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Unreal Championship

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:   Digital Extremes / Epic Games
Publisher:   Atari
# of Players:   1-4 (1-16 online)
Genre:   FPS
ESRB:   Mature
Online:   Yes (content, play, rankings)
Accessories:   HDTV, System Link
Date Posted:  

4-10-03

Long before the actual release of Xbox Live, Microsoft and Infogrames were touting Unreal Championship as the single reason to subscribe to MS' online service. PC-style online fragging on a stable platform was promised, and that's exactly what Infogrames delivered. It isn't revolutionary by any means, but Unreal Championship is definitely worth picking up for any online gamer.

Let's get this straight right now: those of you who do not own Xbox Live shouldn't even consider this game. There is a single-player mode, but there are other FPS titles that do single-player much better than this one. There's no storyline to speak of, and playing against computer A.I. doesn't hold a candle to playing against real people online. There are four basic single-player games, including Team Deathmatch, Survival, Capture the Flag, Bombing Run, and Domination. These are mostly self-explanatory, and should be familiar to any FPS fan. The only two that might not be are Bombing Run and Double Domination. In Double Domination, a team must hold two points on a map for 12 seconds simultaneously. Each time this is accomplished, that team earns a point - and the first team to reach a specified number of points wins. In Bombing Run, two teams try to advance the ball through the other team's goal. The trick though is that the ball is actually inside a gun, thus the player holding the ball cannot shoot at all.

Multiplayer is really where the Unreal experience shines however, and as a result Unreal Championship is one of the best Xbox Live titles currently available. Basically, players run around an arena, pick up a number of different weapons and items, and blast each other into oblivion. Multiplayer modes include Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Survival, Capture the Flag, Bombing Run, and Double Domination. Not only can these be played online, but also via standard split-screen and System Link play. It's not just the sheer number of multiplayer modes available that make this a great online title however, it's also the frantic pace at which the game takes place. Everything moves extremely fast, and any lapse in concentration or reflexes can spell doom. And of course, the addition of voice chat adds a lot (of sometimes-unprintable taunting) to the experience as well.

Unreal Championship also features a few extras, most notably downloadable content and an online ranking system. These have helped to establish a very solid player base for the game, and even now (as of April 10, 2003) new players won't have any trouble finding other contenders to match wits with.

Graphically, Unreal Championship is a beautiful game…even online. Arenas are brimming with detail and complex architecture, weapons fire gives off unique multi-colored particle effects and beams, and various environment effects really help to immerse the player in the action. There is also a large number of character types available to choose from, making the online experience a bit more personalized. The framerate is somewhat inconsistent however, usually averaging around 30fps but dipping below that whenever a lot is going on-screen at once. Nothing too bad that it interferes with gameplay, but still worth mentioning.

Sound is done well also. Weapons fire with impressive booms, and there are a variety of character taunts to spice up the action. The music is pretty standard for the genre however, unobtrusive and sparse but getting the job done nevertheless.

Highs:

  • Impressive graphics, especially for an online title.
  • Downloadable content and player rankings are excellent additions to the Xbox Live experience.
  • Wide variety of playable online modes.
  • It's only $24.99 now...even cheaper if you look around.

Lows:

  • A decent single-player mode, but not nearly as good as most other FPS titles currently available on Xbox.
  • Stuttering framerate at times.
  • It gets old after a while, but after a brief break you'll come back for more.

Final Verdict: 

Unreal Championship isn't the end-all that some reviews have made it out to be, but it is still to this day the best online twitch shooter on Xbox. Single-player gamers shouldn't bother, but Xbox Live subscribers should pick this one up if they haven't already.

Overall Score: 8.5

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