Overall, Unreal 2 is a decent run-and-gun shooter that is at least worth picking up in the bargain bin. It doesn’t have a lot of substance or originality to it, but if you are an FPS player, then you are going to enjoy the game, and that’s what counts. The best part of this game becomes obvious when you see the intro screen – the graphics. They are simply amazing, and they are the best that you can get on the PC in any game. This is still true more than 8 months after the game came out. Not only do they look crisp and sharp, but they are creative and colorful too. That makes Unreal 2 a beautiful and awesome game to look at. If you have a high-end video card, then you will be blown away by all of the eye candy and special effects. But then, next to the graphics, there is a problem. The locations in the game look gorgeous, but they always seem empty and uninspired other than that. There is a mission that takes place on a snowy landscape, and a mission that takes place on a giant, planet-sized creature. However, you hardly notice the difference. The atmospheres are not interactive or immersive. The purpose of the various locations seems to be to show off the Unreal 2 graphics engine. There isn’t much substance to them other than that. Everywhere you look, you get that feeling. So many things in the game seem like they were put there to show off graphics or lighting effects, like a contrived puzzle early in the game where you have to navigate around a bunch of deadly electric beams. The best part about the game, other than the graphics, has to be the weapons, and the firefights. The weapons in the game all look and sound very cool, and they all behave differently. The alternate fire for each one is usually a twist that you haven’t seen before. For instance, the assault rifle can shoot a big blast that you can bounce off of walls, and the shotgun can shoot incendiary shells. It helps give you that primal satisfaction that you get from pressing your mouse button and mowing down baddies with automatic fire. The crosshair looks distinctly different for each weapon too. One of the fun twists to this game is a character who occasionally modifies the weapons that you find in interesting ways. This seems to be the only area where the developers put a lot of thought into adding something substantive and original to the game. This game has mostly dull, uninspired missions, but a few really exciting ones, which come mostly towards the end. There are a lot of ordinary infiltration missions where you are going from room-to-room gunning down enemies. These levels could have been put into any of a hundred different shooters over the past 5 years and are mostly forgettable. A few missions require you to set up and defend a perimeter, and another requires you to give sniper cover to a friendly marine. These end up being the best missions in the game. The game has a decent story that could have been better were it not for the terrible dialog and annoying characters. The voice acting seems good, but it is wasted on bad clichés and one-liners that even Arnold Schwarzenegger would be embarrassed to say. The main characters are the worst kind of video game stereotypes, especially the hot chick with the tight leather pants and the shirt that shows off her tummy and chest. She looks like a prostitute, but the game plays her off as a brilliant military strategist, which is just laughable. The action sequences aren’t as good as they could have been either. The variety of enemies in the game are extremely low, and lots of them (especially the human enemies) are annoying. Your character moves really, really slow, so strafing to dodge bullets and rockets is out of the question. The Skaarj are fun to battle with, and so are the mechanical aliens that you encounter towards the end of the game. I bought Red Faction 2 at the same time as this game, and I like RF2 better, despite its outdated graphics. It’s hard to justify paying full price for Unreal 2, but it will probably be worth your money in the bargain bin.
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