Unreal Mission Pack 1: Return to Na Pali
Windows - 1999
Description of Unreal Mission Pack 1: Return to Na Pali
Is this Aliens 4?
Just when you think you've escaped from the dreaded planet Na Pali in a hijacked Skaarj escape pod, you find yourself gripped by a tractor beam from the UMS Bodega Bay. The commander of the Bodega Bay asks the unthinkable: return to the surface of the planet.
Another starship has crashed on the planet and the Bodega Bay has been sent to salvage weaponry research logs from the crash site. You are offered a deal: return to the planet and retrieve the logs in exchange for your freedom, or, if you don't want to go back to the planet, you can remain on the Bodega Bay in the brig and return to prison. The Bodega Bay has dropped weapons and supplies to the planet's surface to help you with your quest. You are promised backup and support for the mission and are given a few new "toys" to help with your success. Everything falls apart from this point. Once on the planet you discover that you are, once again, alone.
Don't worry, I won't spoil the few surprises in the average storyline, but suffice to say, you won't find many friends on the planet.
I find it hard to believe that Unreal is already one year old, yet the game holds up remarkably well. Still, Unreal doesn't offer much of a single-player experience after these many months. Thankfully, the kind folks at Epic/Legend Entertainment have been hard at work on this mission pack. You will find over 12 new single-player levels, three new weapons and three new adversaries. Multiplayer has been enhanced with the addition of six new deathmatch levels and four new game mods. Bot AI has been modified as well, promising a more strenuous deathmatch experience (more on this later).
The single player experience compares well with that found in Unreal. Because you find yourself back on Na Pali, don't expect to find new and unusual settings. Most of the missions take place in familiar tropical environments and temple-style settings. Knowing that you've already played through Unreal, the level designers equip your player with weaponry rather early. This means that you will face difficult opponents from the first encounter.
I enjoyed Unreal but found many of the levels somewhat, er, misguided - I needed a guide to find my way out of the levels. This mission pack provides a more linear experience for each level. Rather than forcing you to wander around ridiculously large maps for hours searching for an exit, this game provide a more logical progression which won't leave you stranded. This new approach doesn't remove the intellectual challenge required to complete a level, but does keep you from getting lost. Perhaps "intellectual" is too strong of a word. How hard is it to push a lever when you see it?
Even with this linear compromise, the levels haven't degenerated into shoot-fests. Too bad. I had hoped that I'd see more one-to-many battles instead of one-on-one battles. As you probably noticed with the original Unreal , you rarely find yourself facing more than two opponents at once. This is both a limitation of hardware (most people don't have a TNT2 Ultra and a PIII-550) and the game engine. Still, I had hoped for a little more action than what I'd found in Unreal. Even when faced with multiple enemies, they are of the weak AI and weak strength variety.
Trifecta - Part I
Return to Na Pali introduces three new baddies: the Predator, which closely resembles a 2-foot tall velociraptor; the Spinner, which closely resembles a two-foot tall spider; and the Terran Marine, which closely resembles a six-foot tall Terran Marine. I like the idea behind the Predator, which viciously attacks in groups, but these weren't used enough. After several early (and gnarly) appearances, you'll find yourself fighting mostly Skaarj (one or two at a time). In fact, only one mission uses the Terran Marines.
Most levels are of the same high quality found in Unreal, with a few notable exceptions. On the positive side, one mission brings out the most basic fear of falling from a cliff in all-too-real clarity. Other missions suffered from minor bugs. I walked into a cubby-hole but couldn't leave; one corner was blocked by an invisible polygon which required a large radius to navigate. These bugs were merely nuisance bugs and didn't affect gameplay. Between-level cut scenes came with helpful voice-overs and gameplay statistics. The voice-overs provided the narrative storyline while the statistics stroke your ego. Unreal uses a communications device to display messages throughout the game. 95% of these messages are of the useless variety, while the other 5% are of the almost-useless variety.
Trifecta - Part II
The best feature of Na Pali is the addition of new weaponry. Three new weapons address shortcomings of the original game. A new Combat Assault Rifle (CAR) provides the firepower of the chaingun with the accuracy of the sniper rifle. It's a nice combination. The Grenade Launcher launches grenades which explode on contact, or, after they have come to rest, with a proximity fuse or timer (whichever comes first). The idea is nice but I only used this weapon effectively once. Why use a grenade when a rocket works so much better? People have been asking that question since Quake. The third new weapon addresses this rocket-launcher question with a better rocket launcher. The Rocket Launcher works in two modes: point and shoot or guided. Unlike the 8-Ball, rockets from the Rocket Launcher must accelerate to the target. The business end of the projectile causes plenty of splash damage, but the need for acceleration makes this a difficult weapon against moving foes. When used in secondary mode, the Rocket Launcher shoots a guided rocket similar to the Razorjack. Point the weapon, fire the rocket and guide the rocket to the target by moving your mouse. The CAR and Rocket Launcher are both necessary improvements to the somewhat weird weaponry in Unreal, and will quickly become fan favorites.
New multiplayer modes include the Cloak Match, Marine Match, Gravity Match and Terran Weapons match. Cloak Match is a variation of Tag, where players attempt to kill "It". In this case, "It" is invisible. Kill "It" and you become "It". Marine Match works like normal DeathMatch except the Bots have been replaced by Marines and the Marines work as a team against human players. Gravity Match (my favorite) works like normal Deathmatch with reduced gravity. You'll have fun bouncing like Superman. Terran Weapon Match replaces the standard Unreal weapons with the three new Na Pali mission pack weapons. This mode works for some levels, but sniping positions don't always work without a scope.
Worth 20 Federation Credits
Return to Na Pali plays like Unreal and stays true to the original spirit of the game. If these levels had been placed in Unreal you wouldn't know have known the difference. If you liked Unreal , you'll like Return to Na Pali. If you didn't think Unreal was something to get excited about, you'll be disappointed with this add-on.
I completed all of the missions in approximately 15 hours, so I consider this mission pack worth the $20 asking price. Return to Na Pali updates Unreal to version 2.24. If your system requires 2.25 to function properly, stay away from this mission pack. Return to Na Pali is incompatible with the 2.25 patch.
Review By GamesDomain
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