Having infiltrated Digital Extreme's high-tech HQ, our man escaped with a few new shots of this exciting X-Box first-person shooter. Read his report on what he could divulge from the secret documents he obtained, and check out the new screenshots. This page will self desruct in thirty-seconds. Or not.
Unreal Championship is the latest instalment in Epic’s burgeoning Unreal series, that will be hitting Microsoft’s powerful Xbox console, shortly after it’s European debut in Spring of 2002. The game seems to be based on similar values to those of the PC’s earlier Unreal-outing, ‘Tournanent’, based on a multiplayer style of gameplay. Championship will be one of the first dedicated first-person shooter offerings on the new machine, and as such the reception it receives should prove most interesting. This coupled with the multiplayer focus of the title looks certain to broaden the Xbox’s appeal - as well as perhaps prompting many of the existing user-base into their first bout of on-line action.
The game is built on the sturdy foundations of the Unreal engine technology; Epic’s ubiquitous software ‘motor’ powering many of the most attractive action titles currently in development, such as Duke Nukem Forever, Thief III, Deus Ex 2, and Rage’s upcoming Mobile Forces. This technology has been taken and enhanced by developer’s Digital Extremes, for the Xbox platform, and it has been enhanced by them still further, with an advanced particle system (providing visual flair in the way of smoke and weapon-trails, etc.) Apparently this advancement is at it’s most brilliant when a player runs through a cloud of smoke and the cloud reacts by wafting realistically. The other ‘big thing’ they’re brining to the fold is a new shadowing system, which allows the designer to create far more realistic and detailed shadow effects, such as the shadow of a fan spinning and effecting the lighting of an environment and players in it. Such a feature must add enormously to the potential for generating atmosphere in an environment; and we look forward to witnessing this particularly. You can see this effect in the screenshots that adorn this page, too.
The gameplay has been tweaked for the audience Digital Extremes has in mind, and will therefore be a FPS interpreted for a console, with influences taken from the fighting-game genre, so popular with our console chums (though I personally can never see the appeal). This influence will make for certain special moves, power-ups and combinations, that can be activated once a certain number of points / kills have been accrued. This will perhaps make for games that have far more kills, as well as giving those with more kills an ever-spiralling dominance over the battle. Apart from this modification though, the game will be very much in the vein of Unreal Tournament, as the singleplayer game will consist of the player taking on a series of unseemly AI-controlled ‘bots’ over various environments and levels, driven, by some revenge-based story, which, Epic inform us, ‘is the next chapter’ in the Unreal Tournament saga.
Multiplayer, as I’ve previously mentioned will of course feature heavily too; and rumour has it that by the time Unreal Championship hit shelves, the Xbox will have some form of proper broadband or standard internet access arrangement; over which players will be able to duel in the manner Tournament fans are already accustomed.
Much of the success of the game will undoubtedly rest on how well it plays using the rather different medium of an Xbox control pad. Though Digital Extremes assure us they are focussing on getting this crucial balance just right; if they do, Unreal Championship could be for Xbox what Goldeneye did for the N64. The power of the console as well as the attention on good features that is going in to the game can be seen in the detail of multiplayer options; which can be highly customised. For example it will be possible for a two-player split-screen mode game, to also include contestants joining via the internet. Such power will surely make for a multiplayer experience with legs; especially given the vast investment and development it is said Microsoft are pouring into the Xbox’s multiplayer service.
In a departure from previous Unreal outings, UC will include numerous vehicles that can be driven, perhaps in a similar fashion to Bungie’s Halo, and Westwood’s upcoming Command & Conquer Renegade, and this should work with the attention to detail Digital Extremes are putting into the terrain. Many of the weapons to feature in the game will, apparently, be familiar to player of Unreal Tournament, though Digital Extremes, creators of the original Unreal title, are promising a few surprises too.
In conclusion, then, Unreal Championship could be a very good thing for Microsoft’s new baby, and providing gamers of the console enjoy the genre as much as their PC counterparts, success seems inevitable for this game. What will be of particular interest will be how it takes advantage of the on-line multiplayer service, and how popular this mode of play is on the up-take. All in all, the success of Unreal Championship, is perhaps as important to Microsoft as it is to Epic and Digital Extremes, possibly even more so.