Unreal 2: The Awakening PC Review
Some people would tell you that the Single Player FPS Game is a dying breed, one lacking in direction and entertainment value with generic, unimaginative shooters being churned out on an almost weekly basis. However, those who have played the likes of F.E.A.R and Half-Life 2 will attest to the fact that the genre’s demise has been exaggerated.
Unreal 2: The Awakening was supposed to be the saviour of the genre, a continuation of the popular Unreal series which attempted to take Quake 2’s FPS crown many moons ago. In name, Unreal 2 is the sequel to the original story driven Unreal title, which was treated to a mixed reception upon its launch. However, Unreal 2 does nothing to continue the narrative of its predecessor, with the only similarities being in some of the enemies and weapons.
Unreal 2 was all but set to be the game to put the series on the Single Player FPS throne that its predecessor so desperately tried to reach. Four years of development, numerous delays and an entire change in theme later, the game was complete and expected to change the genre forever. Just weeks prior to release, excited gamers congregated on forums everywhere. One post, by a member called ‘1337 b0y’, typified the current train of thought with FPS fans…”Unreal 2 is gonna be the best game ever, it’s got mad graphicz, it’s gonna rule d00d”. Days passed and the first review appeared…67%
At first, it may have seemed that this was a mistake, yet when a score of 71% appeared elsewhere, it appeared that the game simply didn’t live up to expectations. Just a week later, the aforementioned forumite ‘1337 b0y’ was seen to say, “I told you it’d be crap, I’m looking forward to Generic Shooter 3, it’s gonna be the best game ever with it’s mad graphicz and 1337 gameplay”. At this point in time, the game was still a week away from hitting shop shelves. Yet gamers had decided that it wasn’t worthy of their time. The Unreal 2 topics which had been spread across numerous forums in the previous weeks were replaced by ones for discussion about the highly anticipated ‘Generic Shooter 3’. Why? Why exactly was the potential new king of the genre, average at best? “It’s not revolutionary” one games magazine stated, “the plot is unimaginative,” said another, and in saying this, they would be right.
Unreal 2 doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done several thousand times over. You are a generic spaceman; you pick up a variety of generic weapons, and shoot generic aliens. No different to anything that was done by Quake 2 back in ooh, ’96 or so. Certainly, Unreal 2 is no better (nor worse) than ID’s classic piece of software – yet Quake 2 was hailed as ‘the best game ever!!!’ back in the day. So what’s changed since then? It’s quite simple really. The years in between Quake 2 and Unreal 2 have seen the release of two genre defining games. Halo and Half-Life. Both had superb level design, well-balanced weapons and indeed, genre innovation by the bucketload
Unreal 2 has none of these, it’s arguably nothing more than Quake 2 with a shiny graphical gloss. It is unremarkable, overly familiar and does nothing that we haven’t seen before and its design and structure can’t hold a candle to the likes of Half-Life and Halo. But there isn’t actually anything wrong with it. To some extent it manages to be, dare I say it, more entertaining than Half-Life. Overall, it isn’t anything like as good as Half-Life of course. However, as a product solely for entertainment, it may just be a little better. It doesn’t make you think and it doesn’t force you to think tactically. It simply hands you a gun, points you to a truckload of aliens and tells you to go and shoot them. As pure, simple shooters go, it’s the best thing on the PC since Quake 2. The weak storyline and scripting fade into insignificance when you’re chasing a group of spiders down the corridor, flame-thrower in hand.
Not just that but the game is superbly presented. The graphics, though dated now still look absolutely gorgeous and the sound effects and music suit the game perfectly with a barrage of satisfying gun sounds and an atmospheric musical score. Unreal 2 is also a good length and the gameplay never becomes frustrating or repetitive thanks to a wide variety of well-designed levels and a perfectly tuned difficulty level.
Other reviewers have perhaps been far too harsh. Unreal 2 is a good, solid bit of fun. It’s not the revolutionary space epic we were led to expect, but it is an enjoyable 15-hour adventure, which is worthy of any FPS fan’s time and money.