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Unreal Episode II Preview
game: Unreal Episode II
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue May 28th, 2002
last revision: 05:37 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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By Paul Cockeram

The Unreal Warfare engine is truly a sight to behold, and nowhere does it look better than the long-awaited FPS Unreal Episode II. The Warfare engine handles increased polygons for organic surfaces, allowing an unprecedented level of detail. Blood flows inside the translucent veins of a planet-sized creature, while spores orbiting the planet crawl with life. The particle system does a magnificent job rendering the sprites that live inside that giant creature, as well as the trails on weapons. Rockets cut through smoke, pushing it aside as they stir the air. A freight elevator in the first mission contains more polygons than all of Unreal.

Stunning as they are, graphics are just the beginning. You play an ex-marine turned cop who keeps order on the star ship Atlantis. When the action begins to heat up, your combat experience comes in handy through thirteen missions and over thirty levels on ten different planets. The briefings for these missions happen in real time, and they\'re delivered by characters that look absolutely fabulous as their eyes move to track you and their heads turn. Cinematics rendered in real time move you from the briefing into game play, where you investigate the strange behavior of a group of soldiers on what is supposed to be a reconnaissance mission--until things get ugly. That\'s when you pick up one of more than fourteen different weapons, from familiar machine guns through alien hardware, and start blazing.

Unreal Episode II offers an innovative approach to game play by taking you out of the cramped corridors and buildings common to FPSs and providing Serious Sam-like fields and savannas. Each of the ten planets has unique flora and fauna, as well as individualized environments. Vertical space is as prevalent and well used as horizontal. There are also different styles of game play, from offensive invasion and recovery missions through defensive perimeter protection. A new battery of monsters further mixes things up by providing fresh challenges that demand innovative strategies. For example, a pack of benign-seeming droids is actually a unit of repair robots that fixes the tougher enemies, making it necessary to plan not only how to kill your opponents but also keep them dead.

The AI looks exceptional in this title, with enemies ducking behind cover and otherwise using their advantages. Human opponents act human, while alien and robotic opponents act otherwise. The result is a consistency that makes the whole game more believable. The atmosphere is further enhanced by dynamic music that changes according to game play, so that firefights produce a more urgent tempo while sneaking through hallways causes softer sounds. These and other factors are sure to make level replayability strong, so that the 20-30 hours of game play is just the beginning. Note, however, that this title won\'t feature multi-player support-pick up Unreal Tournament 2003 for that.

Unreal Episode II might make enemies for its hardware requirements-as of this writing, designers were reporting minimum system requirements including a TNL 3D capable graphics card, meaning GeForce 2 or higher. This will probably force a lot of fans to upgrade their video hardware, but rest assured that Unreal Episode II will be worth it.