In the realm of multiplayer shooters, the Unreal franchise has consistently staked a claim for fragging dominance. Not only has it provided a ton of maps, match types and weapons over the years, itís also reinvented itself with vehicles, mutators and an expanded cast of character types to play with. Itís even explored branching storylines in its massive and well-defined game universe. Now, Unreal returns to its tournament roots, redefining the shooter genre yet again with the inclusion of hand to hand combat. Get ready to bring a knife to a gun fight, as we enter Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict.
While the demo we had didnít feature the story mode of The Liandri Conflict, it did host an extended trailer that gave a sense of what to expect. To essentially sum that trailer up in a few words: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Let me explain what I meanÖ The player appears to take control of a warrior named Anubis, a skilled warrior with Egyptian-flavored battle armor. Unfortunately, Anubis has a significant black mark against his name: almost a decade before, he removed himself from the Unreal tournament and an arranged marriage with a fellow fighter named Selket. Instead, he chose to prove himself in war, shunning his bride to be because of her cold ambition for the throne. Time marches on, and the vacancy of the throne calls for another tournament. Anubisí attempt to win the competition runs directly into his exís ambitious plans for power and her quest to completely destroy Anubis once and for all.
Apart from the storyline, the demo showed off just a little taste of what The Liandri Conflict has in store for multiplayer matches. Included were staples of the multiplayer feature: Capture The Flag, Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. However, itís the number of options that makes Unreal what it is. Purists could simply choose a number of points or kills for a game, or a set time limit to play in. If you want to add a little more ďexcitementĒ to a bout, however, you could choose from a list of mutators, such as melee weapons only or eliminating camping with ticking time bombs. Youíll also be able to choose the number of bots that you play with/against and the specific weapons that your character will use in each map.
The demo only had three playable characters, but promised more than 15 playable and potentially unlockable characters in the final version. Anubis seems to be the all around skilled fighter, while Szalor is the hulking, slow brute and Lauren is the fast, agile shooter. But the character and gameplay differences donít end there. Each warrior has a number of abilities that they can trigger by storing up adrenaline scattered throughout each level. These range from projecting energy shields around a combatant and speed boosts to instant health regeneration. There are also some melee enhancements, which allow players to decide whether or not they want to rely upon guns to eliminate their enemies. Creatively, players can strike a finishing blow if they hit an opposing player with a combo, which can stun their target long enough to land a death blow. This can be done with additional attacks, such as a charged dive towards a frozen foe. Naturally, tracking opponents who can deal these lethal strikes at any time becomes vital. However, players will have the option between first and third person viewpoints to help them keep their eyes on the in-game action.
Although itís only a demo, The Liandri Conflict looks like it sports visual details that rival that of its PC sibling, Unreal Tournament 2004. The cutscenes shown in the story mode trailer are sharp and beautifully textured, with large-scale character models that seem to vibrantly bring the Unreal universe to life. Arenas seem to be typical of what youíd expect from Unreal, albeit somewhat redesigned to impart a more claustrophobic setting: there are plenty of hallways, multiple levels and elevator shafts stacked upon each other, increasing the odds of dramatic shootouts in areas where health or other power-ups spawn. Character animations are smooth and fluid in just about every single movement, from the swinging of melee weapons to the double jump that can propel you up walls. We canít wait to win the Tournament when Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict hits stores next Monday. Check back soon for a full review!
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