Hands-On Preview: Bring a knife to a gunfight. Trust me it'll work out ok...
Unreal 2 for Xbox is almost upon us. I won't get into another long-winded history of the Unreal franchise ? we've gone over that before. Instead, I'm here to report on the almost finished product. Having recently spent some hands-on time with the demo, I can say with full certainty that Unreal 2 will not disappoint. Read on for my impressions?
Wow. That's my initial impression. As I played more, it became a real feeling of power, as the ability to switch between 1st person and 3rd is truly remarkable, and lends some really evolutionary ideas to the genre. Not to mention how cool my Anubis was as he bounced off walls and flew across the arenas to plow into an enemy with a flurry from his staff, or switched to 1st person view and let the stinger (a futuristic chain-gun that fires molten, high-speed projectiles) tear some poor sap apart.
The demo features three maps and only a handful of the weapons that will be available in the full release. For now, we have the Sniper, Shock and Bio Rifles, the Rocket launcher, Grenade Launcher, and Flak Cannon. Personally, I found the coolest weapon in the demo to be the Ripjack by far. It fires out huge circular saw blades that ricochet off of every available surface, and when you score a head shot with this baby, it's quite spectacular. The three maps (Praxis, Deadbolt and Remnant respectively) consist of two metallic, futuristic indoor arenas, and one gorgeous outdoor expanse. Remnant is the outdoor map, and boy does it look sweet. In fact, from top to bottom The Liandri Conflict looks simply breathtaking. The game features amazing water effects, lighting and shadows that glimmer with layers of polish, razor sharp environmental textures and character models, as well as weapons and special effects that are second to none. Great looking smoke trailers on missiles, eye-popping explosions ? it's all here, every frame lovingly rendered as the Unreal team really show us how it's done ? exploiting the aging Xbox hardware to the fullest. This is one of the best looking games yet for Microsoft's console. It's truly a visual feast. It sounds just as good too, with every scream, taunt, explosion, and clash of blades booming from my 5.1?.
The three aforementioned maps are all cleverly designed, so besides the eye-candy (like the imposing giant statues on Remnant, the shimmering glass and polished metal hallways of Praxis, or the foreboding snow-swept vistas of Deadbolt) they're all quite functional as well, allowing the acrobatic nature of the characters to shine. Featuring catapulting elevators, pure-energy jump pads, and tons of adrenaline and special weapons pick-ups all over each arena, you can really go wild. The character class system is back for Unreal 2, and each one has different abilities, special moves, and stamina levels. Only the Nakhti, Skaarj, and Necris races were available in the demo, but rest assured, there will be more in the final game.
All of the UC conventions are back ? adrenaline, specialized moves, the above mentioned character classes and crazy sci-fi fantasy weapons, as well as all the epic action you'd expect from the series. The addition of melee combat makes this a whole new ballgame though. Since the action is so fast and furious, the developers have included a target lock that keeps your enemy directly in your sights, no matter how much they leap around (the lock is broken if they get too far away though). This is in no way an auto-aim; it simply keeps your opponent onscreen. You still need to do all the fine targeting/aiming yourself.
Characters can leap into the air and hover while they charge an attack, then instantaneously fly across the map at incredible speeds to slam their opposition from afar. You can also block attacks using your shield, and even use your melee weapon to slap projectiles out of the air, and if you time it correctly you can actually redirect an adversary's rocket or sniper round straight back at them for some real humiliation. Sweet!!