reviews\ Dec 13, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Unreal Championship - XB - Review

The first version of Unreal for the PC was a traditional first-person shooter, with lush environments on an alien world ala Halo.  With a single-player campaign complete with a complex storyline, gorgeous graphics, and stellar controls, Unreal was a monument in the world of first-person shooters.  The real treat, however, was the Deathmatch option which skipped all the “Let’s save the planet and universe” storyline and cut straight to the carnage.  Oh sweet carnage.  The next versions of Unreal completely ditched story and opted for non-stop slaughter, just the way the kids of today like it.  The latest edition of Unreal continues all the tradition of belligerent bloodlust for the Xbox. 


Unreal Championship offers minimal story but plenty of trigger-happy homicide in arena-style team combat.  The scenario in this version is a gruesome game show in the distant future where competitors fight for their lives and pride.  Unreal Championship offers no developed plot, no fight for liberty in the galaxy, and no cutesy sidekicks.  What gamers will get from Unreal Championship is a rush of adrenaline from the intense kill-or-be-killed action and the satisfaction of blowing opponents to smithereens.


New to Unreal Championship is the inclusion of different characters to choose from.  Each profile created for the game is asked to select a character to play the entire game with.  There are several different races in the game, each with strengths and weaknesses.  For example, the Gen Mo’Kai, a reptilian-humanoid mix, have Carl Lewis-like speed but only the durability of a beaten up Yugo.  The Juggernauts are gargantuan tough guys who take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’, but because of their sluggishness, tend to take more licks than a Tootsie Pop.  The vampiric Nightmares look like the wicked creatures of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser series and increase their vitality through inflicting damage.  Each race has about five characters, and each character has particular affinities towards certain weapons.  Not only does the character see increased abilities with its preferred weapon, but they also begin each match with the weapon. 


The single-player campaign in Unreal Championship pits players in a progressive ladder-style tournament on their way to the championship.  There isn’t too much story here, and that’s the way we like it.  After selecting a team of comrades, players progress through series of Team Deathmatches, Capture the Flag, Domination, and Bombing Run game modes.  Each step in the ladder features more enemies with stronger abilities.  The single-player mode is merely training wheels for the best part of the game, the multiplayer experience.


There’s nothing quite like training your crosshairs on a friend’s head, squeezing the trigger, and watching all sorts of brain matter becoming wall decorations, and the multiplayer mode quenches this thirst like ice cold lemonade on a sticky summer afternoon.  Unreal Championship allows multiplayer modes via split-screen on one Xbox, System Link with several Xboxes, or across the Internet with an Xbox Live subscription. 


Whether you choose to play within the confines of your house or across the world on Xbox live, there are few arena-style shooters that can hang with unreal Championship thanks to the excellent game modes, plenty of maps, and balanced arsenal.  The kill-kill-kill attitude of Deathmatch can be played either as a free-for-all or a two team fragfest.  For the more cerebral, the Capture the Flag and Double Domination modes satisfy needs for strategy and teamwork.  The goal of Capture the Flag is to infiltrate the enemy’s base, grab their flag, and bring it safely back to headquarters.  Double Domination requires teams to simultaneously control two areas in the map in order to score points.  Both modes are extremely enjoyable, and offer a little escape from the lawlessness of Deathmatch.  Bombing Run is a new mode this year, taking cues from a fusion of Harry Potter’s Quidditch and Rugby.  The object of the game is to pick up a ball and either run it into or shoot it through your opponent’s goal.  Points are awarded for each type of score, seven for running it in and three for shooting it in.  There’s a mode for everyone in Unreal Tournament, and each one is tons of fun.


One of the most impressive features of Unreal Championship is the selection of weapons.  Most of the weapons from the past versions of Unreal have returned, including the Flak Cannon, The Shock Rifle, and my favorite, the Rocket Launcher.  New weapons to this year’s menu include the sniper-like Lightning Gun, the defensive Shieldgun, and the teammate-boosting Link Gun.  Almost each weapon has a primary and secondary firing option for double the destruction.  Getting to know the arsenal is a key to surviving the matches, as ammunition is limited and competitors will often be left with a different gun. 


The graphics in Unreal Championship aren’t exceptional, but that allows the game to move around much smoother.  The frantic speed of the game offers little time for gamers to stop and enjoy the scenery anyway.  When it comes down to a matter of centimeters between life and death, its better that Unreal Championship moves smoothly. 


One of the aspects of the game that really emphasizes the amount of action that occurs in the game is the sound.  Explosions, gunfire, and screams fill the room, and the aural barrage is non-stop.  There’s even a limited commands menu with taunt options to let others know who is spilling the most blood.  The original music sets the pace with a future metal sound, but isn’t something you’d want to pick up on CD.  Unreal Championship utilizes the Xbox Live headset brilliantly, whether you are leading a team to victory or talking trash. 


Unreal Championship is a game that doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a fragger’s fantasy.  The developers from Digital Extremes and Epic Games have trimmed off all the fat and concentrated on making the game pure fun. 


Unreal Championship is rated M for mature with lots of blood, gore, and violence. 



Gameplay: 9.5

There’s nothing frilly about the game at all.  Newcomers won’t have a hard time jumping into games and understanding the simplicity of the game, and veterans will never get tired of killing them. 


Graphics: 7.5

The graphics aren’t as crystal clear as its PC predecessors, but the smoothness of the game is what counts.


Sound: 8.5

It’s more common to hear what shot you that see what shot you, and each gun sounds deadly.  Xbox Live customers will love the chat that goes on during contests.


Difficulty: Medium

Those gamers with dexterous fingers and keen spatial abilities will stand head and shoulders above the rest, but the game is at heart very simple.   


Concept: 9

How can you go wrong with well-done deathmatches? 


Multiplayer: 9.5

While the single-player campaign is fun, it’s the multiplayer mode that really stands out.  One of the best Xbox Live games available, Unreal Championship raises the bar for multiplayer first-person shooters.


Overall: 9

Unreal Championship comes highly recommended to anyone with access to an Xbox Live account.  Fans of the FPS genre and fast-paced action will not be disappointed.   


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