going to be new to playing volleyball I suggest everyone plays a regular exhibition before going into vacation mode. Why you ask. Because once you start playing volleyball in vacation mode and you lose two matches, then your partner ditches you and moves on to team up with someone else. Getting another partner to team up with you will be a daunting task to perform. Asking other girls to team up with you will only result in massive denials, once you lose matches then the entire island knows you suck. In order for girls to team up with you is by giving them gifts you receive from Zack, or just buying them gifts. You are given money once you arrive on the island, but you can easily lose it in the casino when you go back to the hotel for the evening. You have many games to play from, for example roulette, poker, blackjack, or even slots. You can easily make some money too, but I still think the games in the casino are rigged. Now you have the option of buying different items at the sports shop, accessory shop, and the Zack of all trades shop. Buying the girls gifts doesn’t guarantee you a partner; they have the option of not excepting the gift or just throwing it away. Getting another partner takes time and more gifts, that means more gifts means more money. You know like real chicks. Another method of getting more cash is by playing poolside games. That gives you some cash but not enough to get really nice gifts. When buying or receiving gifts you get from bikinis, glasses, hats, lotion, flowers, nun chucks, knives, guns, salad, sushi recipes, etc. Once you have scored a partner and you start winning matches, then the money rolls in.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/doaxbv/ss01_thumb.jpg[/floatright]The game is just like a vacation so you don’t have much time to stay on the island. Once your vacation is over then the game is over. You have the option of starting a new vacation, or just play a volleyball exhibition. This game has a fun factor of about 3 out of 10. Playing volleyball is about the closest thing to being fun on the island. The controls are very limited when playing volleyball. You have two buttons to use to regulate your intensity of hitting the ball. Soft or hard are your options in the analog mode, but when switched to digital you have all four buttons to work with. You also have the option of setting the amount pressure that a button takes to designate the intensity level of the power you hit the ball. But again the amount of strategy you have during a match is very limited. You can choose to play to 6 or 10 points in one match, and choose different locations around the island to play on. The button scheme is the same when playing poolside-hopping games. If you hit the button hard then you may go too far, or if you hit it too soft then you might just miss it. Another feature you have on the controls is with your left and right triggers. Both triggers enable you to zoom and change camera angles on the girls. But you do not have the freedom of camera movements during volleyball play. When you’re not playing volleyball or hopping in the pool, then you can shop, take a rest in pool, or just walk around the beach. Once its evening time you can choose to go to sleep, play in the casino, or watch a video if you get one for a gift. The videos are just previous ads for old DOA games, which is pretty cool. Another feature you have during game play is stopping by the radio station and selecting music to add to your track play list. You can choose from various artist and genres like Christina Aguilera, Spice Girls, Baha Men, and Reel Big Fish. You don’t have many so the music gets old after while. The overall sound is not very detailed, although you can hear the waves and the girls dialogue is not so wonderful. Now I know that all the DOA games are in Japanese, but I am just not very excited about dialogue that is repeated over and over again.

The graphics in this game are great but not flawless. Let me try and break it down the best I can for you readers. The cinematics in the beginning and the end are very well done, very well detailed with great motion. The colors are extremely appealing and very beautiful. The shadows from the moving palm trees, the glistening of the moving water with reflections, and the shifting of the sands are just a few examples of the really detailed graphics in this game. But you can also tell on certain areas of the island that the grass is very flat with no definition along with the trees. The body of the women are curved well and colored exceptionally considering the various women. When some of the girls are wearing thongs their butts seem to continue as part of their back with no distinctions. You can tell that the hair movements on some are little off when they move around in the sand or when playing volleyball. The hair seems to go through their body and disappear at times, and along with their feet when they dig in the sand. The lining in the sand when the girls move around is off at times and creates a straight cut through their body. Some of the far backgrounds seem really flat and not colored very well. A few of the cutaway scenes of the girls moving around in the sand or in the water are very edgy and linear. However the close ups of the girls faces are very well detailed and colored. Let me just say that the graphics are probably the best things in this game, which make things a little interesting.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/doaxbv/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]The game itself is not very fun outside of the volleyball matches, and even then it’s not very entertaining. There have been times when playing a match; it might take 5-10 minutes before you or your opponent score a point. So pretty much you can keep the ball in play forever, that means there is just no strategy in this game what so ever. If anyone is into non-strategy volleyball, T & A, and horrible game play then this is your huckleberry. This game is only worth renting just so you can say you looked at some CG T & A.

