Reviewed by Cameron Bourne
June 27th 2005

Introduction:The first Unreal game to ever reach the Xbox was Unreal Championship, mostly just a toned down version of the P.C. Unreal Tournament the game offered up some fun in its multiplayer modes but never really took off like it could have. It was then followed up by the terrible Unreal 2: The Awakening Epic Games is back and they're not going to settle for a too close for comfort sequel either. Unreal Championship 2 is a totally new way to play Unreal games.

The Game:As I said before this is no ordinary Unreal game, the pacing may be the same; intensely fast paced with and explosive. Yet something feels different, and that something comes in the form of third person and melee combat. 3rd person on an Unreal game you ask? Well it's there and the good news is that it's fun, although the aiming isn't quite as good as in first person it does let you see a lot more of what is happening around you. If you're not into the whole 3rd person affair then you can also play in the standard first person mode and the game will feel a lot more like what you're used to.

The other big addition is melee combat, no longer is it guns and rockets but it's also knives and swords. This isn't just another gimmick like the sword in Halo 2, but this is full on melee, close combat, bullet blocking sword play. Its fun, it's fairly easy, and surprisingly it feels like a natural fit. This new addition alone can make for some absolute mayhem, rockets, miniguns, and now swords. What more can be put into a simple fast paced FPS? How about Mortal Kombat characters and fatalities? That's right you can now play as characters such as Raiden, and every character can pull off fatalities on a stunned opponent with their melee weapon of choice after pulling off fairly hard to master combo. That's a nice perk of having Midway develop for you. Like the first Unreal Championship you pick up adrenaline boosts for different power ups, and these too have been greatly improved. You can now adrenaline one power ups like nimble, which allows you to jump so high and so many times you're practically flying across the level. All these new additions thrown into the already fast paced nature of Unreal make for one hectic, fun and violent game.

Not just satisfied with those additions Epic also decided to put in a single player storyline, something fairly new to the Unreal series. It follows a young up and comer in the Liandri tournaments ranks named Anubis. It turns out his ex has entered the tournament and now he has to stop her from winning and becoming an emperor. It's more of a training mode than an actual single player and it isn't very long. The best part about single player however would have to be the bot matches and challenges. The AI is smart and some of the matches can be rather hard, a good practice for when you get online. As we all know online is the most important part of an Unreal game and UC2 comes up with a really fun and versatile online mode. Although it's fairly disappointing that the game can only handle up to 8 players online, it can still be a very intense and fun experience for both the hardcores and the pick up and players. Although for those of you who are new to the game you may want to take some time on the single player mode first because once you get online some of the other players can be fairly intimidating. The game includes 6 modes of play that range from your normal team deathmatches and capture the flags (which make up the most of the modes) to a mode that has you pitted against the opponent to see who can kill the most innocent people!

Now there are some problems with the game, as I mentioned earlier the limit of only 8 players is too small and it can lead to lot's of running around searching for people to fight. This is also made worse by the maps, some of which are much better suited for 16 players rather than 6 or 8. The framerate can also have some occasional dips (although it's surprisingly good through most of the game). Some may also find the blistering pace of the gameplay an acquired taste, and you will most likely need some practice before going online, but that's always been part of the series. Finally it would be nice if you could pick up any weapon on the map rather going through a weapon load out screen and only being able to select 4 weapons.

Graphics & Sound:Epic has always done graphics better than almost anyone in the industry, and they show that they're at the top of their game with Unreal Championship 2. It looks almost as good as its P.C. counterparts which is a big accomplishment for an Xbox game. The graphics take more of a bright and colourful look than most games and it works. The level of detail is high in both the characters and environments and the weapons have a great look to them as well, especially the melee weapons. The only real complaints with the graphics would be that in the heat of battle it can be hard to see where your opponents have gotten to, and there is the occasional framerate jitter.

Sound-wise UC2 is good but nothing revolutionary. While the music is very fitting for each level, it's the voices that you will hear most of time. The Unreal announcer is back and all of the characters are excellently voiced, making taunting opponents that much better. The voice work done in the single player is just as good, and it's nice to see that they have characters that sound like they're talking about a serious sport like what you would see on a sports show, even if the Unreal Championship is as far from a realistic sport as you can get.

Innovation:UC2's innovation definitely comes from its genre blending. The game takes elements from first person shooters, fighting games, and third person shooters and mixes it all up into one very balanced game. It would have been easy enough for Epic to make almost no changes to the already popular formula of Unreal, but their choice to try something new definitely paid off. At times it feels like something that you've never played before, and at other times it feels familiar to the rest of the series. The game never however feels like a basic FPS.

Mojo:Rocket launchers, melee weapons, finishing moves, tell me what isn't there to like about that? To add to it there is a ton of variety in the game, unlockable weapons and characters, and downloadable content that already has more than most games do, and you have a multiplayer game that will last you for a long time. That's the whole purpose of Unreal games, to give you a ton of bang for your buck and that is exactly what you get with UC2.

Lowdown:It has its problems, and it isn't the best Unreal game to be made (that would go to the excellent Unreal Tournament 2004), but it is the most original game in the series and your best choice on Xbox. If you're looking for a game to pick up that will give plenty of playability over the usually dead summer months then you will want to check out Unreal Championship 2.

Gameplay: 8, Graphics/Sound: 9, Innovation: 9, Mojo: 8. Final: 8.5

  • Bone-crunching melee combat. For the first time in an "Unreal" franchise game, players can battle using hand-to-hand weapon combat seamlessly melded with Unreal's trademark fast-paced shooter action.
  • Unprecedented player mobility. Combat takes on a whole new dimension. New third-person navigation makes it easy for players to pull off incredible acrobatic combo-moves. Levels are designed to allow the players to take maximize their movement skills and take combat to a high-flying vertical level, never seen before in an action shooter.
  • Adrenaline Powers for fighting. New Adrenaline Powers enable players to deflect projectiles and invoke powers for new offensive and defensive tactics.
  • Unparalleled multiplayer action. The "Unreal" experience is optimized for Xbox Live, enabling players to take on adversaries from around the world. System Link provides the ability to play against others by directly linking Xbox consoles.
  • Intense single-player excitement. Players are immersed in a two-part, single-player tournament experience that allows the player to take on the role of a variety of uniquely-skilled characters, as well as the role of heroic Anubis as he fights to reclaim his people's Rite of Ascension tournament from the omnipotent Liandri Corporation.

Unreal Championship II: The Liandri

April 2005