Shenmue 2 (Sniper)
Genre: Adventure
Developer: AM2
Publisher: Sega

The game begins with Ryo arriving in Hong Kong via ship. During this scene, my reaction was "Yup, this is an Xbox game." After playing for a few hours in earnest, this statement proved to be only partly true; yes, the texture resolution and player model quality has been upped. However, like fellow Sega release Sega GT 2002, Shenmue 2 has a definite blurry quality to it, for whatever reason. In the end, the visuals are only average by Xbox standards.

This is where my dilemma for the review begins: I love it, but will you? Case in point: the voice acting. Objectively, it's awful- Ryo's voice is ok, but everyone else's (especially Ren and Don Niu) are comically bad. To me, this lends character to the game, and adds lots of "funny bad" moments. To others though, the voice acting may hit them at face value; it's just bad. The music, much like the original, is fantastic and atmospheric. I just fear in this category that the voice acting might simply annoy too many people.

Like the voice acting, the gameplay leaves me with mixed feelings. Like its predecessor, Shenmue 2 features incredibly varied gameplay. Also, the story is absolutely top-notch, and absorbed me even more than the original did. In fact, I love Shenmue 2's gameplay, except that it leaves me with the nagging feeling that there is so much more potential here. Too much of the game is on rails; I've been spoiled by the likes of Morrowind and, years ago, Star Control II. Does the future really lie with linear games like Shenmue 2? Probably not, even though this particuar game is good in its own right.

Shenmue 2 is an incredibly fun title from beginning to end. The gameplay is fresh and varied, the plot is one of the best and most absorbing I've ever experienced from a video game, and the high-quality, cinematic "big budget" feel is here in full force. The voice acting and graphical shortcomings definately detract, and I can't help but feel that the future is elsewhere- Morrowind is one example- and that the days of the linear adventure game are at an end. Part of me would love to have given Shenmue 2 a 9.5; I had a blast playing through this title. But, cooler heads prevail.

Sniper's verdict: