“You Have Returned, Foolish Man-Child”
Four bloody years it took them. Four bloody, dripping years of programming,
sketching, modeling, attending conferences on the id and the self, held at “clothing
optional scenic seaside locations.” It took that long, and all that treacherous
work, to make Unreal. Unsurprisingly, Unreal
had the mark of polish and quality that the untrained eye could easily see.
So what happens when you take less than one fifth of that time to craft an expansion
pack? Well, you get something that lays somewhere on the sunny side of crap.
Return To Na Pali is an expansion pack for Unreal. Produced by Legend
Entertainment (who will also be making Unreal 2), Return to Na Pali
picks up directly where Unreal left off. You’re floating in orbit of
Na Pali after escaping the surreal nightmare on the surface. You are then picked
up by a terran ship, the Bodega Bay (Yes, like in Hitchcock’s The Birds)
and are sent back to the surface to retrieve some top secret weapons information
from a derelict space craft, the Prometheus (Yes, like the Greek legend).
Once on the surface, you must battle through 17 levels, encounter one or two
plot twists, utilize three new weapons, shoot three new types of badasses, and
make a thoroughly anticlimactic exit. There are also a few new multiplayer maps
and modes tossed into this mixed salad.
For your killing pleasure, three new guns: the Combat Assault Rifle (CAR),
the Grenade Launcher, and the Rocket Launcher. The CAR is a high-accuracy, high-velocity
machine gun that can also shoot out a burst for added effect. The Grenade Launcher
launches… grenades. It can also be set to drop a grenade and detonate it later
at the touch of a button. The Rocket Launcher launches… rockets. It can also
function in the same way as the Laser Guided Half-Life variety, vectoring to
where the launcher is pointed.
The weapons are a welcome addition. They all feature much more satisfying
sounds, and bloody results, being therefore weapons of the coveted ‘kick-ass’
variety. As opposed to the classic Unreal weapons, which always felt
a bit like killing someone with a tissue paper and feather dusters.
And to give you something new to shoot at, three new enemies have been added:
the Spider, Pack Hunter, and the Space Marine. The Spider is… a really big
spider (Squash it! Die Arachnid Die). The Pack hunter is a very quick lizard
that tends to attack in groups, closing the distance with careless abandon and
gnawing off your knees (Well not actually, but one can imagine). The Space Marine
is sent down to kill you by your “employers.” Unlike their “Aliens” brethren,
your average colonial marine will not lend a helping hand like Hicks, but rather
ventilate your middle like Barbara Striesand.
levels are the great disappointment in Return to Na Pali. Although none
of the levels are quite so blatantly amateurish to fall into the pit of Klingon
Honor Guard, none are half as compelling or convincing as those found in
the original game. Unreal had you trekking through a finely tuned mysterious
world, each site topping the last in awe and wonder. Return to Na Pali
has neither the polish nor the inspiration to compete.
Graphically, Return to Na Pali also falls short. Although it’s still
Unreal and therefore pretty, nothing substantial has been added. The
new weapons and enemies are impressively modeled and skinned, appearing quite
pleasing to the eye, but the environs are largely similar to those already found
in Unreal. If any new textures were added you’d be hard pressed to locate
them. The inferior level design and a tendency not to use the high-detail textures,
cause Return to Na Pali to actually be less attractive than Unreal
Graphics aside, it does introduce four new multiplayer modes: Gravity Match,
in which gravity is greatly reduced. Cloak Match, in which a reversed game of
tag is played, centered around a guy with a cloaking device (a cool effect by
the way). Terran Weapon Match, in which only the new weapons are used. Last
is Marine BotMatch in which all the opposing bots are Space Marines. The new
modes breath a little more life into Unreal Multiplayer but sadly don’t
add anything to keep you playing for longer than a few games.
Where Unreal evoked quality, polish, and ingenuity, Return to Na
Pali merely blurts mediocrity. It is a decent diversion for Unreal
fans who want a little more Unreal and don’t care too much about anything
else. But as a simple expansion pack, Return to Na Pali does little
to expand. In fact, much like the abhorrent Mysteries of the Sith
expansion pack for Jedi Knight, it makes the whole game
seem like less instead of more. Pick this one up if you have to kill time while
waiting for Unreal Tournament. But tarry not too long, and look elsewhere
on the shelf for that spark of creativity that makes the great games.