Pride FC

February 26, 2003

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/pfc/cover.jpg[/floatleft][author]Soda[/author]So this week, like many others, started off with Pickle and I debating back and forth as to which game to buy at EB. After Manchester United dealt with us wanting to try out about 10 games Pickle walks over to me with Pride FC for PS2. Interesting decision on his part, because we both have a love/hate with the PS2 and both have been furiously pissed off at THQ since Wrestlemania X8. I decided to give it a shot and believe it or not we actually enjoyed playing it in the store, so I reluctantly agreed to buy it and give THQ a chance to redeem themselves.

[author]Pickle[/author]The funny thing is that when Soda says “I” decided to buy it, he really means that I, Pickle, had to pay for it while he gravy trains the second controller. I was in the mood for a fighting game at the time for reasons unknown. I personally do not like fighters. After 1000 editions of the same Street Fighter and shitty ass Mortal Kombats (with the exception of the first) I gave up on any games where I have to fight another guy. Soda is right. THQ has sucked for a long time now, after putting out some great games with AKI during the N64 “glory days”. The WWE Smackdown Series has never been a favorite of mine. I hate the character models and fast paced controls. It was just never right with me. So after seeing THQ on the cover I almost put it back on the shelf if it hadn’t been for me wanting to whoop some ass. I was able to demo it and to my amazement the game looked cool. I am a fan of the Pride and UFC television pay per views, so I knew who to pick and what I was doing. The computer had other ideas, and promptly kicked my ass about 10 straight times. Then after finally beating the CPU, I challenged Soda, mass chaos ensued.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/pfc/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright][author]Soda[/author]Mass chaos did ensue, but I’m still pissed because Pickle was reading the instruction booklet while I drove home and he knew all the moves by the time we got there. What Pickle and I quickly noticed about Pride was that THQ didn’t use the same crappy character models that they use for the Smackdown series. While the character models aren’t extremely complex, they look very good. THQ definitely made a good decision by not trying to get too complicated with the characters because every time they do I feel like I’m playing Pit Fighter all over again. They did a really good job of working within the Playstation 2’s graphic capabilities and not trying to push it too hard. The end result is characters that look good, moves that look fluid and natural, and kicks and punches that are flat out devastating. The first time I hit Pickle with a double fisted smash to the face we just about lost it. A major issue I had with the graphics during the fights was the ludicrous amount of blood that sprayed around the ring after every hit. The characters don’t bleed like you would expect a real person to bleed; they just seem to emit neon red raindrops like a sprinkler. The only cool thing that stems from this blood fountain is that there are some camera angles where one the fighter’s head sprays blood on the camera like a watermelon exploding. It’s gross, but if you’re landing nice blows than it gets an “Oh Damn” result from the unlucky guy who’s head is taking the pounding. Other aspects of the games graphics came out successful as well, the ring entrances aren’t anything over the top, but they do look smooth as well. Pride uses a lot of actual video between matches and during ring entrances, which are edited fairly well. Except when you create your own character. Instead of just using bits of Pride highlights or something it gives you a brief custom section to your entrance video. They are dumb, really dumb. For some reasons they also decide to give your created character fun little nicknames like “The Natural” or “The Fighting Machine.” This one entrance even has 80’s looking Pink Bubbles floating around in the background that led me to call Pickle’s created character “The Bubble Man.” It was classic because it really pissed him off. All that business aside, the graphics are some of the best ever to grace the PS2. Pickle, why don’t you tell the good folks at home a lil’ something about the sound?

[author]Pickle[/author]The sound for Pride is probably where it could use the most improvement. The game is presented as the actual live Pride event, so of course they try to bring you into the actual arena. The intro music for fighters is presented as well as an announcer introducing them. The intense Japanese live crowds cheer for their favorite fighter, and in the ring you will obviously hear the sound of a fist or a foot hitting others upside the dome. However the sound of hits are a bit unrealistic, as it should be more muted as opposed to an explosion happening. The intro songs, pre and post match announcing are low, and the crowd noise usually drowns them out. Cool thing is that some fighters have actual licensed songs that accompany them to the ring such as Sandstorm. But nothing, and I mean nothing, is better than hearing the Japanese accented announcer say your custom character’s name as, “Pwaaaaaayerrrrrrrrrr WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNN!” Sheer hilarity my friends, sheer hilarity. The game does do the mat sounds correctly, and you will hear this the most as you and your opponent roll around the mat trying to break each other’s neck the audio that represents it is perfect. Good thing that most matches take place on the mat so you can hear the one aspect of audio that was done right…besides “Pwaaaaaayerrrrrrrrrr WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNN!”

