Unreal Championship Review

In the far future, teams of gladiators compete in violent games set in special arenas all for the entertainment of the masses.  That's the premise for Unreal Championship, and just about all the story you'll find in the game.  But that's OK, Unreal Championship doesn't really need a story.  The game provides such great fast-paced, fragfest excitement that you won't even care.

Unreal Championship is really a multiplayer game.  If you are an Xbox Live subscriber, then you'll want to get this game.  If not, playing against a friend can be fun, but many gamers will find that the single player game lacks the challenge and excitement of the multiplayer modes.

Screenshots
The lightning gun in action.

Single player mode begins with the selection of your character.  You can select from several races, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.  For example, the Gen Mo'Kai are fast but fragile, while the Juggernauts are slow-moving brutes that can take a lot of punishment.  Once you decide on a race, you'll need to pick your individual character.  The biggest difference between the characters is their preferred weapon - they'll get a slight bonus when using their preferred weapon.  Pick a character that matches your style of play and favorite weapon and you're ready to move to the next step, selecting your teammates from a list of computer-controlled characters.  Once you've filled out your team, you're ready to go.

The single player game is played as a tournament ladder - win a match and you'll unlock the next match in the sequence.  Each match pits your team against a team of computer controlled opponents, or bots.  The number of combatants varies by match, so sometimes your whole team will be fighting and at other times it might be two on two or even one on one.  While you make your way through a ladder you'll unlock the first game in the next, allowing you to move on to the next ladder to play a new game type without needing to complete the current ladder.

With twelve different weapons (and not a shotgun or pistol in sight), you'll find many interesting ways to frag your opponents.  As an added bonus, your default weapon is not a throwaway - in fact, you'll start with three weapons every time you spawn: the Shieldgun, Assault Rifle, and your character's preferred weapon.  The Shieldgun can deflect incoming projectiles and also be used as a close assault weapon.  The Assault Rifle can deal some damage when wielded, even more so with its alternate fire grenade launcher.  Other weapons include the obligatory Rocket Launcher, a Flak Cannon that fires ricocheting flechettes, and a TAG rifle that is used to target an orbiting Ion Canon.

In addition to the weapons and ammo found on the maps, there are various health and shield power-ups.  One of these power-ups is the adrenaline boosters.  If you collect 100 points worth of adrenaline you'll be able to pull off acrobatic jumps and other moves.  Unfortunately, the manual doesn't tell you what these moves are or how to perform them...

The single player game is really just a training course for the online game.  It teaches you how to play the various game types available and lets you learn the layouts of the maps, but as for challenging and compelling gameplay it falls a little short.  There's no story to the game - you get an opening cinematic and some text quotes to read as the next map loads, but for the most part the game is just a series of quick matches.  However, the primary reason for the disappointment with the single player game is that the bot AI is not very good.  Enemies tend to stay in the open and take your shots while doing a poor job of hitting you in return.  Your teammates seem incapable of coordinating their actions and you'll do most of the work yourself no matter which game type you are playing.  If you're a veteran of first-person shooters you won't have much trouble cruising through the single-player campaign.  You can ratchet up the difficulty level, but it seems to affect the accuracy of fire more than the intelligence of the bots.  Doing so certainly makes the game harder, but also frustrating - how many times can you replay a match against an opponent with a 60%+ hit ratio?  Unfortunately, he increased difficulty does nothing to improve the teamplay of your squad.