Game Description: Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict continues the Unreal franchise on the Xbox and introduces an evolutionary new gameplay style to the traditional FPS genre: acrobatic melee combat. This highly anticipated sequel features new single-player and multiplayer gameplay, player acrobatics, third-person camera mode, and intense melee abilities. Unreal Championship fans can play as any one of 14 characters from the Unreal universe, each with spectacular new Adrenaline Powers that enable new offensive and defensive combos.
I play games. My fiancée Gina plays games. We play together on the couch, but we don't usually play the same game at the same time. Although neither one of us would put the First-Person Shooter (FPS) genre at the top of our lists, I thought that the review copy of Unreal Championship 2: the Liandri Conflict might be a good chance for the two of us to broaden our play habits a bit and bond a little at the same time.
…It seemed like a good idea, anyway.
I guess my first clue that perhaps we didn't choose the right game was when I opened the package and showed Gina the cover. On one side was Anubis, the main character of the thin story mode. A tall, imposing figure clad in what must be several hundred pounds of armor, he definitely looked the part of "bad-ass." On the other side of the cover? Selket, a busty female popping out of a metallic bikini, every vital organ except for the reproductive ones exposed, a fact which Gina did not fail to notice. She wasn't offended by the skin, but rather, by the fact that that there was no protection or even logic in Selket's "combat" outfit. I had to agree with her.
We both took our favorite spots on the couch the next evening and I watched as she played the game through its tutorial and opening levels. A huge platformer fan, she is certainly no stranger to holding a controller. But her immediate sense of being overwhelmed by the controls was evident. She picked things up quickly, and then I went through the same levels myself. Once we had a handle on things and had been through team matches and a good portion of the story mode, we each looked at the other and the shared glance said it all: We were both ready to go back to our other games.
Technically, there's nothing wrong with the game; quite the opposite in fact. The graphics are sharp and the framerate is solid, both in singleplayer and multiplayer modes. Personally, I found a few of the animations to be a bit lacking, but it's hardly even worth mentioning. Liandri is a notable game in that it blends the traditional shooting action of a FPS frag-fest with third-person melee combat, and I thought it worked extremely well in terms of transitioning between the two. The gunplay came off like the standard sort of affair, but using melee weapons added a nice dimension to the action by giving the ability to deflect shots back at opponents, or getting up close and personal for some punishing strikes.
However, despite the revelation of seeing the entire character onscreen (instead of just a gun in a hand), neither one of us could find any reason to keep on playing. Running around arenas, blasting the hell out of the blue team, didn't appeal to either of us. We just didn't see the point. Our apathy towards dealing shrapnel death wasn't Unreal's fault; it comes off like a very polished and well-produced game. I suppose our issue was more with the genre and its mindset. Kill, respawn, kill some more, repeat. Capture some flags, play with super jumps or one-hit death insta-gib rifles, etc. It all starts to blend together in an overstimulated mess of testosterone irrelevance.
Granted, neither one of us fall into the 18-to-24 year-old male demographic, nor has a cherished love of trash-talking, so I suppose that we aren't the audience that is supposed to "get it." Still, it was a little bit frightening to see how quickly two seasoned gamers like us found our eyes glazing over and our minds wandering. Even a few glasses of wine couldn't help liven things up. If I had to encapsulate it, I'd say that the experience felt very shallow and unsatisfying, especially since we were looking for constructive, rewarding teamwork and not heated competition. At the end of the night and a few hours of asking her to kill the blue guy on the stairs (or having her tell me to blast the robot behind the pillar) we were left feeling like we had neither enjoyed ourselves nor accomplished anything.
As much as we both like the idea of co-operative play, I think the bottom line is that we were in the wrong playground. Unreal Championship 2: the Liandri Conflict is a fine package, full of screaming weaponry and loads of options for players who live for this sort of thing, but I doubt that anyone who's not already into the big-caliber/big tits run-and-gun culture will find much to bring them into the fold. It's all well and good for games like Liandri to exist for those who savor its flavor, but it's a shame that the game industry hasn't done more to broaden and explore co-op gameplay structures lately (outside of MMORPGs). It really shouldn't be as hard as it is to find something two people can settle in with for an evening.
While I appreciate the unorthodox concept of Brad's review, I feel as though it's lacking the detailed assessment Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict deserves. I suppose a casual player may be able to appreciate his circumstances, but a first-person shooter fan deserves more substance.
Unreal Championship has been an old standby for me on the Xbox. Its fast, polished gameplay and substantial variety of options make it a terrific game even in the wake of its sequel. While refinement is present to some degree in 2, it's less of an evolution and more of a departure. Some radical changes to the series have been made; additionally, some concepts toyed with in the previous game have been abandoned, while others have evolved. The results aren't always perfect, and indeed I felt the game took a few steps back in some regards.
