I like the kind of game Unreal is – level based, health pickups, no weapon limits or upgrades, quick movement speed. I suspect that's the only reason I enjoyed any of my time with it at all though – it's definitely not the kind of classic you show people to convert them into FPS fanatics.
The level design is pretty good. Or would be pretty good if it didn't have some major flaws:
– It's pretty much not shown or explained what many of the buttons do (didn't Tomb Raider show you what effect each interaction had two years earlier?) and the game requires weird interactions to progress.
– You don't have any sort of objective apart from some terminals and signs guiding you. Unfortunately, story fluff is mixed in with actual information AND you can only preview the last text you got close to on your translator, so it's easy to accidentally overwrite something important and miss it.
– There's just not enough texture variety, making navigation confusing. The environments don't switch between radically different settings within one level to make up for it and they're generally really complex. You can't even use the "look for enemies" technique because corpses disappear and living enemies often wander off far away from their original spawn point if they catch a glimpse of you on the other side of the map.
The levels have decent variety between them, it's cool to have NPCs help you out and go around doing stuff instead of looking for an exit via a sequence of colored doors with matching keys. The layouts are also very interconnected, with many paths through, so you might go through almost the whole thing backwards the second time you play – also cool.
Sadly, the shortcomings I mentioned ended up making me spend a lot of time looking for the one doorway identical to 70 other doorways in a symmetrical castle that's mostly unlit, and ultimately resort to watching a walkthrough a few times.
I like how the creators of each level are credited when you enter it. I wish modern games reminded you of the humans behind them more often.
The combat is fast and there's a variety of weapons, but by the end of the game I was pretty tired of it due to a few things.
– The enemies can be obnoxious. They're fast and have a dodge, spam their weapons a lot, can instatly change from a blocking animation to attacking, they have a lot of health and they're often placed in awkward spaces. They also like to just run towards you and instantly take off most of your health with an explosive that of course doesn't hurt them, which is probably the worst part of dealing with them.
– Your weapons aren't weak, but they're just not good against the enemies the game uses and you're often stuck getting ammo for the weapons that don't fit a given level. You don't get much ammo for your hitscan weapons, but enemies can dodge projectiles easily and istantly. The projectile weapons you do have feel weird too (like the shots originate from a point where you no longer are) and some don't work in tight spaces due to splash damage or ricocheting shots.
– Your quick movement can't be utilised too much. You have no air control and the levels are mostly corridory, so there's no space to run backwards from an enemy for 20 seconds like in, say, serious sam games.
The game sort of blows its creative load in the first half and change too. The last few levels are definitely the least enjoyable and don't feel like they have any particular leading idea behind them. You don't get any new weapons or major gameplay changes after a point either.
So yeah. Pretty okay, but I'm not going to start the sequel straight away.
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