Unreal 2: The Awakening (2001)
Platforms: PC and Xbox
Developer: Legend Entertainment
Designers: Michael Verdu, Glen Dahlgren
Written by: Bob Bates
Price $14.99 purchased on Steam during recent sale ongoing until the 12th.
Author’s Note: Spoilers are ahead. Furthermore, some screenshots did not turn out well as the game somehow had contrast levels altered during the screenshot-taking process.
Review: I played Unreal (1998), last year. I thought it was a decent game, though a bit dated. I enjoyed the outdoor environments, but I missed solid indoor segments that I’m fond of in FPS games. The Unreal series has never been on my radar really. These games are more known for their multiplayer popularity. To my knowledge I don’t think the tournament games even have single-player campaigns. When I looked at Unreal 2: The Awakening, and discovered it had a single-player campaign I did a double take and waited for the game to be on sale before I made the jump to purchase. I am certainly glad that I did. Overall, this is a fun and challenging romp in a Sci-Fi setting. I would even argue that this game looks and feels like the first Halo (2001), just no player-controlable vehicles or vehicular content.
The player’s character is Marshal John Dalton, TCA (Terran Colonial Authority). Dalton is a law enforcement officer with a vast reach of space as his jurisdiction. His crew is his only backup, and they are more or less non-combatants. His first officer is more of an intelligence analyst than a second-in-command, and his armorer is also the mechanic. His alien pilot is a mysterious figure who’s true identity is revealed later. These are strong characters. However, they could be a little more helpful as Dalton is pretty much a one man army. I guess the TCA’s philosophy is akin to the Texas Ranger’s philosophy of ‘One Riot, One Ranger’, this is evident throughout the story with the exception of some points in the game where the player is in ‘command’ of some space Marines. His ship is more so a hub or lobby between each level.
Similar to the Halo series, the player is questing to uncover mysteries of an alien race while shooting everything that moves and isn’t wearing your peoples’ uniform. Unlike Halo, though the player is gathering alien artifacts before rival factions (private military companies) obtain these artifacts. Expect a challenge from them. Although in one level you will be fighting spider-like aliens very similar to Halo’s Flood enemies. You’ll also be engaging aliens similar to Halo’s covenant as they have a balkanized structure. The weaponry and the levels are both exceptional in this game along with the challenges your enemies will provide.
The weapons range from lousy, underpowered pistols, to heavy weapons such as flamethrowers, rocket launchers, and grenade launchers. The grenade launcher is the most versatile weapon in the game. Smoke, incendiary, toxic (Acid), fragmentary, concussion, and EMP (Electro-Magnetic-Pulse) grenades will all have their applications as the player progresses through the campaign, especially in later levels. Again, I found that the only useless weapons were the two handguns.
The levels are mainly industrial and military facilities targeted by the Terran authorities as being sites where the artifacts are being held. Some levels in honesty are shorter than others. I will highlight my favorite levels. Severnaya, is in someways homage to Goldeneye 64 (1997), the player assists a commando team to complete their mission in destroying a dam. Ventilation shafts and a time limit to boot have the level on par with the adventures of a certain Commander James Bond, RNVR, CMG (007). This action involving the dam in the level Severnaya is full of hot firefights and is certainly the opposite of artic cold.
Another excellent level is Sulferon. In this level, the player has to capture an enemy outpost to clear the way for a Marine landing force with an attached computer specialist to recover data from the outpost’s server. The first half of this level is a straight forward search and destroy/assault operation. The second half is when things get interesting. The player is ‘in charge’ of the executive protection operation regarding the computer technician. The computer technician is a better principal than the deputy administrator in Red Faction (2001). He stays put unlike the deputy administrator and gets his job done. Unfortunately, the player is not in complete control of this security detail. You only get to tell these Marines where to patrol and where to stand rather than have complete control of their tactics. Still, it is a fun mission.
My final favorite mission is the last ‘area’ of the Janus mission. No, I’m not talking about Goldeneye any longer. In this last segment the player is ‘in charge’ of a rescue force of Marines tasked with rescuing and protecting an annoying PhD level researcher at a corporate research facility affiliated with a friendly defense contracting firm. The player can position sentry turrets, position force fields, and order the Marines to various points around the researcher’s post to establish a strongpoint until the researcher’s task is finished. This was a fun challenge. Yet the enemy was vertically enveloping the defense force. So the player’s character and the principal were the last ones standing.
Final Thoughts:Unreal II: The Awakening (2001), was an excellent game. I was not expecting to like it this much at all. This was a pleasant surprise. The Steam sale is going on until Feb. 12th. Go there and buy this.