The most notable change to the game, of course, is aptly foreshadowed in the game's tagline: "Bring a knife to a gun fight." I was very skeptical of the addition of melee combat, and it took a bit of practice for me to realize how well balanced and deep it really is. Few things in this game are as satisfying as being aggressively pursued by a player with lots of firepower and the "u-damage" power-up, only to swat their projectile back at them and hear the announcer proclaim "rejected!" as they are reduced to dust by their own firepower. The melee attacks are reasonably simplistic—which is a good thing—yet difficult enough to use that even the ability to block and deflect projectiles doesn't overshadow the range combat.
The weapons have undergone some changes. Instead of picking them up during the fight, players select one of four "explosive" weapons and one of four "energy" weapons. Some fresh new ideas have been used to modify old weapons; for example, most weapons have a sort of tertiary fire that can be accessed by pressing the primary fire button while holding the secondary button. This addition leads to some interesting new strategies. The explosive energy balls from the shock rifle can now be frozen in midair; rockets can be turned into "dummies"; grenades can be detonated in midair. All the guns are very well balanced and challenging to use. However,I did not like the "split beam" that the sniper rifle fires when the scope is not activated—personally, I prefer the lightning gun of the previous game. A roster of eight weapons seems just a bit too sparse for such a long-running franchise, particularly when only a few of them are truly new.
Additionally, the Adrenaline system has been completely overhauled. I for one didn't care for Adrenaline in the first game—I felt it made it too easy for a single player to dominate when a quick button combo for "regeneration" would make them nearly unstoppable. This time, though, it's much better balanced. Instead of D-pad combinations a la Mortal Kombat, players hold the X button to bring up a quick menu that allows them to choose one of six Adrenaline powers, some of which are unique to each character. Additionally, while adrenaline is still collected as in the previous game, there are more ways to build up one's Adrenaline meter through various creative killing methods.
Technically, The Liandri Conflict excels in every aspect. The framerate, which was unreliable in the previous game, is now rock-solid. The control is as responsive and accurate as one could expect from a console shooter. The game is slower paced than the first, and weapons such as the shock rifle are much easier to use (personally, I find that to be a bit of a double-edged sword, as I enjoyed the precision required in the first game). However, it's the gameplay modes that are a bit of a letdown. With two new mostly forgettable multiplayer modes, I found The Liandri Conflict to be a step backward from its predecessor in this regard.
Most notable is the absence of "Bombing Run." I thought it was a very creative game that encouraged teamwork and really played up the speed of the previous game. In its place is the somewhat similar but less compelling "Overdose," in which the object is to take glowing orbs from one part of the level to another. It's decent but generic (a bit too much like Capture the Flag) and not nearly as team-intensive as Bombing Run. Also new is a rather dismal mode called "Nali Slaughter," in which players compete to win by killing as many harmless "Nali" creatures as possible. This in the absence of the extremely tense "Double Domination" mode that was such a great feature of the first game is another strike against The Liandri Conflict.
However, the other modes remain intact—Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Survival—and they're as solid as ever. The game is packed with maps—over 40 of them. And although the cap of 16 players may seem a little restrictive, it works quite well. More is not always better, and 16 players is more than enough to keep things competitive and chaotic without being overwhelming.
The Liandri Concept is a mixed bag. I have a hard time saying that it's actually better than the previous game—just "different." I miss the speed and precision of the original, and some of the changes to the weapons and gameplay modes aren't as strong as they previously were. However, the intensity of the combat is still there and, with the addition of melee combat, it's a bit of a deeper and more unique game than its predecessor. Even for a veteran first-person shooter franchise, bringing a knife to a gunfight isn't nearly as crazy as it sounds.
According to ERSB, this game contains: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
Parents should keep kids away. The game is all about violence, centering around killing opponents in various ways. There is some salty language to be heard, the females are all scantily-clad and buxom, and opponents explode into red, wet chunks. Obviously, this is not kids' stuff.
Fragging fans will probably find a lot to like here. There are a ton of options as well as full Live connectivity. The graphics and framerate are sharp, and the new melee combat really does add an all-new dimension to play. If this is your thing, this is a worthwhile package… as long as you're not playing it for the weak single-player mode.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers get full text (enabled in the options menu) so the dialogue during cutscenes is fully accessible, but they will miss out on a lot of the audio cues (weapon firing sounds, etc…) that help during gameplay. However, using only third-person mode helps reduce the reliance on audio, alleviating the situation somewhat.