Unreal Championship 2 off to factory

Midway's Xbox shooter set to ship April 18; latest in Epic's franchise features third-person view and melee attacks.

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Midway Games today announced that Epic Studios has sent off the master copy of Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict to production. The hybrid first- and third-person action game will ship for the Xbox on April 18. This will be the first Midway release of an Unreal game since the publisher hooked up with Epic last July, and it's the third Unreal game for Microsoft's console.

Unreal Championship 2 continues the frantic futuristic combat that made the Unreal series some of the most popular online PC games. The Liandri Conflict will feature three main offline modes, the story-driven ascension rites, the ladder-climbing tournaments, and the appropriately named challenge mode, which is a series of against-the-odds scenarios.

In ascension rites, gamers will vie for the throne of the dying emperor, who decides to hold a to-the-death tournament to find his champion and successor. Players will don the ceremonial headdress of Anubis, the lanky warrior with a penchant for ancient Egyptian style.

The tournament mode cuts to the chase and pits gamers in a series of matches tailored for specific characters, as was the case in 2002's Unreal Championship. As players progress through ascension rites, more tournaments and other goodies are unlocked.

Unreal Championship 2 will feature deep online stat tracking for Xbox Live. There will be the traditional deathmatch, capture the flag, and survival modes, as well as the all-new Nali slaughter and overdose game types.

The most significant change to gameplay is the inclusion of an optional third-person view. In this view, not only can competitors fire off a few shots with their guns, but also they can beat enemies over the head with a variety of staff-related melee maneuvers. The third-person view also allows for dexterous acrobatics, including wall jumps and character-specific moves.

Now that Epic and Midway are in cahoots, the developers were able to add a few surprises. Mortal Kombat electro-god Raiden is unlockable in the game, and characters can perform insta-death "fatality" moves, a la Midway's classic fighter.

Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict is rated "M" for Mature and will have an SRP of $49.99. For more information on the game, check out GameSpot's previous coverage, which includes last month's feature preview.

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