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Review: Unreal

By: Kirk Hiner

 

Oh, this game's okay, I guess. I mean, it's no "Gopher Golf"...

Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention there.

After months of the usual hype, "Unreal" has been unleashed on the Macintosh community. This is a good thing. A very, very good thing.

But before I get to the game, let's talk system requirements. Those listed above are...well, imagine driving a Porsche 911 powered by a 4-cylinder fitted from your Aunt Mary's Ford Fiesta. It's just wrong.

MacSoft actually recommends a 233MHz G3 with 96 to 128MB RAM, 512K L2 cache and a Voodoo2 3Dfx class 3D accelerator for "awesome" performance; a far cry from those they list as the minimum. I tested the game with a 200 MHz 604e processor without any 3D acceleration, but I was able to give the game 100MB and could therefore bypass virtual memory. Now, keeping that in mind...

You're a prisoner on a spaceship bound for a penal colony, but--for whatever reason--the prison ship crashes on an unknown planet. Your dreams of sharing a cell with Linda Blair and laboring under the watchful eye of warden Sybill Danning are brought to a screaching halt (female readers, feel free to substitute those names with Erik Estrada and Lorenzo Lamas), and you instead find yourself fighting off all kinds of ruthless aliens who apparently don't appreciate the kindness of convicts.

Like virtually every other first person shoot-em-up, you're expected to explore a strange world, collecting weapons and fighting off villians on your way to freedom. Yes, it's formulaic, but the beauty's in the details my friends. The beauty's in the details.

You've heard all about the graphics by now, I'm sure. Even the software box itself is blanketed with words like "stunning," "awesome" and "sizzles." And they're right. Even without 3D acceleration, "Unreal" is...oh, I don't know...stunning; awesome, if you will. Perhaps even sizzling. Despite the warnings of slow game play on anything other than a G3, I was able to get smooth rendering at 640x480 without double resolution turned on.

But it's not just the graphics that separate "Unreal" from its predecessors. It's not just the unbelievably realistic shadow and lighting effects, the haunting landscapes and buildings, the way the shoulders of the enemies dip side to side as they run and the sound effects that are so real I kept getting up to see which of my neighbors was being tortured outside. No, in a market that's oversaturated with action games, what makes "Unreal" stand out is the action.

I have a problem with the sheer volume of enemy forces in these types of games. I mean, how many zombies or aliens or Stormtroopers or senators does a guy have to kill to get home these days? It just gets old after a while, no matter how difficult the "bosses" become. In "Unreal," you complete the entire first level without even getting a weapon, let alone encountering anyone upon which to use one. Don't think even for a second that this game is boring, though. Trust me; when you meet your first lesser brute, you'll wish you were back on that first level.

MacSoft boasts up the "ruthless artificial intelligence" of the enemies, and for good reason. These things don't just charge you head on or zig zag as they move in for the kill. They'll jump, roll and hide to avoid your fire, and they'll shoot back while doing so. Gone forever are the days of my favorite military tactic...stand still and shoot until either you're dead or the enemy is. Nope, to survive "Unreal," you'll actually have to learn the keyboard controls, and you'll have to know how to use them well. Of course, you could always turn on "God Mode" (cheats are provided in the "Read Me") and just stand still and shoot, but have some pride, man!

The developers recommend using both the mouse and the keyboard to control your character, but I found this too awkward. I prefer to keep both hands on the keyboard. You do lose the precise aiming of the mouse that way, but it's much easier to reach the numerous keys you have to hit to stay alive. You can reprogram the keys to suit your preferences, but be careful. In doing so, I somehow made it impossible to center my view after looking up or down. No matter which key I assign that function, it simply doesn't work. Not a huge deal, but somewhat annoying when trying to shoot a skaarj or whatever.

So yeah, when you read or hear the hype about "Unreal," believe it. The action in this game is wild, yet it's also very realistic; the enemies move and react in a much more lifelike manor, making them extremely difficult to kill. The graphics are the coolest to date in an action game, both in character animation and landscape rendering (and this is without 3D acceleration), and the audio effects are superb. Only the minor control problems and the huge system requirements stop this game from getting a perfect score.

Well, that and the fact that I have yet to fight Linda Blair and Sybill Danning. Maybe in "Unreal 2" if we actually reach the penal colony...

 

Applelinks Rating

Genre: Action
Platform: MacOS
Format: CD ROM
Developer: Epic Megagames in collaboration with Digital Extremes (Macintosh version by Westlake Interactive)
Publisher: MacSoft
Requirements: PowerPC 603e at 180MHz or 604e at 132MHz, 32MB RAM free (64MB recommended, 120MB hard disk space, MacOS 7.6 (OS 8 recommended), CD ROM.
Network feature: Yes
Retail price: $49.99
Availability: Out now

Raised on Intellivision and "Tron," Kirk Hiner has been an avid gamer ever since he was tall enough to look through the viewfinder on the Battlezone upright. Although he makes a living using a PC (not by choice) to design websites for Dynamics Online, Inc., Kirk never strays from his 9600/200 or 3400c for computer gaming. When he's not playing the latest Logicware release, he can either be found working on his next "never to be published" novel, rereading anything by Kurt Vonnegut or watching RAW is WAR.

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October 25, 2014

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