Unreal Mission Pack 1: Return to Na Pali
|a game by||Legend Entertainment Company|
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It's funny to think that Unreal was once state-of-the-art, kick-in-the-teeth, rob-your-granny brilliant. Some were not sold on its charms, even though it brought vibrant colours and procedural particle effects to a previously brown genre. Most people gave it a play, however, enjoyed it and moved on.
So it comes as some surprise that a staggering length of time after Unreal was released, we have the first mission pack, Return To Na Pali, in which you quite literally return to Na Pali, only a day after escaping from the freaking planet in the last game. This time around, you get press-ganged into rescuing a datacore from a downed spaceship, the Prometheus, which has crash-landed somewhere deep in Skaarj territory.
Thankfully, your allies have dropped weapons and health canisters all over the planet, so at least there's some motivation for blowing up boxes and exploring every corner of every Skaarj fortress, Nali town and underwater labyrinth you come across. There are 38 new levels and - we're afraid to say - you must trundle through each, one by one, in a very old-fashioned, linear way.
The venerable old Unreal engine is also looking its age. In the first section of the game, we are expected to believe that yonder textured box is a hill, and that a brown pipe with a couple of polygons on top is a tree. The recently released Unreal Tournament massively increases the details of Unreal models and textures, as well as beefing up the weapons and sounds. It is sorely missed here. The monsters look dire and their attempts at AI - rolling from side to side - are laughable. Most of the weapons are barely better than potato-guns, while the linear, level-by-level style of game play is far too monotonous for anyone who's clambered their way out of a Black Mesa facility.
Having said that, there's a dollop of real drama when you finally make it to the Prometheus and have a tense stalking match around the only convincing locale this engine can render - the corridors of a spaceship. If you liked Unreal and are desperate for another fix, this may suit you. Otherwise, it's too little, too late.