|a game by||Legend Entertainment Company|
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Out of all the games that we saw at E3, this was without a doubt the best looking, which is no small feat considering the opposition. Fortunately that wasn't the only thing which impressed us about this stunning shooter. From what we were shown, Unreal 2 is looking like a genuine contender to Half-Life's rather large crown.
However, before we delve into details about its superb gameplay, let's get all the blurb about how great it looks out of the way first. The screenshots that you see on the opposite page are all in-game. Yes, you read it right the first time, they're in-game, and having seen it up and running first hand, we can assure you they look even more impressive on screen, as the animation of each character is nothing short of breathtaking. OK, that's enough about such shallow aesthetic pleasures. After all, gameplay's the most important thing right? Right? Stop gawping will you. And for goodness sake wipe that foam away from your mouth. That's better. Right, on to the gameplay then.
You play a Terran Colonial Authority Frontier Marshal, which as well as being a real mouthful to say, is also a position of great authority in the 24th century. Having travelled to distant parts of space, humankind has set up colonies, and you're the sheriff of one of them. Backing you up are three crew members, including the shapely Aida, who gives you guidance during your missions, which include rescuing hostages and assaulting enemy bases.
The story revolves around a feud between five alien races, which are fighting it out for possession of a bunch of ancient artefacts. Caught in the middle of this ruck, it's up to you to defend your charges and make sure that these artefacts don't fall into the wrong hands. Although we didn't see any during the presentation, we were promised that plenty of FMVs would help move the plot along, as well as ingame cut-scenes, and best of all interaction with NPCs, where you'll be able to choose your response. What excited us most of all though, was the dynamic universe that we were shown. Not only are all the backdrops more eye-popping than a fork in the eyeball, they're full of alien life which adapts to your actions. We were eagerly shown how you can stumble across alien skirmishes in which you can intervene, even going as far as choosing which side you want to help out. As for the battles, they're not only frantic, but also full of highly intelligent opponents who use evasive manoeuvres not too dissimilar to the bots from Unreal Tournament. On top of this we were shown some of the 15 weapons that will be available to you. They're not only spectacular (check out the flame-thrower), but some of them are hugely original, such as the Leech Gun, which slows down your enemies and slowly drains them of health.
Even at this early stage of development, it's obvious that Unreal 2 is going to be something special. If it builds on this early promise and stays on schedule for release early next year, then Half-Life's reign at the top could be seriously threatened. We'll keep you posted.
Download Unreal 2
Whatever your leanings in the age-old 'my FPS is better than your FPS' dispute, there's no denying that the original Unreal was a truly lovely-looking game, powered by one of the most capable and enduring engines ever built. We never doubted, then, that Unreal 2 was going to look rather pretty, but nothing prepared us for the almost wanton displays of visual splendour dished out in early screenshots. From tropical planetscapes to fantastic alien installations, the richness of the environments and sheer level of detail left us dumbfounded.
If you like number crunching, how about character models with ten times the polygons of the original game? Or level environments with a hundred times the polygons? It's all impressive stuff, and fortunately the gameplay looks set to match or even surpass this graphical extravagance. Superior AI and narrative depth, an advanced dialogue system for communicating with NPCs, innovative weapons like the 'leech gun' and mindclaw... the signs are all there for a new waypoint in FPS evolution.