Polite conversation was, understandably, the furthest thing from my mind as I staggered through the doors of the building which houses Legend. Immediatly I was assured that Mike Verdu, head of Legend Entertainment and the man I’d come to see, would be along shortly. It was obviously a means of torture, a cunning ruse to make me suffer by prolonging my wait for the potential masterpiece I’d travelled so far to see. About a minute later he arrived. Smile on face and hand outstretched, he motioned for me to follow. The doors swung open, a fanfare boomed out around us as we walked into the games room, the doors swung shut and we were ready to begin our journey.
Composure Is A Virtue
To attempt to describe Unreal II in the usual hyperbole-laced, superlative-ridden manner would, ultimately, fail to do it total justice. It really is looking that ground-breaking. Remember the first time you fired up Half-Life, wandered through the corridors a bit, and found yourself overwhelmed by just how much better it was than every other FPS out there? Well that’s exactly what happened to me with Unreal II.
But before we start proper like, let’s get the pretty pictures out of the way first, and stop you gawping at them instead of reading. Bit good, aren’t they? In fact, it was at least a minute before could pull my bloodshot eyeballs away from the images of the alien world before me, which was teeming with ambient life. A running brook lapped against flowing grass, stretching out to unfamiliar but breathtaking vistas. Mike finally and thankfully broke the silence, and summed up my feelings far more eloquently than I could in my weakened state in the process.
"The new technology brings the worlds, characters, and creatures to life and the outdoor landscapes generated by the terrain system look amazingly realistic. Particle effects create the illusion of running water, blazing fire, drifting smoke, breaking glass, advanced weather effects, and even flowing hair. Flumans and creatures become believable as head tracking, eye movement, and facial expressions turn them intb real characters instead of the stiff puppets that traditionally populate 3D games.
As if needing to prove it to me, he instantly transported us to a part of the game with lifeforms. It was true. All of it. As he walked from side to side, they followed us with their eyes, a look of mirth hanging from their pig-ugly alien mugs, as a light rain began watering the swaying foliage around us. That was it, I was convinced.stood up to leave, but was politely told to sit down as the demonstration had only just started. Ungrudgingly, I obliged.
So how many levels like this will there be, I blithered in a panicked state as I desperately tried to buy time to compose myself? "There are actually about 35-40 levels, which are organised into 13 combat missions. The game is set in ten different planetary environments, ten different unique sets of architecture, terrain, and textures and interactive environments, although you won’t be able to blow huge holes in every hill or building that you see. The technology isn’t quite there yet. Keep in mind that even games that claim to have supposedly modifiable worlds have only implemented this ability in a very limited way." Sipping an overly weak and sickeningly sweet cup of coffee which had somehow manifested itself on the desk, I felt a sudden urge to push Mike off his chair, grab the machine, kick down all the doors and conduct a heroic sprint to the seclusion of my hotel, where I could draw the curtains and play the game till I’d satisfied my game-lust. Thankfully, I resisted. Just.
"How about we get some action going?" asked Mike enthusiastically, and, preempting my answer, started loading up a battle scenario. "Yes, yes definitely...", came my involuntarily high-pitched squeal of a response. Had it really come to this? I was, to my perennial shame, slowly degenerating into a gibberingly stereotypical games journalist... over a computer game. It was at this point I promised myself that I’d kill myself if I uttered a single exclamation of "Awesome!", "Cool!", "Go on man, blow his head off!", "Yeah!", or any combination of the four during the course of the demo. Which seemed to work.
