Unreal Championship 2 incorporates some fantastic new innovative elements into its gameplay: some worked, many didn't.

User Rating: 8.4 | Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict XBOX
Unreal Championship 2 is a game that makes great first impressions on the player, but eventually boils down to a pretty repetitive shooter that you will get bored of quicker than you should. In this review, I will be a critic and focus on the issues that make this game feel less contrived than it should.

The single-player mode will become repetitive much sooner than you'll unlock everything there is to unlock in the game. You have your "Ascension Rites" ladder, which is essentially the story mode. This mode is basically a collection of matches with various cutscenes and silly "adventure" sequences thrown in between (which aren't actually particularly well done, but it's still better than nothing). You'll beat this mode in 5 hours tops. Aside from Ascension Rites, you have each individual characters' ladders to go through, which is essentially the same thing as Ascension Rites minus the fillers. The truth is, you'll probably start to get bored after you've beaten maybe the third character's ladder simply because you've already seen everything there is to see in the game.

You are limited to only being able to use two weapons with the addition of your standard pistol and melee weapon in any given match. This may seem like a good idea at first. All it's doing is adding bits of tactical elements into the game, right? Instead, you'll probably end up picking either the Sniper/Flak combination or the Stinger/Flak combination because they are noticeably more superior weapons than the other weapons provided in this game. By not forcing you to use these other weapons, you'll end up not using them at all, and since the game's difficulty is relatively hard, you end up sticking to the same two weapons for the majority of the game.

And speaking of the weapons, there's this awkward feel to almost all of the weapons in UC2. All of the projectile weapons (with the exception of the sniper and the beam rifle) have bullets that travel seemingly in slow motion. The designers intended the weapons to be this way so that dodging is possible, but to put it short, they screwed up. True, you can dodge a few shots if you really tried, but ultimately, instead of feeling like you're being hit by bullets, you feel like you're being sprayed by seemingly endless amounts of pellets that are eating away your health bit by bit. Guns should feel like they hurt. If they don't, there's a problem.

The melee combat is very compelling for the first couple of games that you play with it. It's really cool to just press a button and have the camera pan out to a stylish third-person mode and your character whip out his or her melee weapon. Visuals aside, this melee mode isn't all that it's hyped up to be. There are four extremely standard offensive moves that you can employ (spin, strong attack, pound and charge) and none of these moves are fleshed out very deeply. This leaves you feeling like you're playing some extremely agressive version of Crash Bandicoot. Plus, the animations for the melee moves are also really lacking in diversity, especially for the much-hyped "coup de grace" moves (which is equivalent to the fatality moves from Mortal Kombat). Instead of watching some insanely cool sequence resulting in a bloodbath, you end up watching your character perform this sort of war cry followed by whacking the opponent on the head; and instead of blood, you get these green chunky things... Although it is true that (almost) all the characters have different coup de grace moves, they're really standard stuff and are lacking in the flash that they needed.

With the melee mode also comes some troubling control issues. This game's controls will take a much longer time to get used to than standard shooters. The control issues are sparked by the inclusion of the "melee mode". Instead of designating one or two buttons on the controller for melee purposes, the designers decided to have an entire mode dedicated to melee combat. Switching back and fourth between these modes is cumbersome, and the game doesn't reward you for implementing both shooting and meleeing elements in one firefight because you simply don't have the time to do so.

The melee mode also makes this shooter game feel alot less than a shooting game, and that's a very bad thing. Good marksmanship; tactical maneouvers; the quick and occasional well-timed melee attack with the butt of your rifle: these are all of the factors that made games like Halo 2 so fun to play. None of these things were felt in Unreal Championship 2 because for better or worse, the slow-motion bullets and the melee mode turns the thing into a gigantic dodging/whacking-fest.

The level design isn't particularly well-done either. Many levels are confusing to navigate through, leaving players trying to find opponents to shoot. This problem is magnified especially in the single-player, 1-on-1 fights because of the AI's tendency to run away for health packs when they're low on health. There's nothing more dissatisfying than almost killing an opponent just to have them run away and return fully recovered.

Now that I've nit-picked this game to death, it's only fair that I should mention some good points about this game. And don't get me wrong, this game shines in many ways. First off, the graphics are splendid. The levels themselves look drop-dead gorgeous and all of the characters animate extremely fluidly. The characters not only look awesome, but you can distinctively feel their different personalities through their in-game dialogue and their special stats and "adrenaline" powers (which are also very nicely implemented into the game). Plus, the classic Unreal Tournament taunts and the announcer are back and even better than before. Even the Xbox Live functionality is lag-free, action-packed, and generally a whole lot of fun. Lastly, the developers did a mighty fine job in incorporating the third person view into the game. Unreal Championship 2 is truly the first shooting game that I enjoyed (yes, I did enjoy it) in a third-person perspective.

In the end, you must understand that the earlier-mentioned criticisms about the gameplay are felt by me personally and you may not even notice any of it while you're playing the game. The gameplay is very solid as it is, and don't be surprised if you end up enjoying this game a whole lot more than you thought you would simply because you read my review.

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