Way back in the halcyon days of 1998, when Daikatana was only slightly delayed, Half-Life was just a twinkle in Valve Software's eye, and Quake 2 was still the best first-person shooter that money could buy. A company called Epic Megagames, previously only noteworthy for a game involving a green cartoon rabbit, released a game called Unreal. It was widely anticipated as 'the next big thing' in the FPS genre; and it was.
Back in those days I wrote for Ultimate Games, a site you may remember for a couple of half-decent previews and one or two reasonable interviews some years back, and I too was part of the wave of hype that eventually washed a review copy of Unreal (then published by GT Interactive; before the buy out by massive French publisher Infogrames) up on my doorstep. It was the moment that even the most cynical of games journalists had been waiting for. The next big thing. Even the box practically had me in fits of orgasm, sad as it may seem, but it was finally here and the revolution was about to begin. Of course the on-line community was already in spasms of excitement over it, one way or another, as fans of Quake 2 and Unreal argued bitterly over which was finest, and which was the most desirable multiplayer experience.
But it was with child-like glee that I tore the CD from the box and flung it into my CD-ROM, eager to experience what all the fuss was about. Naturally, the opening level had me in fits of excitement as for the first time my escaped prisoner emerged from the crashed spacecraft into the sunlight of a bizarre and beautiful alien planet. It wasn’t brown. Things would never be the same again…
So here we are several years on and several years older. Nothing’s really changed in the arguments of the online community, just the brand names being tossed around, and bickered over. Epic Megagames have dropped the ‘Mega’ bit, which sounded pretty lame anyway. GT Interactive are no more, and Epic have commissioned Legend Entertainment, under their own watchful eye, to create the sequel to that game that caused such a stir all those years back. So lets have a closer look at Unreal 2.
Firstly, from what I can gather, Unreal 2 is a sequel largely in name alone as the Skaarj are the only returning foes from the original, along with few original weapons that may or may not make the cut. So everything’s changed; even the very structure of the game itself. Gone is the fluid though linear progression through the game from level to level as the storyline progresses, instead this is replaced with a mission-based set-up. The game will feature various missions with there own unique gameplay requirements, and between each the player will return to the Starship ‘Atlantis’ from which missions are researched and new elements of the storyline will unfold. These missions will be varied on their demands of the player; some will require the release of prisoners from an enemy base, another might entail a squad-based assault on an enemy, along with various friendly NPC’s, another still might find the player involved in desperate base defence. Each scenario should be very different, Legend promise.
Legend appear to be attempting a few innovations in the multiplayer department too, as Unreal 2 will feature several new on-line options. This as yet un-named game option will see teams of players of particular classes, battling for control of a planet’s resources, whilst developing technology, including automated gun-turrets, and repair robots whilst the battle progresses. All of which sounds a little like what Westwood may be attempting with Command and Conquer: Renegade. Perhaps this increased strategic requirement in online gaming is a sign of the direction in which games are moving; seeking more and more sophisticated gameplay rather than just quick thrills. Though I’ve no doubt that the tournament mode Legend are also planning to include should satisfy this fraternity too.
As with all titles of this genre, Unreal 2’s technology it of utmost importance to the fan-base, so loyally Legend are once again planning to up the graphical ante as the original did in 1998. Quite simply, Unreal 2 looks set to be the most beautiful game ever. Not only has the level of detail in terms of polygons used per character increased tenfold, but the level of detail in the environments has increased one-hundredfold! Finally, a game that will truly take advantage of the latest graphics boards and CPU’s? I believe so. Other improvements to the technology include superior NPC artificial intelligence (..so hopefully Unreal2 won’t be cursed as Daikatana was), an impressive dialogue system for communication with the NPC’s, an improved physics engine and yet more advanced graphical effects that will allow for realistic weather effects such as rain, snow, and mist, etc.
One of the really impressive elements of the original Unreal, was the detail and beauty of environments, and this forte looks set to continue with Unreal 2 as locales are set to include; tropical alien jungles, ancient ruins, underground tunnels, the surface of a volcanic planet, an alien industrial facility, the oceans of a water-bound world, and on-board an enemy Starship. All in, ten different environments will feature – and all of them sound particularly juicy.
Little is known of the foes to be faced in this single-player focussed FPS, however, you can be sure that the inhabitants of the previously mentioned environments are not likely to be particularly friendly! Given especially that the usual hokum of a plot revolves around an interstellar war that has just broken out in your distant patrol of the galaxy, Unreal 2 looks set to be a particularly violent outing the series.
The weapons are usually a bone of contention in the development of a game, and especially so with any self-respecting FPS as balance is essential… or so a wise man once told me. Looking set to debut, weapons of mass destruction will include; a rocket launcher, poison gas, EMP, stasis grenades, a ‘leech’ gun, hunter/killer drones fired from a ‘Takkra’, and something called a Mindclaw which sounds truly terrifying.
Finally, we have reached the limits of information currently available on Unreal 2, and you can be sure Ferrago.co.uk will keep you posted on all the latest happenings with the title. The slated release date of Unreal 2 is Summer 2002, though we wouldn’t mind betting a little slippage to Christmas, which would be interesting as Unreal Warfare is slated for release Christmas 2002; surely Infogrames wouldn’t release two Unreal titles simultaneously? Regardless, I shall watch development of both titles with fascination.