The level kicks in. Spotting a group of enemies in the near distance, Mike unholsters a high-rate firing machine gun. He tries to flank them, but they spot him. Two of them dive for cover, laying down suppressive fire for their frantically strafing comrades who are caught in the open. A bloody firefight ensues and it’s not long before Mike has been hacked down by these lunningly intelligent enemies. "Most of the Al work we’re doing is in creating cool behaviours for the creatures and characters in the single-player game," he explains. "We want Al that reacts to danger, employs some elements of squad behaviour cooperation with allies, follows player orders, and is able to intelligently use the new weapons and capabilities that we’re building into the game. Enemies use their new \l to find cover during firefights, work together in teams, react believably to threats, and present a serious challenge to the player. Bot Al for deathmatch and CTF will be incrementally refined from UT, but the big improvements ill be seen in the single-player experience." From the looks of things, they’re well on track. Having already seen the enormous and terrifying looking Skaarj (the only race to return from the original Unreal), I pressed Mike for information about what other races we can expect to come up against in the finished version. "There are a lot of human and humanoid enemies including several classes of soldiers, mercenaries, and of course the Skaarj. Then there are some truly strange enemies, like the water-dwelling Xian (pronounced Shian), and the menacing robotic Drakk. The human and humanoid enemies are somewhat like the bots in UT, except they come in different classes - three classes total: light and fast scouts, medium combat soldiers, and the massively armoured and lethally armed heavy class. Humans and humanoids are highly intelligent opponents that can use cover effectively and work together as a team."
He’s not wrong. Having always been impressed by UTs uncannily lifelike opponents, I’d always harboured the hope that we’d see the Al manifest in a single-player FPS. However, Legend has not only fulfilled this dream, but taken it to the next stage, and, with some more tweaking, is on the verge of providing the most lifelike, realistic, and challenging Al ever seen in a game to date. I pressed Mike to tell me more about these new enemies. "There’ll be a spider-like race called the Araknids which will attack in swarms. Araknids come in many sizes, with the smallest being simple cannon fodder and the biggest being more intelligent, more heavily armoured, and able to use some very odd and dangerous new ranged weapons." Yes, he did show them in action, and yes, arachnophobes will be crawling up the walls in disarrayed panic when they get a glimpse of this lot. Obligingly, Mike went on to show me some other races in action, including the Izarians - hair-covered six-limbed beasts which hunt in packs and are armed to the teeth. Then, jumping to an underwater location, he mocked up a battle against the Xian who fired devastating subsonic pulse weapons at us. "The Xian will be able to communicate telepathically," beamed Mike. So how many opponents will there be? "More than 24 in total," came the virgin reaching for his first breast, 1 clutched the controls with overawed wonderment. Soon I was battling the very creatures we’d just been speaking about. They dodged, weaved, took cover and generally annihilated me. Look, I was bloody tired OK? Right...
At this point, I was suddenly struck by a terrifying realisation. How could one man, one single, solitary man, with just a collection of weapons, hope to succeed in missions against such insurmountable odds? Mike’s answer was both relieving and enlightening: "Teamwork, stealth and heavy weaponry." Eager to hear more, I urged him to elaborate. "Each mission will feature a different tactical situation, including hostage rescue, civilian escort, assault on an enemy base with a squad of friendly troops where you give orders to your soldiers, defence of a structure or area against attacking enemy waves, stealth infiltration and reconnaissance forays into enemy bases, ships, or terrain, or more traditional search and destroy sorties. We also want to have some levels where it’s just a joy to use powerful weapons to take on hordes of cool enemies. These pure FPS experiences will balance out other levels that have sophisticated tactical scenarios and very rich gameplay, a mix of combat, scripted sequences, interaction with characters, and solving a few puzzles that go beyond pulling levers."
Shape Of Things To Come
Unreal 2 is clearly shaping up to be much more than your average alien shoot-fest, a fact made all the clearer by Legends’ insistence on having a compelling, open-ended storyline backing up the mayhem. The inevitable conversation ensues over Half-Life, and how Unreal ll will not only improve upon its formula, but take it in directions F'PS fans have been dreaming about for years. Mike is at his most animated when talking on this subject, swatting the air with wildly gesticulating hands. He only just misses twatting me round the nose with a particularly nasty-looking hooking slap-like movement. "We’ve developed a scripting system for our NPCs that allows us to do some spectacular in-game sequences," he says. "We’ve also created a new dialogue system that allows you to converse with NPCs in real-time. This enables us to add depth to our story in a way that Half-Life couldn’t. Which isn’t to say we’re going to go as deep as Deus Ex did, because we know that we’re working on a fast-paced action game, not an RPG, but we can have an extra dimension with dialogue. We’re using the dialogue system to help tell the story in combination with scripted sequences ttnd to improve upon the method for giving commands and responses to bots and team-mates pioneered in UT.
