When Unreal II: The Awakening was first released in early 2003, it failed to meet the lofty expectations of critics and fans. Part of the disappointment stemmed from a short, lackluster single-player campaign, a problem that was compounded by the absence of any multiplayer modes. In response to the criticism, Atari has rereleased Unreal II in a new "special edition" package that includes both the single-player campaign and a team-based multiplayer mode called "XMP" (which is available as a free download for those who already own Unreal II). The new XMP mode isn't all that original, but it offers a solid gameplay experience.
The new multiplayer mode offers the same great graphics as the original.
There's only one gameplay mode in XMP, and it's a take on the quintessential capture-the-flag mode. Instead of capturing flags for points, the goal in XMP is to gather artifacts. Each team starts a match with two of four artifacts in its base. The first team to capture and possess all four artifacts simultaneously is the winner. Before spawning into the game, you'll choose to be one of three different classes: ranger, tech, or gunner. Each of the three classes is prebuilt with a specific kit of weaponry and items--the game doesn't allow for mixing and matching, nor can you pick up weapons from dead enemies or comrades. All three can revive a fallen teammate in the field (though only the rangers can restore teammates to full health), and all classes have the ability to fly a short distance using jetpacks. As in the Tribes games, the jetpacks come into play when you're dueling with an opponent and when you need to transport yourself across the map.
All three classes have distinct roles. The ranger acts as a combination of the traditional medic and sniper classes, with the ability to heal teammates and attack from extremely long range using the sniper rifle. The magnum pistol and shock lance are the ranger's backup weapons. Though the ranger is the flimsiest class, it's also the fastest, and its smoke grenades can prove quite effective at providing cover when used by a skilled player. The tech acts as the basic soldier and engineer, carrying easy-to-use weapons like the assault rifle and shotgun, as well as kits for deploying force fields and automated defense turrets. Techs can also repair a teammate's shields. The final class is the gunner, who compensates for his slow speed by having the thickest shields and the heaviest weapons, including a rocket launcher, a flamethrower, and mines.
Though the game may seem simple with just three fixed classes to choose from, Unreal II XMP is actually fairly complicated and offers significant depth. Littered around the maps are a variety of fixtures, including energy generators, spawn points, vehicle spawns, and manned turrets. These pieces of machinery can be captured and are of great strategic importance. Energy generators supply each team with power to operate key base machinery and deployables. Without enough power, your automated defenses and manned turrets can go offline, making them inoperable. The struggle for energy becomes a key subplot in each match as both teams try to balance how many turrets and force fields they can afford to deploy. Coordinated teams will send out strike forces to seize enemy-controlled generators just before an assault on the enemy artifact node, in order to pave the way to an easier capture. Wrestling over spawn points placed in the middle of maps is also a key part of each match. As in Battlefield 1942, having control of all the spawn points in Unreal II XMP can pin the opponents in their base and allow your team to apply heavy pressure.