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UberSoldier II

Score: 65%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: BURUT Creative Team
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 (1 - 16 LAN/Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

One of the first things that people look at in a typical first person shooter is how it looks. Strategy First's UberSoldier II has a decent quality -- probably that of a few years ago mixed with some of today's features, like normal maps and nice-looking effects -- but don't expect a true next-gen look and feel. In-game player models are also decent, and with UberSoldier 2's smaller budget, very acceptable. Environments have a range of quality, from average to excellent, but usually give a feeling of being in the game and don't distract in any way. Weapons also look great from close up, and help add to the authenticity of the game.

As an added bonus, UberSoldier II contains cut-scenes to drive the story further between sections of free play. Unlike most titles out there that will now use either in-engine cut scenes or pre-rendered movies, this title does something quite different, especially considering the genre and time era of the game. In fact, it may almost come across as strange. The truth is that the style of the cut scenes is that of a Graphic Novel. Keeping with a 2D-on-moving-cards style art form, the subtle movements and great art drive the story well.

As far as audio goes, UberSoldier II is at both ends of the spectrum. On the plus side, the music is actually pretty good, has a good beat, and gets you pumped during the battle sequences when waves of enemies are on the hunt for you. During the cut scenes (and sometimes in-game), the voice acting can draw you in, but it is all too often a disappointment, sounding as if the talent is reading directly from cue cards. Along with the poor quality of voiceovers, multiplayer offers little in the way of ambient sounds. Sure, you'll hear the footsteps of your opponents through the water, on that creaky board, or climbing metal stairs, but other than gunshots, that's about all you'll hear. Unfortunately, there are little ambient noises, making multiplayer all too quiet. In addition, those footsteps can be heard from too far away, making it hard to detect when your opposition is sneaking up on you.


Gameplay:

Remembering that UberSoldier II is a budget title, its overall gameplay can be summed up by labeling it reminiscent of games like Quake or Doom of years past. The overall smoothness of the gameplay is sometimes a bit choppy, especially with a lot of on-screen action. In addition, the first section of the game puts the player of this FPS on rails, as you take the helm of the gunner in the back of a jeep driven by an A.I. character. Most people will agree that games on rails do not make good first person shooters, so to appreciate UberSoldier II in any way, you'll have to keep in mind that this rail shooter is only temporary, and that the game will get better (yes, this first section lacked any element of fun because it was extremely hard to aim in all of the bumpiness of the jeep).

Set in Nazi Germany, 1945, UberSoldier II pits you, a member of the German Resistance, against the enemy, incorporating replica weapons and multiple enemies to fight your way through. The gimmick here is in your Uber abilities. Basically, as you pick off enemies, you'll be given a chance to enter special slow-motion fighting instances, including a focused sniper mode (when you take out three enemy soldiers with head shots, each within a time limit) and a Berserk mode (when you knife three enemies within the given time limits), which allows you to go on a knifing spree. At any time that your blue meter is full, you'll also be able to bring up your Uber Shield. This shield will protect you from incoming bullets, but not knifing enemy soldiers. Their bullets will get caught up in your shield, and providing you have some white left of the meter, will be hurled back at the enemy upon release of the shield.

These tactics do add an extra dimension to UberSoldier II, and help make the game more fun than it may normally be. With that said, the game does have some very good points to mention. First of all, there are parts of every environment that are both destructible and react to a fairly good physics engine. As an example, it is possible to shoot the brace out from a metal flap that will fall down and cover an open window, allowing a barrier to stop enemy fire as you climb the stairs to get into a better sniping position. The downside to UberSoldier II's environments is that they are very, very linear. Aside from the rail-shooter beginning, UberSoldier II's gameplay is good, yet there's not much room for deviation. Paths are fully laid out for you through buildings, and are mostly linear while outside as well.

The variety of levels, however, is on the upside of the equation. UberSoldier II will have you infiltrating, escaping, helping to protect others, fighting as a team, and working your way through a moving train, among others. In this last instance, another train containing enemies having itchy trigger fingers will keep pulling alongside you and you'll have to contend with them as you progress through your own train.

UberSoldier II also contains multiplayer, with up to 16 players, that is loaded with a very wide variety of weapons. All of the weapons available in single player are ready to aim and shoot at your opponents. Unfortunately, the multiplayer aspect of UberSoldier II feels very, very slow. For whatever reason, even the run key wasn't responding, so it was impossible to make a quick getaway when needed. It's not to say that multiplayer wasn't entertaining, but don't pick this title up thinking you'll have countless hours of enjoyment. It's more of a temporary fix of something new than a replacement for your current favorite FPS. In addition, it really does take away from the entertainment value because the audio just doesn't do the multiplayer game justice.


Difficulty:

Crikey. It's a good thing that you can save anytime, anywhere, because UberSoldier II is actually quite difficult to play, especially the first time through any given level. In fact, this title is crazy-hard in some spots. There are three difficulty levels, but medium is probably a good choice to start on. Of course, some of this difficulty comes from the inability to shoot accurately, although to be fair, the aiming did become more comfortable as time went on. The biggest thing to remember is to shoot enemies in the head, because all other hits will barely stun them, and it will require many shots to take them down.

To play UberSoldier II, you'll often need to be tactical, or save often... sometimes both. You can certainly go running into situations with the mentality of Rambo, but that usually ends up getting you killed and forcing you to reload from two minutes ago. (You did remember to save often, didn't you?)

The truth is that although the enemy does react to your fire -- they will take cover, and will even shoot blindly over barricades -- they don't think all that brightly. These soldiers act too much on the way of patterns, and the second you figure out these patterns, the game becomes that much easier. However, when waves of enemies come after you, all bets are off. It's sometimes too difficult to take cover yourself, but fortunately you can slow things down as you bring up your shield. This is often your only answer to death, so don't forget that you have the ability, which is easy to do. It's safe to mention that friendly A.I. guys aren't that much more intelligent either.


Game Mechanics:

As with many PC games, you can set up the controls of UberSoldier II to your liking, including using the middle mouse button's scrolling up/down and pressing abilities, which can help a lot in terms of shortcuts to your choice of functions. However, in my opinion, the game does lack an important feature. The run and crouch functions require that you hold in a button, and most likely that means pressing something on the keyboard in addition to your move buttons because you'll want weapons to be mapped to you mouse buttons. Having a toggle on these would allow for a lot smoother navigation, and a lot less hand cramping.

UberSoldier II may not be a blockbuster title that everyone is lining up around the street corner for, but it's a decent title that will allow for a number of hours of entertainment (some of which will be sure frustration) for a budget price (twenty US dollars at the time of this review). If you decide to try this one out, be aware that the single player is a pretty good game, with great cut-scene artwork, and a pretty good story. Multiplayer is a fun mode too, but with the lack of mobility and poor audio quality, it isn't the reason to buy UberSoldier II.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP sp2 or Vista, DirectX 9.0c, Pentium IV 2,8 GHz or AMD Athlon 2800+, 1024 MB RAM, 6 GB of HDD space, GeForce FX 5900, Radeon 9600 or higher, 8x speed DVD Rom, Keyboard, Mouse
 

Test System:



Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7250 @ 2.00GHz, Windows XP Home Edition SP3, 2 GB RAM, NVidia Quadro NVS 140M Graphics, Internal Keyboard, External Wireless Logitech Laser Mouse

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