A.K.A. The Obligatory Unreal II Blog
Yeah, straight after finishing Mass Effect 2 I took five minutes out to give Unreal II: The Awakening another spin.
But I won’t talk about how much I love this game, because I’ve done it before so often. This time, after completing the game, I took a spin through some rather intriguing internet material…
I discovered some interesting things about the content that didn’t make it to the final release.
I actually have an old PC Gamer issue with a preview of Unreal II. It talks about the dynamic conversation system, where people start getting snippy if you walk away while they’re talking. It talks about the sea-based Shian and their completely underwater level. It says a lot of awesome stuff, actually.
The sad thing is that basically none of what that article promised actually ended up in the game. I can understand dropping the dynamic conversation stuff (who wants to record two (or more) complete sets of dialogue? I suspect Unreal II didn’t have Mass Effect‘s budget or a team remotely as large), that’s probably a nightmare to implement. But the levels and weapons… You were hyping them up, and then they just dropped off the radar? And if you were hyping these levels, why didn’t you drop any of the ones you hadn’t mentioned before and kill the ones you had?
After playing through this time, I went for a bit of a trawl and came up with a more complete listing of all the content that was dropped at BeyondUnreal’s Liandri Archives. It’s quite a long read, but lots of interesting stuff for die-hards like me.
The highlights: three other races of enemy (Shian, N and Striders), seven maps (presumably missions associated with those races), seven weapons… It even had proper multiplayer; not the the XMP pack, either — tournament-style multiplayer with bots and stuff. Some of it was apparently worked into things that did make the final cut, but there’s still plenty there that looks awesome and is gone without trace.
But it gets better. I ran into a forum thread on OldUnreal.com…
“Shortly put, all or almost all the cut content from Unreal II will be back in place”
— GreatEmerald, OldUnreal.com forums
You what? Apparently, Legend Entertainment (the company vaguely sub-contracted to make Unreal II) went down the tubes and by some copyright shenanigans that are almost expired will soon be free to release beta versions of Unreal II. Sadly, this was posted some time mid-2009 and I can’t find any evidence of “Release Candidate 9” on the internets, so I’m assuming it never happened or is still up in the air — but it does pose some interesting questions.
Beta versions… With more content than the final. There’s something not quite right about that.
I can understand content being cut before it’s even made. You’ve got time constraints, personnel constraints, whatever. So you reduce the size of your brief, be a little bit less ambitious — that’s natural, that’s just how life works.
I can understand the dropping of multiplayer stuff. UT2003 was banging on the door and, well, there’s no point in a duplication of effort. I could even understand dropping some of the more outlandish weapons, if their effects were too bizarre to implement easily (or within system specs of the day).
But to crop the game when all this stuff has actually been implemented is just a disaster.
The same post above claims the beta version to be a jaw-dropping eight gigabytes in size. That’s a serious weight, and I suppose it would have been unthinkable back in 2002. An actual install of the game from the Unreal Anthology is hardly shy of two gigs.
No wonder the game feels too short — it is too short.
How could they mercilessly cull massive tracts of content, just like that? Why didn’t they make an add-on pack or bonus pack or something to get that shit back in there after release? Six gigabytes of material, just thrown in the bin! I don’t envy the lead designer who was given that ultimatum and had to choose what to keep…
Unreal II, I love you for what you are, even still.
But I would love to see what you could have been.