Gunning For The Top
Which leaves only one major subject uncovered in my array of Id’S questions, garnered from years of mindless mouse-fiddling (and of course from playing FPSs)... hardware. And, as if you couldn’t have guessed, Mike was already busy gathering a supply of weaponry which would make even the most demanding of fascist dictators smile. There will be 18 - yes, count them, 18 - weapon types for you to vaporise, maim, injure or miss your enemies with. " I’he original Unreal was known for its innovative weapon design - but also got some criticism because virtually all the weapons were unfamiliar to FPS players," explains Mike. "We have a balance between weapons that should be easily recognisable to fans of the genre and our own cool new weapon designs." These include the obligatory pistol, shotgun, rocket launcher, sniper rille, hi-rate fire machine-gun and the stunning-looking flame-thrower, which belches out flames so realistic you feel obliged to clench your checks. And yes, just in case you’re wondering, it docs look better than the one you’re currently playing around with in Wolfenslein. Then there arc the more exotic killing machines, such as a biomechanical leech gun, which transfers health from your enemies to you, robotic killer hunter drones and an assortment of energy weapons that Mike is reluctant to talk about yet. Which is a shame. Mike also confirmed that there wouldn’t be any vehicles for you to drive. "Vehicles really have to be designed in from the beginning because they change the way the game is played, and we made a decision not to include them in Unreal 2. We wanted our levels to be 'human scale’ - so that the player (or players in a multiplayer game) could traverse them on foot. If you introduce vehicles, you wind up with large, sprawling levels that feel great for driving around but not so good for walking. We wanted much tighter spaces," he explained. Given the quality of the gameplay, believe me, this really isn’t a problem and, if anything, it’s a relief as it won’t detract from the stunning atmosphere and sense of immersion.
After spouting a stream of thanks to everyone and randomly spewing out phrases like, "Ground-breaking, totally ground-breaking," while slapping passing strangers on the back and grinning idiotically from the high was still on, I made my way out of the building and into a waiting cab which had been ordered for me. As we trundled to my hotel, fatigue dug into my haggard body, and with me fading away into a delirium-fuelled slumber, I knew I’d never look at another FPS in the same way ever again.
Download Unreal 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
While the world, his wife and a few rather fat gentlemen were raving about Doom III, the fact remains that you can't tell much about a game from a 10-minute video. The Matrix looks good on a big screen but you're not going to get anywhere plugging a mouse and a keyboard into the projector and attempting to change the outcome. So, while id and its merry bunch of programming pranksters ready their beast for the next public showing, we reckon that Unreal II was the hottest playable property at the show. Admittedly we weren’t allowed to get our hands on it, but we were dragged behind closed doors where head of Legend, Mike Verdu, was hunched over a mouse and keyboard.
While setting up a mission Mike explains that the game contains 30 levels split over 13 different combat missions but that narrative is all-important. These missions might involve completely different tactics and scenarios, but the central driving force is the story. After each mission is complete you go back to your ship, the Atlantis, and interact with the characters on board which fleshes out the plot and throws you a few curve balls to contend with.
Pretty soon we’re being introduced to a planet covered by a single gigantic organism with pores "the size of starships". The evil Sinarki Corporation has been methodically killing the creature with a ring of giant chemical reactors they’re using to convert the atmosphere to earth-standard oxygen/nitrogen levels, but now they’ve stopped terraforming and have converged on a single site. Aida, your dashing Intelligence Officer continues: "We believe they have found an artefact and are about to take it off-world. We are cloaking in one day ahead of a marine attack force, our mission is to gather intel only. Do not get close enough to be detected. Do not engage in combat. The station is guarded by Sinarki ghost warriors who have no love for us at all."