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/pfc/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatleft][author]Soda[/author]Which brings us to the best part of Pride, the control. I hate fighting games that usually just end up in either a button mashing fest or a series of complicated moves that only a quantum physics engineer could master. How many times have you had this conversation while playing a fighting game with friends; “Hey, sweet. How did you do that fireball?”

“Oh man, it’s so easy. Just move the D-pad back and forth in a rocking motion while standing on one foot at the same time holding down all four buttons on the top of the controller and hitting the A, B, and C buttons while mashing the select button with your nose and eating a bowl of ravioli at the same time.”

And don’t even get me started about how much I hate the controls on Smackdown. Like the graphics in Pride, THQ kept the controls simple but elegant. They made sure that a person couldn’t win a match by pressing the jab button repeatedly or just pinning you in the corner and kicking you in the junk. Pickle and I decided to discuss the two aspects of a fight by talking about them separately. I prefer to use Gilbert Yvel who is a kick boxer. Pickle is usually a Jiu-Jitsu fighter, so obviously we employ different strategies during a fight. Basically my strategy is to keep him at a distance and keep myself off the mat. If I can keep the fighter at a distance I can do a dash move that ends with a knee to the face that is just wicked. Throughout the course of a fight Pickle will move in many times to try and knock me to the mat, so I play a bit defensively and weasel my way out of most of the grapples he tries to get me in. As I wear Pickle down with a few roundhouse kicks to the head, I try to get him on his back to go for the win. Mat wrestling is more of Pickle’s forte, so I’ll let him tell you about it.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/pfc/ss01_thumb.jpg[/floatright][author]Pickle[/author]The fighting engine really shows how well it was designed when the matches go to the guard. There are so many things that can happen depending on your style of fighter. You want to take away as much of the other player’s life as possible leaving him susceptible to a submission. Or you can hold him down and beat the high hell out of him on the ground for a knock out. Anything and everything has a reversal, often times your submission’s momentum will cause you to tap out due to a well-timed reversal. Or if a fighter is on top raining punches below, the fighter in his guard can catch the punch and turn it into the triangle chokehold. Personally if you want to win the match you must control the ground game. The key to taking a striking player down to your level is to take him to the mat. The controls make this possible but difficult to do. If the opposing fighter knows you want him on the ground he can keep his distance and avoid any take down attempts. The game becomes a chess match if played the way it was meant or it can turn into a slugfest. Personally I love to play slow matches and set up the submission, but sometimes a well-placed knee to the face will cause you to panic and start flailing punches like a mad man. The controls are set up for you to control the match and make it your fight; it can sometimes become almost artistic with reversal after reversal to set up the final blow.

[author]Soda[/author]Pride really shines when you play against another person. Playing against the computer can be extremely frustrating. I don’t understand how the difficultly works on this game. You’ll enter a tournament one time and mow down your opponents to the finals and than another time the computer will paint the ring with your blood in the first round. It’s very bizarre and there doesn’t really seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. The first time Pickle and I tried a tournament he got beat in the first round and I made it all the way to the finals to fight one of the most spectacular matches ever against Ken Metzger. Sadly I lost with less than 10 seconds left in the first round. The strange thing was that the longer we played the harder it seemed to get. After an entire weekend we couldn’t even win a match anymore. I imagine that if you invested some serious time and energy into Pride you could get really good. Only once you got good you would become frustrated with the lack of a ranking system or any type of “title defense” mode.

[author]Pickle[/author]This game has a fun factor only a fighting game can have. While playing it alone it is ok, but when playing with friends with some friends it really shines. The matches can be great to watch sometimes, as you pals yell at you to do this or do that. The reaction from hardcore knees to the grill is priceless as the crowd lets out a collective, ” OHHHHHH!” This is not a game I would mind waiting for my turn in. The first player aspect however is not as fun. There are limited modes and no career mode with player rankings and such. Playing by yourself just to go through a tourney and become champ is not very fun after a while. The survival mode is fucking impossible, so that isn’t fun either. Like I said, round up some friends and have a great time with this game. I assure you your fingers will be hurting from all the buttons being pressed to avoid the submission. I would say the game does have a lasting fun appeal for multiplayer, but a short one for the single player modes.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/pfc/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatleft][author]Soda[/author]Pride is definitely the best thing I’ve seen THQ do in a long, long time. But I can’t help but feel that if this game had spent another few months in development it would have been fantastic. The most fun you’ll have with Pride is to rent it and bring over as many friends as possible for a night of heavy alcohol consumption and video games. The single player mode on Pride is just not fun enough to buy it. And if you’re thinking that you’re going to buy this game and get good and than bring your friends over and kick their asses, just don’t. If you get too good at the game it’s not going to be any fun. The best matches result when two players of almost equal skill match up against each other. This game is definitely worthwhile to rent, as a matter of fact consider it a Snackbar recommended rental. Props to THQ and here’s to hoping that they keep making games that are on par with Pride.

