Unreal: Return to Na Pali
After escaping from the planet’s surface, you drifted helplessly in space. Then the tractor beams locked on and you were pulled on board the UMS Bodega Bay. Now you’re being forcibly recruited to return to the planet's surface in a search for the Prometheus, which crashed on Na Pali carrying valuable weaponry research logs. Given the choice between taking the mission and visiting the nearest airlock, you pick the obvious option and head down on a solo mission to find the Prometheus -- in exchange, you’ve been promised a full pardon. But life is never that simple -- the Bodega Bay is under orders to eliminate any potential security risks, and once the logs are found you are their primary target. Now your goal has changed: Once again you must find a way to escape Na Pali.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Look, it’s Unreal, only more of it! picks up right where the single player mission ended in the first episode and dumps you right back into the same game. Once again you’re stuck on the planet with a quest over (and under) the surface to find a way off. As you pound your way through the game you’ll run into almost exactly the same challenges as in the original, with a few additions.
All the bad guys we saw in the original game are here, along with three new nasties. First (and best) is the pack hunter. These fast little lizards attack in groups and emit a high-pitched wail guaranteed to set your nerves on edge. The AI behind them is fairly well done -- if encountered alone they will usually run, but when in groups they swarm you and can take you down very quickly. The most disappointing addition is the spiders. While these poison-spitting beasties can be troublesome, their attack pattern is fairly simple—they drop to the floor and crawl straight at you, making them simple to pick off.
The other new enemy is the Space Marine. These guys are terrestrial soldiers with the same weapons you have that are sent to take you out about halfway through the game. While they are a threat to be reckoned with, they only show up once. The story would easily justify their reappearance after the first encounter, so it’s disappointing that they are not utilized more.
The mission pack also adds new weapons to the game, which are modified versions of stuff you already have (all the weapons from the original are still present). The Combat Assault Rifle is an ammo-chewing automatic weapon very similar to both the Stinger and MiniGun, although it packs a little more punch. You also get a Grenade Launcher and a Rocket Launcher. The old EightBall gun handled both tasks in one weapon, but the alternate modes of the new separated guns (remote detonation for grenades and remote guidance for rockets) make them good additions to your arsenal.
One of the most important things in any add-on pack is the quality of the level design -- if the new levels don’t do better than the original, the add-on falls flat. Return to Na Pali is kind of a mixed bag. The levels are from several different designers, and while they have been strung together into a fairly cohesive storyline the quality of the levels is not consistent; compared to levels available free over the Internet, nothing in the add-on shines out as exceptional. Some are very good, with hidden secrets and twists that will keep you on the edge of your chair, but others are simplistic slugfests that only require brute force to complete.
Return to Na Pali includes seven new multiplayer maps and four new multiplayer game modes. The maps are the same mix in quality as the single-player game, nothing that really shines. The new multiplayer modes are fun, but not really anything special. All four are deathmatch-style with variations. In Marine Match you actually get to play against the new Space Marines some more -- the game is a bot match variation in which all the opponents are the Marines. The other three new modes are simple deathmatch variations where the gravity is modified, the players are cloaked, or you are limited to Terran weapons
Not much is new here. When Unreal released it was the cutting edge for graphics. The engine is still very impressive, but it’s over a year old now and is beginning to lag behind the eye-popping effects in newer releases.
The sound effects throughout the game have been redone and are very impressive. All the environmental sounds are enhanced -- even simple effects like doors opening and shutting have been tweaked to make the world seem more real. The weapon effects have also been modified, and in some cases they are improved, but in many cases they sound harsher than the original -- a definite step down. The effects in the original were very well done and gave the feel of real weapons; in the add-on they just don’t quite click.
Overall, Return to Na Pali just doesn’t quite come up to par. Fans of Unreal will find themselves right at home in the mission pack since very little new has been added to the game. The few new weapons and enemies do add to the gameplay, but not enough to bring the game up to its predecessor's level, especially since other titles released in the year since Unreal have pushed the cutting edge for first-person gaming much higher. If you loved the original, then take a look at this one -- you will enjoy it as well. But if, like me, you uninstalled Unreal shortly after playing Half-Life then this one is probably worth skipping.