all the first person shooters that Ive played over the past couple
years, Unreal is still the prettiest one around, even a year after its
release. The original release of Unreal, in 1998, was a bit early for its time
considering that in order to get the game to run the way it was intended
required a Voodoo 2 and a Pentium 2 Processor. Since its release, however,
the games designers have done some serious work on the Direct 3D an
Open GL portions of the game engine. Although Return to Na Pali
still runs best on a Voodoo based accelerator, the game is now playable on
most Direct 3D accelerators.
When I first popped the game in, it installed with ease. As soon as I launched the game, I made some changes to my advanced settings that got the game running smoothly, and set up the support for my SB Live! soundcard.
For those of you who don't remember the premise of the original, you were the sole survivor to escape the slave ship Vortex Rikers and the unhospitable planet of Na Pali. This is where the expansion pack picks up--after escaping the planet, the UMS Bodego Bay finds your shuttle in orbit around the planet and brings you on board. You are told that you can either go back to Na Pali to recover some data cores or you can stay and be dumped out the nearest airlock without a suit. You opt to go back to the planet.
The first thing you notice new about the Unreal expansion is that between each level there is a narration by your character in the form of a log entry. Along with the narration, there are 3 new weapons including a rocket launcher, grenade launcher, and carbine assault rifle. I must say, the new weapons have a much more satisfying feel than the previous weapons that Unreal provided. The rocket launcher feels much more like the Quake II rocket launcher and has a pretty powerful kick to it. Along with the new weapons, there are a few new items as well. The scuba gear you now carry recharges its supply of air when you get out of the water, and there is now a searchlight to complement the flashlight. The level design in Return to Na Pali is excellent and I found myself enjoying the levels almost as much as those in Half Life. I know that the character interaction of Half Life isnt there, but the eye candy and spookiness are. I played some of the levels late at night and several times practically jumped out of my seat when a Scaarj dropped right in front of me. Another nice thing about the levels in Return to Na Pali is that there are secrets in each level to be found, so you can spend some time exploring the level without feeling like you are rushed to make it through.
Overall, I was very impressed with Return to Na Pali. GT took all the good points of Unreal and improved on them, meanwhile fixing a lot of the problems from the original. The level design is excellent and the levels are a blast to play through. The Multi-Player support still isnt up to par, but it is at least playable and the weapons are more usable. The included deathmatch levels are fair, but still dont have the finesse of Quake 2 or 3s levels. As a single player game, I found Return to Na Pali to be very enjoyable even if a bit on the short side. For those of you looking for a multi-player experience, this game plays very well on LAN now, but still is lacking in internet support. I suggest looking elsewhere for a multiplayer game. And though the game does support more 3D cards now, it still runs best with the Voodoo series of cards. And you'll still need at least a Voodoo 2 with a 233 PII and 64 megs of RAM to run the game with everything turned on.--Tom Monter