Chances are if you've been a gamer for a while you will know about the Unreal series. Epic has created Unreal as one of the most popular and technologically advanced game series for PC and soon the Unreal world will hit the Xbox. Unreal Championship 2 is the game and if you're into first person action online with Xbox Live then this is the game for you. We took the US demo for a spin and discovered many changes since UT 2004, the last PC game. You can now jump on walls for quick movements but the biggest change is the melee system. In previous titles you were restricted to weaponry, but in the new version, third person combat is on offer.
Unreal Championship 2 like its PC predecessors will feature a storyline, although from past games we'd say this will be quite weak. The demo gives a brief glimpse into the story and it seems that two warring families will take each other on in the arena with other characters fighting amongst themselves. In an interesting move you play the role of many characters throughout the single player storyline, culminating in one family's right to take the tournament back from the Liandri company.
There is a major change with Unreal Championship 2 however and that is the viewpoint can be changed from first to third person. Of course first person is best for most weaponry but the third person can be used to navigate maps quicker or for the most significant change to this game, melee weaponry. For those worried about melee weaponry being 'tacked on' and of no use due to higher powered guns, worry no more. The game is absolutely brilliantly balanced and the melee weapons pack about three times as much punch as a regular gun. Basically if you can get a hit on a guy, nine times out of ten that guy will be roasted but in balancing the game, you obviously have to avoid rockets and other weapons to get even close. You will find yourself whipping out melee weapons after a few quick shots to take enemies out.
In other ways the game mimics UT 2004 very closely. You run around picking up weapons taking each other out with melee added in, and adrenaline makes a return. This is a powerup collected over a period of time that gives you ability to dodge quicker, run faster, take more hits etc. How you use the adrenaline can affect a game in many ways. If you take more health, you can get more melee kills and this can also occur with the high speed on offer as well. The bots in the demo are limited but offer some indication as to how much of a challenge they will be, and they will be hard. Even on the second highest difficulty, many gamers will find it hard to win. Mutators are also making a return with the demo displaying a few such as melee only, instagib etc. An interesting part of the demo and perhaps the final game is that you can't combine the mutators for each map, which is in stark contrast to previous PC games.
As you would expect the levels are designed around the new Melee combat and we've seen only two, but two very impressive maps. One indoor and one out door. The Outdoor map really shows the power of the Xbox with long draw distance, lush forest backdrops and on top of that it's really quite large without a frame rate drop. That's perhaps the most impressive aspect of the demo, the action is intense with large maps but not one single frame rate drop occurred. The other map is indoors and lends itself to double jumping and jumping up walls, one of the new features of the game. The game is already looking stunning in terms of graphics and could take the award for most impressive FPS on Xbox thus far.
Although we have not seen much of the game, what we have seen makes us want to see a more complete build. The game is still a little while off but you can be sure that this will become one of the best Xbox titles of the year upon release April 21.