Release Date: April 18, 2005
Pre-order 'UNREAL CHAMPIONSHIP 2: The Liandri Conflict': Xbox
Epic Games really stunned the world a year ago when they announced Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict, the sequel to one of the original launch titles for Xbox Live. People weren't shocked because there would be a sequel to the original Unreal Championship, but because of how the game was going to be played. Unlike the original UC and other recent Epic shooters, UC2 was going to be a first-/third-person shooter hybrid. Most people, myself included, could not see how they could make this work, given the Unreal game play style, but after putting this title through its paces, I was actually quite blown away by how this works.
Right off the bat, the first thing you will notice is the impressive visuals. Xbox technology has come a long way since the days of the first Unreal game, and UC2 sports some highly detailed environments with clean, crisp textures. The character models use a good number of polygons that help them feature a nice, smooth appearance. Thanks to the third-person viewpoint, you can now see the character models up close all the time and take in some of the fine specifics. The particle effects for the weapons and moves look amazing, and some of the effects will warp the screen into a Matrix-like scene that will leave you speechless. Epic has always been known for their great level design, and UC2 is no exception. You will battle to the death on beautifully rendered levels that range from underwater sea labs to ancient temple ruins on a remote mountainside. Not only do they look good, but they also play well, with sensible designs that work perfectly in either first- or third-person view.
As soon as you get past the game's amazing graphics, you will notice that the controls play a bit differently than past Unreal titles. You can switch between first- and third-person view as needed, and it can be done at the touch of a button. First-person is great for long-range engagements with a foe, and third-person is great for close battles and melee attacks.
While in first-person view, the game plays pretty much like UC, with the exception of an easily accessible adrenaline menu system that can be reached by tapping the D-pad. UC2 really puts a lot of focus on this adrenaline system, and it is used quite a bit in third-person mode to execute special combat moves, as well as special powers. Everything feels so natural, as if it were always meant to be played like this
The controls for the third-person view are rock solid, but the action flows fast, regardless of which viewpoint you're using. You can perform all types of combos with ease and even lock on to a character to make it easier to engage them. In this view, every character has a melee weapon that they can use and perform special moves. Simple combos and attacks are the name of the game, and special death blows can kill an opponent in a single hit.
One of the cool features of being in third-person view is the ability to jump and dodge attacks while in battle. You can jump off walls and other objects in the environment, helping you to avoid attacks and projectiles from enemies while at the same time looking extremely cool! Another neat feature is the ability to deflect an enemy's projectile. If someone fires a weapon at you, you're not totally helpless; if you get the timing just right, you can actually deflect the enemy's projectile right back at them with your melee weapon. It's not easy to do, but after a while, you can get it down some of the time, and it can often mean the difference between life and death.
UC2 will feature several different modes of multiplayer goodness. All of the main modes will be there, such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. New modes such as Overdose will be tossed into the mix to give gamers a good variety of gameplay options, and of course, all of the famous mutators will be there, as will some new ones.
UC2 will support up to eight players online on Xbox Live, and while this may sound like a small number for an online game, it keeps the game balanced and the action fast. All of the maps have been designed with this number in mind. Offline, UC2 sports a pretty nice single player game that is a tournament-based system where you take on lots of people in different matches. But much like the first one, UC2's main draw is as an online title, and that is where most of the fun is to be had. I must say, though, the bot AI in single player matches is quite stunning on the higher difficulty settings, and it can often feel like you're playing against a real human opponent.
Overall, I was very impressed with Unreal Championship 2: it looks good, plays well, and is lots of fun. The developers were able to successfully take the fast-paced first-person shooter action of other Unreal games and combine it with a third-person viewpoint, allowing them to further expand upon the action and game play. They also made the third-person combat feel just like the first-person combat that the Unreal series is known for, blending both into one seamless package.