Underworld (PlayStation 2) review
"Yes, they made a game about the movie Underworld. According to all sources it was released exclusively in Europe in January 2004, and it received no media coverage whatsoever. There’s not a single word about this game in IGN, Gamespot, GameFAQs or even this site, apart from the purely technical data like the fact that it actually exists or who distributed it. If I found this game myself it was only because it was being sold (obscenely cheap, by the way) in some obscure game shop I happene..."
Yes, they made a game about the movie Underworld. According to all sources it was released exclusively in Europe in January 2004, and it received no media coverage whatsoever. There’s not a single word about this game in IGN, Gamespot, GameFAQs or even this site, apart from the purely technical data like the fact that it actually exists or who distributed it. If I found this game myself it was only because it was being sold (obscenely cheap, by the way) in some obscure game shop I happened to pass by.
I feel this little introduction is necessary to explain the kind of game Underworld: The Eternal War is, and in which context it seems to have been made. As you must already have guessed from the absolute lack of information about it and the fact that nobody in the entire world must have played it except me, Underworld isn’t exactly a beacon of gaming perfection. But it’s not a total waste of time either: it manages to provide a few interesting points into an experience that would have been otherwise devoid of any interest.
The graphics are a good example of this mixture of good and bad. They’re the kind of graphics that might have obtained certain praise in online RPGs, but are simply not enough in a PS2. All the characters have an amazingly low array of animations; the polygons aren’t too obvious but everything looks quite blocky anyway; not to mention there are only two types of sceneries: the streets of Budapest, and its “underworld” (the sewers and other underground facilities). The underworld looks almost exactly like it does in the movie, but the streets don’t keep the elegant Gothic feel they have in reality. However, the whole graphic system is surprisingly solid: I haven’t yet seen any case of characters walking through walls or bumping against invisible barriers, nor have I noticed the frame rate dropping at all in the numerous times the screen is filled with literally dozens of characters.
The actual gameplay, sadly, is as basic as the graphics. Your one and only objective in Underworld is to kill everything that moves. You have neither the obligation nor the actual ability to do anything else than shooting at Vampires or Werewolves (depending on which side you choose). The movie had its good share of action to begin with, but nevertheless it’s disappointing to see the whole Underworld universe reduced to such an elementary killing rampage. As compensation there’s a dozen different weapons to choose from, and there’s even a levelling system which allows you to upgrade your character as you kill more and more enemies. You can choose to upgrade your health, hand-to-hand combat, or the effectiveness of your special techniques.
It’s because of these things that I keep a mainly positive attitude about Underworld. I think it turned out to be a very lacking game and a poor movie adaptation not because of lack of talent from its developers, but rather because of their lack of experience, time, or money… Or maybe a mixture of the three. Things like the experience system, the great variety of weapons, the two-player mode or the way Selene randomly comments “This is what I live for…” after finishing off an enemy are all signs of creativity and good thinking; whereas the basic graphics or the repetitive gameplay could perhaps be blamed on lack of practice or a hurried development.
In the end, it’s the two-player cooperative mode which balances out the positive and negative aspects of the game and makes it just “tolerable”. Constant and mindless massacres of vampires or werewolves are pretty fun when you share them with a friend, and one player can generously heal the other out of his own energy, in a nice attempt at increasing the cooperation element.
So in the end Underworld: The Eternal War is but a shadow of what it could have been in the right hands, and I cannot fully recommend it, but it’s still a fairly good try. Best suited for short, stress-relieving sessions with your favourite race of immortals.
Community review by MartinG (October 10, 2007)
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