[author]Pickle[/author]So get to the rental store and pick this bitch up before I make your ass tap out!

Robotech: Battlecry

February 24, 2003

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/robotech/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Robotech: Battlecry is based off the late 1980’s animation series. You are Jack Archer, one of the fighter aces in the Robotech Defense Force that has to defend the Earth from alien conquest. If you ever watched the series, the game stays very true to form. You pilot your Veritech fighter through space, canyons, and even city streets trying to fend off the Zentradi threat. Cameo appearances by Roy Fokker, Rick Hunter, and even Minmay are a pleasant surprise. The game covers the first of the three sagas that make up the original series. There are five chapters that include 8-10 missions each. They range from eliminating Zentradi battle pods from the streets of the ravaged Macross City to guarding a group of helicopters rescuing civilians. There is also a head to head mode.

The graphics are similar to most anime shows. The landscaping and buildings are well done with vibrant colors. The entire game is in 3rd person view. There are a few glitches when you reach the boundary limits or get stuck behind something and the camera cannot compensate and you disappear. Overall the graphics are well done, but nothing to die for.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/robotech/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatright]The sound was very realistic. Not that I have ever had missiles and plasma guns shot at my head. Explosions, gunfire and even the sparking sounds heard as a battle pod crumbles to the ground adds to the over all enjoyment of the game. The theme song was kept intact, but there was much to be desired in a few of the levels. The endless loop of drab instrumental music that was in some of the longer levels really got annoying. It was nothing that the volume button on the remote wouldn’t fix. The soundtrack did seem to follow the typical movie soundtrack. Fast, up beat tunes when in a dogfight and spooky music when you were sneaking around. All of the cut scenes that have dialogue are written and spoken. One handy feature is at the beginning of each mission there is a brief description of what is going on, what you are supposed to do, and a hint. When the level is finished loading, there is a cut scene that goes into depth about what is going on and what you are to do.

The controls are fairly easy. The hardest part is mastering the D-pad in regard to your Veritech mode. You have fighter mode, battleoid mode, guardian hover, and guardian fly mode. The worst thing is being in the middle of a firefight in battleoid mode and trying to switch to guardian and end up going into fighter mode. When you hit a building or boundary in fighter mode you automatically switch to battleoid. You have the ability, under the options menu, to change controls between normal or inverted depending on your preference. The “A” button is always speed. The “X” and “B” buttons are guns or missiles depending on mode. The “Y” button, depending on mode is sniper mode toggle, pick up item action, or anti-missile pods. The triggers are bank left and bank right. You can actually do barrel rolls and loopty-loops with different trigger/button combinations.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/robotech/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Some levels are much harder than others. Since you are carrying tracking missiles, as long as you don’t get shot too much you’ll probably pass the level. They gradually get harder as you get further through the story. A few of the levels have an actual time limit or you just need to get somewhere quickly before your buddy dies. Then you have the “bosses”. You have to out-pilot a few commanders and Zentradi aces that have much more powerful weapons than you. The officer’s pods are the hardest by far. Their head mounted weapon can kill you with just a few direct hits.

If you liked the original series this game is a must-have. If you haven’t seen the series, but like flying a futuristic transformer and killing all alien invaders then it is worth a rental. Including the training sessions, you could spend 15 hours to complete all missions. Once you finish the missions you may or may not have gotten all of the awards and medals that open up more fighters or head to head levels. It’s not a “finish it once and into the closet it goes.” Since this stopped at the end of the first saga, they have left the door open for two more games.

[i]Images copyright [url=http://www.teamxbox.com]Team Xbox.com[/url][/i]

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/tacticsogre/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Patience yields understanding, or so the saying goes, however can the same be true for video games? In a time when gamers have the attention spans of about 10 minutes, shouldn’t a game grab you from the beginning and never let go? I have a lot of experience with RPG games and I know that if you want to appreciate a RPG you must first get into the storyline. Here at Snackbar in order to fully review a game we usually give the game about 10 hours or so in. This can be a pain, as Soda found himself trying to play a crappy RPG, and suffered for it. I can usually pick a good RPG out from the store and know that it will be a winner, and I will take a chance on one every now and than.

