Unreal Tournament (PC) review
"The Unreal series originated in 1998 and was critically acclaimed for its single-player campaign, advanced AI and graphics, but its multiplayer mode was underdeveloped. This offering follows the traits of the original, but with a switched emphasis on multiplayer over single-player to rival its contemporaries such as Quake III Arena. Updates in 2003 and 2007 have updated the graphics drastically but still retain the same fundamental formula of open-ended arena blasting. "
The Unreal series originated in 1998 and was critically acclaimed for its single-player campaign, advanced AI and graphics, but its multiplayer mode was underdeveloped. This offering follows the traits of the original, but with a switched emphasis on multiplayer over single-player to rival its contemporaries such as Quake III Arena. Updates in 2003 and 2007 have updated the graphics drastically but still retain the same fundamental formula of open-ended arena blasting.
UT presents four main game modes that are progressively unlocked by successfully completing single-player missions, with deathmatch battles being simply a matter of racking the most frags by shooting the living daylights out of each other. Capture the flag starts to emphasise team-work, pinching the other teamsí flag from their base and run back to yours with it, whilst decapitating anyone who does the same back. But this is easier said than done, becoming painstakingly annoying from the many near misses that occur when you think youíve returned the flag only to find that wither the other team has nabbed your flag or you drop theirs. Domination involves capturing and maintaining control of three set points in the level the longest, but complacency will guarantee a loss. The trickiest in multiplayer is assault where as a team you need to reach a certain point by destroying items in the base, calling for astute team-planning which tactless bellicose play will not cover.
UTís multiplayer focus is so obvious throughout; even the single-player is essentially a training ground for multiplayer. The single-player experience is more than adequate with the bots being some of the most impressive Iíve seen for a game of its age, working very effectively as team buddies who even won my skirmish battles. Their skill level is no walkover, with the difficulty really picking up after novice; even average being a bit of a struggle (although I had to burn through this game in three days to meet a competition deadline). But everyone knows fighting bots is only the next best thing to real multiplayer against real people, provided youíre any good. Although the online community here is very niche nowadays, itís great for a classic FPS blasting at any LAN. Frantically jumping around with a guarantee to be shot from any angles isnít what you see in every FPS, there really is no better example of the cliche ďyou can run but you canít hideĒ when camping is virtually impossible.
One of the most prominent aspects of UTís is its anarchical choice of weapons; not one is universally better than the other. Whereas on Counter-Strike a Glock will fair less well against the likes of an auto-shotgun or auto-sniper, UTís weapons all have their specific strengths and weaknesses, a sniper rifle will pin point distant enemies but will not fare well in a close-range ambush. On the other hand, rocket launchers will backfire against the holder in a close mÍlťe, but works wonders against a few distant enemies. Many available weapons available are the outrageously surreal Unreal classics pimped up, but will take getting accustomed to on first sight. However, the weapons also offer new alternate attacks that really add spice to the gameplay, the pulse rifles small sporadic shots alternately fire a green stream of toxic-ness at intruders, whilst the small missile shooting redeemer also fires a huge enemy silencing one. UTís may be more about open ended blast-shooting rather than subtle sneaking tactics, but accuracy is crucial to triumph.
The most significant factor behind UTís formula is its awesome selection of levels. The innovative themes range from sci-fi space affair, medieval castles or the more down to earth outdoor fortress. Either way the level layouts and their obstacles are perfectly suited to their purpose: take for example an outdoor capture the flag level with an arched bridge connecting them which you have to run over the top to ensure safety, or having to reach the front of a fast moving train, activate a control panel then reach the front. For those who want more than the default maps, UT has boasted a strong modding community; a level editor comes bundled to try out your own levels to even your own game rules. The primitive 3D visuals do a perfectly functional job of capturing a dark battle atmosphere, accompanied by some fantastic background techno music providing tense beats for serious battles. The classic announcements have attained such as ďHeadshotĒ and ďdouble-killĒ have attained a cult status with FPS gamers including using them part as other FPS mods. Thereís a fair selection of fully customisable characters, with class choices including Commandoís, Naliís and Soldiers, all with (then) vividly detailed models. Despite being a decade old the essence of Unreal is still conveyed here, with endless explosions and atmosphere.
Any FPS fan ought to own Unreal Tournament in some form or other, no matter which version, although the contemporary versions do have a far more active online community. In terms of raw game-play the original still stands up today as a classic; it may be old but still sets the scene well even alongside its successors. The multiplayer is undeniably awesome and even led to an (illegal) lunchtime club at school. Inevitably the online mode is intimidating for novices when competing against long-established players, but thatís expected. Although UT3 would be a more prudent choice for playing online, this is still great for some classic, old-school FPS action that would be the icing at any LAN party. Itís completely different to a lot of other FPSís of itís time; itís surreal, itís Unreal.
Community review by bigcj34 (December 22, 2007)
Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.
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