During its annual editors' day event, Infogrames showed us a little bit of its upcoming first-person shooter, Unreal II. Matt Powers, senior producer for the company, played a 30-second video of gameplay footage that was taken from the latest build of the game, which is in development at Epic and Legend. While short, the footage was quite varied and showed your main character being dropped off onto the surface of a planet. Your ship, the Atlantis, was then seen quickly taking off to safety while the main character was left to deal with the enemy forces on the ground. The footage was voiced over by Aida, your character's intelligence officer, and it showed numerous environments, including both indoor and outdoor areas, as well as a strange alien planet with a grayish blue atmosphere and organic rock formations that reached upward toward the sky. For a brief instance, the video also showed what looked like a completely metallic Skaarj warrior running away from the screen.
When the video was over, Powers loaded up the game itself to show off some of the game's enemies. This level was of a plain-looking room that contained several different creatures that you'll run into throughout Unreal II. The first such creatures we saw were the Skaarj warriors. The game will actually have a wide variety of these fierce predators. The light Skaarj is basically the same as the Skaarj that you ran into in the original Unreal. Of course, the new light Skaarj looks a lot better thanks to the impressive Unreal II engine: The new character model now sports an extremely high number of polygons, smooth and realistic idle animations, and a virtual canvas of tattoos. According to Powers, these tattoos will be different between some of the Skaarj to denote their respective tribes. The plot in Unreal II will detail the warring Skaarj factions, each of which is after a mysterious artifact believed to hold the ability to unlock a devastating weapon. Additionally, there will be different types of Skaarj warriors, and in Powers' demo, we saw a medium Skaarj warrior who was bristling with pointy tusks and massive armor. While it isn't yet in the game, an even larger heavy Skaarj will eventually make its way into Unreal II.
Powers then "walked" over to part of the room that contained some of the game's NPCs. We saw the character model of a female scientist, who you'll need to rescue in one of the opening missions of Unreal II. The room also contained light and heavy marines, the latter of which were donning massive power suits and carrying deadly flamethrowers. Like the Skaarj, these classes of marines will have different skins to differentiate them from one another. Currently, these variations come in the form of red, green, blue, and yellow armor. The mercenaries were the last of the character groups available in the demo. These warriors-for-hire also come in small, regular, and supersize varieties, and like most of the other enemies and characters in Unreal II, they also have a number of different skins to add to the variety. Powers referred to the ones we saw as "Japanese mercs" because of their resemblance to the mechs so prevalent in Japanese anime.
The demo then shifted to some of the game's 18 weapons. Powers demonstrated the game's standard pistol, the terran assault rifle, the sniper rifle, and the rocket launcher. The assault rifle had a unique alternate mode of fire: It fired three pieces of charged shrapnel that bounce off solid objects and shred "soft" targets like Skaarj and other humans. The rocket launcher's alternate mode fires three rockets that rotate around each other. Not all of the game's 18 weapons will be instantly available to you, however. Throughout your adventures on the many planets of Unreal II, you'll encounter various alien technologies that you can bring back to your ship. These technologies will be impossible to use at first, but your science officer aboard the Atlantis will be able to research them, exploit their potential, and implement some of their features into your own arsenal.
Infogrames acknowledges that the level of anticipation among fans of Unreal for this game is huge. "We have to be able to exceed all expectations," said Powers. "But we're sure that Unreal II will leapfrog Half-Life [in terms of the] single-player experience." As such, Unreal II will have some gaming conventions that people don't really associate with action games--conventions like text trees, for example. But Unreal II won't be an adventure game in any sense of the word. Powers said that the varied missions will include stealth-based levels, hostage rescue, bomb defusal, and squad-based combat. Some levels will even force you to defend a base from oncoming attackers by manning different stationary weapons and giving out orders to other marines to do the same. And while Unreal II will largely be a single-player game, it will have a sizeable multiplayer component. In addition to deathmatch and capture-the-flag maps, Unreal II will have a mode called expanded multiplayer or XMP. Powers compares this to Team Fortress Classic since it will involve characters of varying classes, and he says it will even have a small amount of resource management but wouldn't elaborate any further.
In all, we were very impressed with what we saw today. The Unreal II engine uses a significant amount of Unreal Warfare code, which is the technology that also powers the upcoming Xbox game, Unreal Championship. Epic is currently busy with the technology side of the game, while Legend is producing the story and content of Unreal II, and Powers reaffirmed that the game will be released in the first part of 2002. We'll have some brand-new screenshots of the game early next week, and we'll update you with more information on Unreal II in the coming months. In the meantime, be sure to take a look at our