Unreal II: The Awakening
World Press Preview Event: November 7, 2002
Chantilly, Virginia, USAIntroductionThe Unreal universe opened up wide for us with Unreal 1, a game that, despite some initial technical issues, did a lot of things very well. At that time, the standard for FPS games was Quake, with its brown dungeons, through and through. Unreal 1 changed that, opening up what was, at the time, a unique, immersive world full of bright colors, new enemies, exotic locals and much more. It was, to me, a groundbreaking game.Over four long years have gone by since the release of Unreal 1, and since then, the Unreal-engine games have focused on the multiplayer element. Sure, Epic provided us with the Unreal Tournament ladder, and there's one in UT 2003 as well. While that was an enjoyable diversion/training exercise, it certainly wasn't the deep, rich story-driven element we all had been hoping for since the original release of Unreal....Well, that's not going to be a problem anymore. Legend Entertainment is right on schedule to bring everyone Unreal II: The Awakening (U2:TA), perhaps as soon as late January 2003! U2:TA is, by and large, that richly-developed singleplayer environment we've been missing for so long, and on November 7, 2002, about 24 members of the gaming press, both print and web, from around the world, gathered together in Chantilly, Virginia to get a hands-on look at the full game (minus the ending, of course). Bob Bates, studio head at Legend and the person responsible for the rich storyline that U2:TA is blessed with, welcomed us all to the event. The first thing he wanted to point out for us was that Mike Verdu, who had spearheaded this game for nearly 3 years, was no longer with Legend, having taken a position with Electronic Arts working on an as-yet-unnamed real time strategy game. Apparently, Mike had left the company a couple of months ago, but as of the day of the event, he was still listed on the Legend website.Taking over the reins as Project Director is Glen Dahlgren. Glen has been involved with U2:TA since the beginning, and is working hard to bring the game, which is fundamentally complete at this point, to market. Also present were Mark Poesch, tech lead, Scott Dalton, senior level designer and Paul Mock, art lead. Bob Bates pointed out that the game was a tremendously collaborative effort, involving these people and many others who were not able to make the event (some other Legend team members did join us for dinner later). I can certainly attest to the invaluable contributions of Bob himself (storyline), the AI (much improved and specialized for this game), and the incredibly talented voice actors who add so much to the overall ambiance of the game.Cliff Bleszinski was there to represent Epic Games and throw bread at us (he has a little problem, but try to get him to admit it). Matt and Lynn, from Atari/Infogrames US and Europe, respectively, were our hosts. Kudos to Maureen from Infogrames for making all the arrangements. We played on Intel 2.4 ghz PCs, with 512 mb RAM and Ti4600 video cards, courtesy of Intel, who had a couple of reps at the event as well. Very smooth PCs, I might add.Matt Frary reminded us that we were not allowed to take any video of the game, nor were we allowed to take direct pictures of the screens while in play. If you see any screenies on another web site that aren't the original ones Infogrames distributed to us after the event, they shouldn't be there. Word... At this point, Glen Dahlgren gave us a brief rundown of what we could expect during the event. It was obvious to me that he was genuinely excited to, for the first time, show off U2:TA to people from outside the 'need-to-know' groups at Legend, Epic, etc. While the main purpose of the event was to get the press out in force talking about U2:TA, it was clear from Glen's comments, and questions later during and after the event, that they were keenly interested in our opinions of the game.Legend had all of the PCs set up with full versions of the game, minus the ending (gotta keep something secret). They also had a DVD-like selector which allowed us to play any level in the game, which helped us get around the time constraints, as we only had about 5 hours or so to play. The game itself could run an average player about 25 hours, so if it retails for $49.99, you're only talking $2/hour for your first run-thru. That's right, first run-thru. There are several missions that have some quality replay value.