I recently purchased Ogre Tactics for the Gameboy Advance, and I already had an idea of what I was getting myself into. I had played Final Fantasy Tactics when it came out and found myself in love with it. It was by far the oddest Final Fantasy, as the game relied on turn based strategy. Well after a bit of research of the game I saw that it shared many of the same characteristics, so I took the chance. Actually I had Tactics Ogre and Lord of the Rings both in my hands and I asked Manchester U over at EB to pick one… he picked the Tactics route.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/tacticsogre/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]Tactics Ogre is a turn based Strategy game. The battlefields you play on are laid out in a grid much like chess. Each square of the grid resides on a certain type of terrain, be it snow, water, rock, or whatever and is at different height levels, valleys and peaks. Your party has a chance to move and then perform an action such as attack, use an item, or cast a spell. The strategy here is to position yourself so that your character can best perform an action for example:

[*]You should position archers on higher ground so they can cover more area with their bows.
[*]Always attack an enemy from behind so they cannot counter attack.
[*]Position your healers in the back so they stay out of trouble and can heal at any time.

Basically it’s all about positioning. You will find yourself trying to get to that perfect area in order to not get hit by arrows but also where the enemy will have a hardest time finding you. The computer uses this to its advantage as well. You have mission objectives at the beginning of each battle. Sometimes it is to kill all the enemies, or just a single person. You can bet if the scenario is to kill just one person the level is designed so you will have a bitch of a time to reach him, as the A.I. knows how to position itself and hide.

The game however, is so deep, real deep. Each character has a birth sign and an element. These, of course, work for and against your party. Depending on your birth sign it will affect the amount of damage you take or can dish out, relating to the enemy’s birth sign you are attacking. Also the elemental signs of each character play a similar role. You would be wise to cast ice on a fire elemental. There really are so many ways you can go about playing the game. The best part is that you can customize how you are going to play it. You do this because each character can take so many paths for him and his army. Your troops can be trained to specialize in a class. Case in point if I want a few archers I train some recruits to become great archers and only specialize in that particular class. You can multi-class as well, but I usually stick to trying to master a class. Each army should have ranged attackers, healers, mages, and some tanks (fighters preferably Knights or Dragon Tamers). Of course you must train your character to have the specific pre-requisites. Certain classes must have certain attribute points such as strength, hit points, or emblems. This character customization makes the game as deep as any, and trying to become that prestigious class is oh so hard to do… but damned if it aint fun.

Tactics Ogre’s graphics really shine when you have a light for your GBA. The game features super deformed characters, inspired by anime. Actually a friend of mine told me the characters were cute… don’t know if that is a good thing. The game features a fantastic map system. The climate changes throughout the battle as well, and is displayed remarkably. For a 16 bit game quite a bit of time was spent on presentation. Spells play a big part and the different elements are represented well graphically and in full beautiful color.

This section is reserved for sound, it’s on a freaking GBA… it sounds like crap… moving on.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/tacticsogre/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Control in the game as in all RPGs, is menu based. The game is very responsive but then again there really isn’t anything you do… you pretty much select a move then… well select a square, and you character will trudge on over. However the menus are laid out very well. For those not familiar with “Attack, Item, Magic” RPG menu will find that getting through the system is fairly easy. Of course those of us that are pros will know exactly what to push when, as it becomes automatic.

The game’s challenge is remarkable. Let me put it this way… it is fucking impossible. Tactic’s A.I. is great. When you have an objective of killing one person, you can bet on having a bitch of a time getting to him as he will more than likely have 6 henchmen that heal him and attack for him. I was very impressed on how it works out. The level design is made specifically to give you the hardest route to the enemy, which if you are like me, is always welcome. This of course is a double edge sword. You WILL play a level about 734 times just to beat the man you are supposed to kill, and to be honest, it can become freaking annoying. Challenge is one thing, impossible games are another. I am literally stuck where I am at this one boss level. Naturally I walk about and get into random attacks to level up, yet I still get rocked on this particular level. It has me more pissed off than impressed. I’m sure I will beat it someday… maybe.

The game is fun no doubt, although it could be the longest game to play. Even easy battles take about 20-30 minutes, which can wear on anyone’s patience. Hell I love the RPG world but this game’s random encounters are downright annoying. The customizability is magnificent. It is truly a different game each time you play as you build your army exactly as you want it. I’m sure you will be using the players that join your party via storyline but as for me, I named one character Lancelot (original I know) and made him specifically a knight. He ended up being the most hard ass man in my troop. I’m sure you will like the game if you have patience. I would try it out, but if you have the inkling you might not like a game of this genre or anything like that, then don’t waste your time. This game is hard to call… I would say it’s a buy but that is me personally. This game is truly a middle of the road game as far as you may or may not like it, but what the hell go ahead and get someone to get it for you as a gift.

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”