To be or not to Be
Unreal II was a fairly good game back in the day, around 2002 or so, I can't really say much about this new release apart from it looks horrible compared to its PC counterpart and highly dated. Its time the Unreal Engine in this incarnation was put out to pasture.
The usual fare: Galactic Lawman patrols edges of known space with motley crew of misfits, throw in the usual leather clad, eyecandy in the form of one female space hottie and you have a typical run-of-the-mill game storyline. The central character stumbles upon a dangerous artifact while on a routine rescue and everything moves towards the collection of the remaining pieces.
Back to basics I'm afraid, the old run and gun while attempting to fend off hordes of dull aliens and some mercenaries from the Unreal Universe. Very linear in its approach, Unreal II has been stripped down SP wise for the console and instead of being a souped up conversion from the PC, its been cut so badly in places that the gameplay differs from its big brother, to its detriment.
A good example in this is the lack of choice with the cut-scenes. In the PC version the player is given the choice to roam his ship, talking to the crew and asking them questions. This helped to break up the monotony of a highly linear story and game. This is gone from the remake and now you're forced to watch every single question you had a choice to ask, answered before your eyes.
Thank god for a scene skip.
Some of the missions have also been cut down and several of the cooler aspects of the game have been removed, for example in the PC version, when you escape a certain level you had to escape right up to your dropship running against a well-balanced timer - this is gone in the console port.
Even worse is that there's horrendous level load times, a lack of an in-game save and some of the save points force you to repeat large chunks of the previous level to return where you died. Not good in my book.
So there you have it, vanilla gameplay in the SP portion of the game, not helped by serious cuts from the PC version.
Linear - Linear - Linear, you'll hear that a lot from Unreal II sadly, the level design is uninspired and stayed. It might have been OK in 2002 but we'd have expected games to move on in some way and not experience a rehash of the same-old same-old. There's not much I can say about the level design, apart from there are some nice architectural designs, but things are so linear there's really no challenge.
Don't get me started on this one folks, this is where the game falls down again. The PC version looked pretty sweet and had some nice texturing, this version lacks compared to its counterpart, and no...I'm not a PC fanboy, you want great graphics and cutting edge design - look at Splinter Cell or Rainbow Six 3 for instance. (Built on a variant of the same engine)
When you're playing the SP part of the game you can forgive them for their animation quirks and some of the horrible models, especially the first aliens that you encounter. The animation is jerky on some of them and the console is capable of producing much better framerates and animations than this.
When you play the game in the 2-player Co-op mode the animation on everything barring your players suffers. The whole design is lazy and you can see the developers didn't bother to implement some things - muzzle flashes on the player's gun often don't appear on the other player's screen, if there's an effect - it's usually coming from the wrong place. A total let down visually.
There's only one thing I can say: It has nice fire, that's about it.
The sound is passable, the voice acting is ok and is a direct port from the PC version, the same for the music. The music is pretty much gung-ho marine in action style, fans of this kind of audio will probably love it. I found it quite stirring but the rest of the game dropped me back to reality faster than being told 'there's a naked dancing Bo-Derek from 10 in front of you.'
Got XBox LIVE? System Link? Yes, well you're in for a kind of treat...for Unreal II's strength (if it has one) is the XMP (Extended Multiplayer).
You can play 2-player Co-op on one console, or you can go for the 4 maps one mode of play style XMP through link or LIVE. XMP draws from the Unreal Tournament 2004 style of gameplay and adds some vehicles, that's about it, the rest is vanilla again.
4 v 4 CTF style battles are the meat and potatoes of the game, nothing else.
If you are a fan of Unreal II and you want to own this version of the game as well, you'll probably buy it. But if you have a PC and a desire to get Unreal II, get the PC version and the XMP download.
Unreal II on the XBox is a let down in SP and passable as a distraction in MP. If you're looking for MP then you'd be better off getting the sleek UT2004 and not bothering with this at all.
That's the bottom line.
I'll quote from the Crow on this: Try harder...try again.