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Unreal Tournament: Game of the Year Edition (PC) artwork

Unreal Tournament: Game of the Year Edition (PC) review


"I could laboriously detail its six available gameplay modes, I could mention the staggering number of eight difficulty levels, and I could highlight its lasting appeal by mentioning the countless number of user-made modifications available for download Ė but no such exclamations can truly convey Unreal Tournamentís powerful essence. Itís the essence that can be vaguely understood only by recognizing the masterful design Unreal Tournament effortlessly exudes and the constant effort it demands fro..."



I could laboriously detail its six available gameplay modes, I could mention the staggering number of eight difficulty levels, and I could highlight its lasting appeal by mentioning the countless number of user-made modifications available for download Ė but no such exclamations can truly convey Unreal Tournamentís powerful essence. Itís the essence that can be vaguely understood only by recognizing the masterful design Unreal Tournament effortlessly exudes and the constant effort it demands from the player. Beginning its life merely as a downloadable package to the original Unreal, Unreal Tournament has evolved into the ultimate embodiment of the deathmatch shooter spirit: itís every bit as fast and furious as its simplistic forefathers, and yet it possesses an unprecedented level of depth that doesnít sacrifice its intensity.

Unreal Tournament makes its intentions clear from the onset: this is a first-person shooter tailored exclusively to delivering a powerful multiplayer experience. This may seem trivial, but it reveals a particularly poignant point: without the divided focus between single-player and multiplayer that can compromise the quality of both, Unreal Tournament soars to the top of its genre. The only single-player mode that even exists doesnít fit the traditional sense of the phrase; itís nothing more than an extended multiplayer tutorial, where computer-controlled bots of varying difficulty levels take the place of other players. This single player component is entirely optional, and you can still experience the entirety of Unreal Tournamentís explosive vigor without ever touching it.

But you canít enjoy all Unreal Tournament has to offer without delving into the ruthless carnage that awaits online, where consistent but methodic bots are replaced by error-prone but insightful humans.

Imagine as youíre thrust into a sizable arena, scrambling for the nearest weapon, praying you donít encounter other players beforehand. As opposing combatants come within range, you fire deliberately but ceaselessly, making every shot count, but wasting no opportunity to complete your objective: at its most basic level, simply reducing your opponents to ashen piles of guts; at the more complex level, capturing the other teamís flag or taking control of an enemy territory. The weapons for achieving these ends are strewn about these appropriately sized arenas in careful fashion, ensuring that they are never too far from spawn points, which are placed with similar care, ensuring that you are never too far from the action.

And youíll be thankful that such painstaking care has gone into everythingís placement, because even with pectoral muscles bulging or artificial, hydraulic limbs pumping, youíll easily fall victim to the unconventional ordnance ceaselessly flung about in Unreal Tournament. No matter. Within seconds you rejoin the fray, ready and eager to wade into the never-ending hailstorm of foot-wide razor blades, luminous blue energy beams, searing hot shrapnel and whistling rockets.

I kid you not, for itís these unconventional tools of destruction that elevate Unreal Tournament from a merely superlative deathmatch shooter to an inimitably captivating one. There may be similarly fast deathmatch shooters, but few have arsenals with the utility and creativity that Unreal Tournamentís exhibits in abundance. Massive effort was put into making the arsenal appear unbelievably outlandish, but even more was put into making it the most purposeful of its kind.

Each weapon is completely distinct and surprisingly versatile, demanding that players master them individually. As cool as a razor blade launcher sounds in theory, itís even more awe-inspiring in action, where the razors continually ricochet off walls, posing considerable danger even long after theyíve been fired. A bioweapon of sorts spews toxic sludge capable not only of hitting players directly, but also of sticking to surfaces, where it can harm anyone careless enough to wander into it. Even the rocket launcher, a genre standard since Doom, has been subtly altered in Unreal Tournament to make it the finest of its kind. Doubling as a grenade launcher, this thing can fire its explosive canisters singly or in a multi-rocket volley.

Thereís a noticeable tendency that Unreal Tournamentís arsenal exhibits: it boldly emphasizes projectile weapons. Firefights never devolve into mindless, one-dimensional affairs where simple, repeated clicking in the enemyís general direction yields kills, even though the action moves at an accelerated pace that disallows contemplative thought. Each encounter becomes a thrilling test of quick, intuitive decision-making, where shots must be made carefully since the projectiles here often travel without the immediacy of weapons commonly found in other shooters. Sure, thereís a sniper rifle and a minigun, and theyíre just as absurdly lethal as the massive cannon that shoots chunks of white-hot shrapnel, but Unreal Tournamentís subtle depth reveals itself here by demanding constant attention from players, testing both their aiming and projectile-leading abilities.

And perhaps most importantly, Unreal Tournamentís arsenal exhibits something especially rare: balance. Aside from the nuclear-powered Redeemer (which is, quite fortunately, often difficult to acquire), each weapon proves comfortably lethal without being ruthlessly overpowered. Thereís a relative sense of equality among them all; rather than devolving into boring matches that revolve around the acquisition of one weapon in particular, Unreal Tournament frequently sees players slaughtering each other using any and all weapons available.

Itís this rare sense of evenness that seamlessly melds Unreal Tournamentís relentless flow, multifaceted weaponry and visceral intensity into one eminently playable and comfortable whole. The carnage proceeds with enough haste to prevent restlessness, but not with so much to the extent of inducing nausea. Filled with massive firefights where brilliant streams of blue and green energy meet radioactive sludge and razor blades, Unreal Tournament reaches its apex as you search intently for that final kill, a kill that satisfies with bliss inexpressible through words.

Rating: 10/10

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Community review by radicaldreamer (December 16, 2004)

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