Digital Extremes
Infogrames
FPS
1-8
11.14.02

Unreal Championship


Back in November 98, a small game titled Unreal Tournament was released. What wasn't so small were the exceptional scores it received. Gamespot raved Unreal Tournament was the most complete FPS ever. Impressive, yet sequels that actually live up to it's predecessors are hard to come by. Unreal Championship was announced for Xbox, creating a roar across the Internet. Will Unreal Championship, the game 'made' for Xbox Live, live up to it's potential?

Unreal Championship is like all FPS - run around the map firing your weapon left and right. Yet, somehow FPS have evolved to have more complex objectives than to just shoot. Several gameplay modes have been included, each mode having it's very exclusive set of maps. Capture the flag (CTF), Double Domination, Death match, Team Death match, and Bombing run are the modes to choose from. The gameplay modes are pretty obvious. Death match is essentially a frag fest, Team Death match is the exact mode but you're on teams. Capture the flag is another obvious one as well. Each team has a flag. Your team wants their flag, they want yours. The newer, additional, gameplay modes are new and fairly unique. Bombing run is similar to soccer - one player on your team runs around with an object, trying to score in the opposing goal. Once their health hits a low, they should hand the object off to a fellow teammate. It's all about the teamwork. The last gameplay mode is double domination, which in short is King of the hill, but with a twist - hold two separate bases. With a decent team and a few juggernauts, this mode can sure be addicting.

Gameplay

Now we head into the section that will make or break the title. Is it better than the original Unreal Tournament? Yes and no. While some factors are much better than the original game, a few feature pull drag the title across the highway. We'll begin with the flaws that we noticed.

The first and foremost flaw we noticed was what we all feared - lag - Serious lag at that. I have a decent DSL connection (131/1200) and I hit major lag every time I logged onto the majority of games. It could have had 5 other players within the game. Still, the lag was there. While it wasn't necessarily consistent lag, I have never thrown my controllers so hard, so many times. Honestly, who wants to be cruising a map without a weapon? It's not the fact that we don't have a weapon (every player starts with a weapon) it's the fact that the lag gets is so overwhelming at times that the game doesn't load up the weapon. There's nothing worse than being in one of those amazing matches where you're on fire, and then, the lag kicks in. I swear it's a slap across the face.

Now, we have some light shining across the review - a few things done right. The controls are nicely done. In short, they are essentially the exact controls as Halo. Who's going to argue with that? It would have been nice to have a keyboard and mouse, but lets not get picky here. The controls are fine, and that's what really matters.

Another feature done right was the enemy AI. Of course, it compares nothing like a real human opponent over Xbox Live, but it gets the job done. In the single player mode, the AI (Artificial Intelligence) can save your ass more than once, which is fine. You can also use the AI bots online. Again, they compare nothing to real human opponents.

Now, we get into level design, which I must say, is impressive. While there are some downright crap levels, there are a few that stand out. The death match levels are perfectly fitted for what they should be. The developers really knew that we who use the rocket launchers like it when everyone is jammed in a small room. In short, it's great. Using someone who doesn't have a rocket launcher? Perfect. Jump on a top floor and waste everyone below. The developers delayed the game to work on a few things, and level design was one of them. Looks as though they hit the spot.

Here is an important feature that is new to the Unreal franchise - character classes. No, I don't mean it in RPG style character classes. Each race or character has his/ her own unique set of features. The robots are faster, but in return, don't necessarily have the best weapons to begin a match with. Juggernauts have 190 health and have a rocket launcher! But, as mentioned before, are consequently slow as molasses. Unfortunately, this can upset the balance of gameplay. When on Xbox Live, I asked several gamers if they thought that the gameplay can be upset. One gamer said if there are 10 juggernauts, one of them is bound to win. If they are 10 robots with lightning guns, one of them will win.

Graphics

Graphics are strictly the icing of the cake. Unreal Championship has fairly nice and crisp graphics. Anti-aliasing, bump mapping, and amazing lighting are used, which is good. Each level is detailed, though you'll likely never paid any attention. Whenever you launch a rocket across the map, you will see smoke trailing the rocket. It's quite appealing. What I have noticed is in multi-player via split screen, everything is slimmed down immensely. The grass that once flourished is now missing in action. The pipes don't steam anymore. The overall graphical quality seems poor via split screen. But never the less, in single player mode, or online, the graphics seem up to date and, though not the best, look downright awesome.

Sound

The techno music is back in action. If you like techno, you should appreciate the music implemented into the game. Unfortunately, for we who put hard work into our custom soundtracks, aren't in luck. The Custom soundtrack option isn't supported in Unreal Championship. It's a shame really, because it's such a unique feature that is easily implemented. But, in return, we got something else that makes us giddy - sweet sound effects. Of course, the sound effects are rather cheap; they do match the type of gameplay.

Bottom Line:

It seems like Unreal Championship was over hyped, but we're not saying the game is awful. It's definitely one of the better Xbox games that were made for Xbox Live. The sound, it's there. The graphics, are there with special effects added in. The gameplay, while flawed, is excellent and holds true to its roots. Jump on the bandwagon; if you haven't picked this title up yet, you're missing out. You're missing out big time.

-Sean O'Connor




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