A stirring score kicks in and we’re suddenly on the planet where all thoughts of stealth are thrown out when Mike’s spotted in about ten seconds flat. Cue big gun battles where the Al is showing promise if not its true potential. Mike shows off some of the 'rag-doll’ physics the Unreal engine is swiftly gathering a reputation for, before heading for the mysterious artefact. "We want to provide a number of great gaming moments," Mike says before unleashing one without warning. We won’t spoil the surprise for you.
Before we were whisked out Mike showed us part of another mission, one that illuminated the differing styles of gameplay Unreal II is set to offer. The Atlantis is damaged and you have to set down for repairs on a planet. While it’s on the surface it’s vulnerable, and the bad guys know where you are so you have to set up a perimeter around your ship to protect it with the help of gun turrets and force fields (or deployable plasma field generators as your engineer prefers to call them). Where most shooters are attack, attack, attack, it seems that Unreal II is going for attack, narrative, teamwork, defence, character interaction, attack. Or as Mike puts it: "As we’ve been saying through the entire course of development, we’ve really gone to great lengths to create an experience that we hope will have a tremendous amount of variety. Not only are the locations that you visit visually very, very different... but also the game styles are very distinct."
And it looks like it’s living up to its early promise. It might not compete with Doom III in terms of visuals, but it’s getting released this year and it’s looking like the most complete shooter ever. The emphasis on single-player (yeah, we’re over the fact that multiplayer’s been taken out) and the bits of the story we’ve played through so far give you the feeling that you’re immersed in something much bigger than your average shooter, and should help to make this the game of the year. If it gets released this side of Christmas of course.
Unreal II is one of the best games in the series. It is a 1st person shooter game, which was first created by Legend Entertainment. The game was released by a company name Infogrames. This game came out for Microsoft Windows. The games allow players single-player game mode, and multiplayer expansion.
What is the game about?
The player is in control of retired Marine John Dalton, a Marshal of the Terran Colonial Authority who has the duty of patrolling secluded areas of space away from the nearest action. The duty of the retired Marine is to come back to actions to recover an ancient artifact containing seven pieces, which when assembled, would make a dangerously powerful weapon.
Like various other first-person shooter games, the storyline follows an already set specific path with the player going to different planets all in the search of the ancient artifact. The layout of every stage is set in a linear way, in which there are certain puzzles to be solved and keys to be found. When playing multiple missions, the players are required to keep a position against the breach of incoming enemy waves, using certain weapons, and NPC’s as backup support.
Initially, Unreal II was only available in a single-player mode until a multiplayer expansion was added into the game, which was called as Expanded Multiplayer. In the single-player mode, the game isn’t like any other game, as the player is responsible for humanity’s salvation, and it’s his mission to stop the Awakening. In this, you can order your squad of retired marines to protect your base that has been destroyed. Invade an enemy’s base. Rescue any survivor who has been stuck from an alien attack. The player is given a single aim, with a daunting list of targets; he has to be prepared for anything. The players are also given the options of adding any additional level in their game modes.
The game futuristic visuals plunge into a host of alien worlds filled with amazing environment and intense action. You feel fully immersed in the game, as you the 3D sound in the background, envelops you in the strange alien tongue chatter.
In the multiplayer mode, there are two teams available, from which the players choose either red or blue. Either teams are given a base with an Artifact, the mission of the one team is to steal the other’s artifact from the base, and then hold them at their own base. Another method through which the players can ensure their victory is by stealing all the enemy’s generators, after which their energy will be drained. In order to advance further in the game, generators are required. As they are in control of the weapons, vehicles, and other added features. The map showcases the generators that each team can hack to deliver energy. In the game, there are two sources of Energy. One is their team’s energy; the other is their own personal reserved energy.
Final Rating: On a scale of 1-10, this game would be an 8/10.
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.
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.