Review by Soliduous

Reviewed: 06/25/03 | Updated: 06/25/03

Inferior in every way to Unreal Tournament 2003

I, uh...''borrowed'' this game, so I didn't have to pay for the pleasure of playing. But even so, I wasn't especially compelled to play it all the way through.
Let me first explain that any review I post after Unreal Tournament 2003 will be judged by scoring UT2003 (with all graphical settings as ''low'') as a 5 in each category (except maybe Sound and Story).

PRESENTATION - 4
GRAPHICS - 4
So why is Unreal 2: The Awakening, lauded by critics for its graphical beauty, below average? First off, the critics were all high or something.
The poly count is on par with Unreal Tournament 2003, so there's no reason to go ga-ga here. The levels may have more polys, but the same number of polygons ON SCREEN at a time as UT2003.
The textures are good, but not nearly as good as those of Unreal Tournament 2003 when the latter game has all its settings on ''high.'' Reload animations look great, though.
Even though it's using UT2003's Karma engine, the Rag Doll Physics of this game suck. Why?
1) Aliens in this game aren't programmed for it. I don't understand why; some of them are humanoid and could have just copied the same skeleton as any of the humans. UT2003, by contrast, has RDP effects for aliens and robots.
2) Because of the bulky suits every human character wears, the range of motion of each limb is very, very limited, so RDP kills don't look very impressive. Everyone tends to die the same way, just like in Postal 2 (which is another poor use of the Karma engine).
3) Limbs don't get blown off and blood doesn't spray like in UT2003.
4) None of the weapons tosses characters about, they all just drop. And raising the RDP effects to ''high'' doesn't change anything.
Finally, while everything looks good, it's all pretty generic. There's nothing visually impressive when compared to other powerhouses like the Half Life 2 demo videos or the fog/light effects of Freelancer.
And what do you get for all this slightly-better-than-average-ness? The worst stuttering and slowdown and poor load times in an FPS yet. It's reminiscent of Deus Ex, which was built on the original Unreal Tournament engine, yet still stutters on my DirectX9-supporting computer. Freelancer runs without a hitch, but I don't think I got above 30 fps even with all settings on ''low'' and minimum resolution. Load times were in excess of one full minute (I used to play with a magazine by my side) until I lowered every single last display setting possible. And now load times are still longer than average. Half the reason I play the game on ''easy'' is because dying and having to reload my last quicksave is just SO annoying. The only acceptable prescence of lag in a fast-paced shooter occurs due to poor Ping, not graphical problems. The offender here is not ''amazing graphics,'' but rather poor coding. And the proof that UT2003 could easily handle stuff from this ''superior'' game is the fact that I added a direct-port skin of Aida, a character from this game.

SOUND - 4
All the bg music is forgetable, albeit less so than in UT2003.
The weapons all sound superb. Even though most are unreal-istic, they sound exactly how you'd expect that kind of device to sound. My favorite is the fwooshing of the flamethrower.
The enemy characters don't have enough stock mid-fight lines.
The voice acting is slightly off, but never cringe-worthy.

STORY - 4
Generic story cobbled together from every single space/interstellar movie/television show ever made. I see influence mostly from Aliens, a little of Star Trek and Star Wars, a little from military movies, and even on a character from on Orson Scott Card's seminal novel, Ender's Game. Nothing is original or surprising, and it's as fun to guess where they ripped an idea from as it is to pay attention to the story itself.
The one bright spot is the way you can get more info on weapons/locales from characters through Deus Ex-like conversation trees. However, even when you seemingly make a choice, you always get the same basic result. Also, it's annoying that you absolutely must listen to the full briefing before starting any mission.

CONTROLS - 4

BUTTON ASSIGNMENT
WASD movement, spacebar jumps, mouse aims/shoots. Standard First Person Shooter controls.

The Q and E keys make an appearance as ''lean'' buttons, but they're worthless because you can't shoot while leaning, and the game isn't at all configured/AI-ed for stealth to be a viable option at all.

CAMERA - 3
You have a first person viewpoint, and the HUD is unobtrusive. The reason this portion loses two points is because the onscreen interface for switching weapons is ridiculous. Each weapon is put into one of five categories, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why a pistol, flamethrower, and shotgun have more in common with each other than any other combination of weapons. With the overabundance of useless weapons, you'll often find yourself dead before you can switch to the weapon you want. And pressing 1-5 on the keyboard won't get you any better results.

FEEL - 5
On the one hand, the game is slightly too slow for that great Serious Sam feel. But a few of the weapons rescue this score completely. First among these is the Vulcan Flamethrower, which fwooshes out the world's greatest-looking and greatest-feeling toungue of flame in a videogame yet. It's got a good range, and is equally effective on humans and swarms of tiny araknids. My biggest disapointment with Unreal Tournament 2003 is that no one has modded this weapon into that game...yet.
The shotgun works great, but also comes packed with an incindiary secondary fire ripped from Red Faction 2.
The machine gun works great and has a cool blue-fire discharge instead of the standard yellow.
The grenade launcher's secondary fire quickly alternates between EMP grenades, standard, incediary grenades that work like Anubis' zigzag lasers from Zone of the Enders: Second Runner, toxic grenades, and 3 others.
And that's all you need, right? I mean, add a melee attack and substitute one of the useless grenades I've mentioned in the launcher with a straight-moving RPG so it works like a rocket launcher, and you have everything you need! But no, the developers just HAD to pack this game with 10 more, totally-useless weapons. The pistol is a pointless copy of the machine gun, the default infinite-ammo energy pistol is worthless, the alien rod is worthless, the rocket launcher is mostly worthless...get it yet? The result is that ammo that could have been programmed as Napalm for your ever-useful flamethrower is instead designated as something else, and switching weapons in the head of battle is a surefire way to get killed.

GAMEPLAY - 4

MECHANICS - 8
There are two game types:
1) Go through a linear area, killing enemies. Mercifully, switch/jump puzzles are either nonexistent or simple and obvious. Kudos for not hurting the player in this category.
2) In a slightly more advanced version of the new Invasion gametype from the first Epic Bonus Pack of Unreal Tournament 2003, you place shield generators, autocannons, and Marine allies in an effort to protect a room from waves of enemy mercenaries. As fun as this is, there's nothing here that couldn't be done in UT2003 simply by adding the shield generator prods and autocannons as weapons (that's how they're treated in this game) and changing the enemies in that gametype. Seriously. Anyway, this mode IS quite fun.

LEVEL DESIGN - 7
Competent. Again, kudos for not making you backtrack or search blindly for hours to figure out where to go next. I never got lost. Then again, it's a purely linear game.

ENEMIES - 3
The enemy is just competent enough to keep you from quiting altogether. Sadly, the bot AI from Unreal Tournament 2003 is obviously superior to the AI here. Especially since in UT2003, you can order your allies around with the press of a button if you decided to map out your most commonly used speech commands onto your keyboard.
Enemies here don't chase you, they don't flank you, they don't chase you through doors, and display no higher level intelligence whatsoever. And I'm talking about the Mercenaries, not the dumb-as-rocks aliens. This kind of AI would be acceptable in a Serious Sam game, but not here.
By comparison, bots in UT2003 flank you, work together (during team deathmatch), hold positions by taking up sniper spots in between the cracks of two close-placed obstacles, etc. It's sad, really.

VALUE - 2
Yes, I'll finish the game, but I'm glad I didn't have to pay for it. You shouldn't either. With no multiplayer and no proposed add-ons, this system resources hog doesn't have more than an 8-hour lifespan. Let's just hope someone mods its flamethrower for use in UT2004.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

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