The original Unreal on the PC takes me back to when 3D Accelerator cards were just becoming something most gamers wanted to get their hands on to improve the visual quality of games and Unreal took every last ounce of power to give what was then a masterpiece of visual quality.
Unreal 2 followed which with a new engine would again on the PC blow our minds with extremely detailed terrain and lush graphics.
Receiving some good reviews it was destined to be ported over to the Xbox which for PC users who did not have the money to keep upgrading, allowed us to have some faith of playing the game in most of its splendour with the added incentive of online multiplayer.
For anyone who has played Unreal on the PC you will probably remember the ending. The character you controlled was left adrift in space with a vessel that had no power to travel anywhere. Most of us hoped it would be a continuation of this storyline which had us gripped as you slowly learned more and more about the Unreal Universe. This was not to be and instead you control a soldier named John Dalton, a name that has as much excitement as watching paint dry and a personality with the amount of depth of Mr Bean.
Thankfully not driving a mini to work, you get in your space ship where you receive your mission objectives and chat with the crew. I am looking for something very positive to start this review with but alas it was never to be. John Dalton’s voice is so monotonic you end up skipping the cut scenes where important information is given. So your lead character is somewhat uninspiring which is not the best way to start the game. In the PC version you could roam the ship and chat with the crew at your leisure, but this has been absolutely massacred in the Xbox version where you only see cut scenes of the important bits of information. Watch and be disturbed as one cut scene sharply overlaps over the next causing a very unrealistic conversation.
Once you finally get into a mission you realise how many sacrifices have been made and many they certainly are. The textures are extremely poor for a game that on the PC looked incredibly detailed. This just takes the mockery out of the Xbox hardware. This is no real fault of the Xbox, be it lack of time or lack of talent of the people who ported it over, this game feels more like an early code rather then a finished product.
The characters have taken a major cut down in graphical quality especially the movement. It is like battling sprite enemies from Doom all those years ago on a 486 processor where you could only see the odd frame of animation causing a jerking movement all the time. This is for me inexcusable and takes this game further down below even an average score.
Controls are what you would expect from a game of this kind so fans of the traditional First Person Shooter will soon get into the game control wise if in no other area. Music is pretty repetitive and the sounds are quite weak through the entire game. The weapons in the sequel are a big improvement over the original which took quite a lot of criticism in this area. Quite a variety such as shotguns, sniper rifles, smaller pistols and some nice meaty rocket launches all looking powerful aids to your enemy’s destruction.
The single player experience is an average romp around some quite entertaining missions, but the lack of decent graphics and smooth character animation destroy the story completely as you note all the bad areas of graphics as you progress. Thankfully there might have been something that could have saved the port of this game and that is the online play. You would be wrong, this is a terrible online game as well with only 4 maps to choose from and a pretty boring online mode. No capture the flag or deathmatch to enjoy, instead you have to steal artefacts from the other base, similar to capture the flag but overly complicated as they add extra objectives to add more life to the game. There are 3 classes of character to choose from all with varying abilities but still it really is one of the worst experiences of Xbox Live I have encountered so far.
Another normally good addition to a game of this genre is co-operative play where you can grab a friend and go through the game together. The trouble is with a game this bad you would only invite your worst enemy so you could suffer together. Now wouldn’t that be fun…
As a true Xbox fan I can only cringe at the thought of the conversations I am going to have with PC owners about this game, what on earth can I say to encourage PC users to get an Xbox when such bad ports of this kind hit the Xbox shelves. If it wasn’t for me having the ability to play Unreal 2 on the PC I would be really disappointed with Unreal 2.
If you really want to continue the Unreal Universe get it on the PC and if yours is powerful enough enjoy a graphical marvel, buy for Xbox and you’re more likely to take it back to the shop for a full refund as this really feels like defective goods.