Never liked Unreal deathmatch. Never got on with it. Compared to other multiplayer pleasures Unreal is weak.
The levels? Cravenly sci-fi, ludicrously colourful and with no real-life locales to relate to. The weapons? Clunky pseudoindustrial organo-alien claptrap with all the power of a potato gun. The levels? Good, but no cigar. Often strewn with far too many weapons and power-ups, cluttered and unfocused, unvaried and often insufficient for grudge-matches or one-on-ones. The feel of it? Flicky, jerky, not as precise as Quake or as rich as Half-Life.
Unreal Tournament, however, is good. This half-sequel, standalone multiplayer-only test is different. Not only is it likeable, fun and entertaining, it's also feature-packed, intelligent and a worthy playing field for all gamers, vet or virgin.
How did this happen? Epic seem to have done a few things right-first, for a change.
Unreal Toumie is two games -single-player with you versus bots, and multiplayer as you versus hordes of shit-talking Americans/sallow-eyed network chums/anonymous boys on some outback server (delete as applicable).
Solo, you're out to master the four skills sets of multiplayer -Deathmatch, Domination, Capture The Flag and Assault. Deathmatch is the classic you-versus-everyone scenario. Domination is a team game, where you seek to control and hold certain points on a level. You get points for how many seconds you dominate each base.
Capture The Flag is paintball base-versus-base warfare. Each level has its red and blue HQs, usually separated by acres of tunnels or - best of all - two large castles and a big lawn, ripe for sniping. Assault is a new addition, where you attempt to penetrate the defences of a base within a strict time limit and then, on the return leg, defend it from your enemies.
If you win all four disciplines, you go through to a grand final. Survive those heats and you have a big hoo-hah with Unreats toughest bot. Spank him and you're crowned Unreal Tournament Champion in a rather hokey rendered ceremony like the end of Star Wars. Only worse.
For fans of the game, Tournament still remains in the 'universe' but, thankfully, all the mindless level-to-level, hub-to-hub, find the exit, kill a few Quentins stuff is gone. A few mentions of Skaarj and the unmistakable sheen of the engine are the only hints that you're playing the long-term second fiddle to Quake.
Levels And Layers
The measure of a good first-person shoot 'em up is its levels. You can have all the obscene weaponry in the world and God's own engine, but if your levels blow, no-one will play it. UTs levels are, on the whole, excellent. There are 23 straight Deathmatch environments set across an exquisite range of weird locales. Galleon is set on a pirate ship, where a stray rocket may well blow you out to sea. Morpheus is set, Matrix-style, atop three skyscrapers, while Peak and Gothic are set in lovingly rendered medieval castles. Some are deeply average. Galleon, for example, looks good but plays like a chimp. Most, however, are damn good-looking and great to play.
On the Assault and CTF side, the levels are exceptional. In Frigate, you and your team are expected to take control of a ship stranded in a harbour (cool). In Ocean Floor, most of the action takes place underwater as you attempt to shut down a megacomputer (not bad). And in Mazon, you have to infiltrate a huge castle and destroy its power crystal while being bombarded with plasma cannons and rocks hurled from catapults (very good).
Although we're not talking Half-Life level realism here, the Unreal engine and the level designers have done exceptionally well. Attention to detail and stunning use of colour make all the levels arresting. In high-res mode (if your 3D card is up to it), the textures are gob-smackingly detailed, while the huge planets and star systems wheeling about in the background add an incredible sense of perspective.
Unless you've got a ten-player network in your house, or one of those stern bosses who becomes a giggling multiplayer goon come 6pm, you'll be spending a lot of your UT time with the bots. This is no bad thing. Without a doubt, Unreal Tournaments greatest triumph is its computer-controlled bot players.
The game says they come in eight main skill levels: novice, average, adepts, experienced, skilled, masterful, inhuman, and godlike. We say there are but three: 'rubbish', 'good' and 'holy shit'. At the three lowest echelons, it's like playing against Helen Keller or that very crap person in your office who plays on keys, no mouse, really hunched up over their monitor with their tongue out. Exhibiting only subhuman intelligence, they use only the primary fire, run in straight lines, fail to jump and frequently blow themselves up. They get into ludicrously unbalanced fire-fights (pistol versus Redeemer). You can dance around them and pluck them off at your leisure.
Launch a few "good" bots, however, and things start getting dicey. These boys start to pick up health and run in less predictable diagonal patterns. They also start to gather power-ups. At 'inhuman' level, the AI exhibits all the talents of a great human player - near-instantaneous reflexes, a variety of evasive manoeuvres (circle-strafing, doubling back, shimmying and using cover), and intelligent use of all weapons, depending on the situation (minigun for close combat, rockets to lay down suppressing fire). They can also use the sniping rifle to pull off deadly headshots. They demonstrate an intuitive sense of each level, finding their way from A to B over a variety of routes. Worst of all, they hoard and dominate power-ups - especially the energy shield.
When you finally graduate to 'Godlike', it's like trying to outplay some unholy amalgam of the Six Million Dollar Man, KITT from Knight Rider, and Satan Himself. They shoot at your feet, dodge, jump constantly and are highly accurate. They use delaying tactics (hovering in corridors to disguise their intent) and know the levels far too well.
They're hard, but Unreafs triumph is in how realistically hard they are. Unlike most bots, you do have a chance. They don't have a supernatural awareness of your position. They don't instantly flick round the moment you enter the room and sniper-shoot you in the face before you can react. If their back is turned, they don't see you. You can sneak around and ambush them. Similarly, if they're being pummelled, they will leave a battle to seek health, and even get over-confident and aggressive if they get a run of frags. Mind you, it could be my imagination. After 48 solid half-hour games against an army of artificially-intelligent ninjas, you'll have superimposed personalities on to them (Archon in particular is a little tit). You'll believe that they can see into your mind and read your thoughts.
By the end of a session, I had mutated from a disengaged dabbler, quizzically dipping into a new game, to a grizzled, saliva-specked madman shouting "C...!" and "You f...er" at my non-existent 'cyber foes'.
It's even worse when they're on your side in CTF and they fail to follow your orders, or make a pig's ear of your base's defence. I found myself turning on the 'friendly fire' option so I could execute them for cowardice and incompetence. Just like Stalingrad.
It's likely the serious multiplayer fraternity - those who compete nightly under names like Akkkardas, Deathknight and Golgothia - will dismiss Unreal Tournament. With its tutorials, dayglo colours, huge weapons cache and fun quotient, it may be considered too mainstream and non-serious by the pros.
Shame. UT is a milestone. It proves that a bot-packed multiplayer-only game works. It also proves that ideas and fun are as valuable as pushing the technology envelope or catering to the po-faced multiplayer community. Importantly, it also mainstreams the use of bots and hints that in-game AI has come of age. It also proves that you haven't lived until you've pulled off ten headshots in a row and been declared 'Godlike'. Play it-you'll understand.
Not that you're the least bit interested in that sort of thing. Of course you're not...
Basically a Cruise missile. Absolute destruction within 100 'game metres'. Secondary fallout and slight injuries at 200 metres. Hair falling out and misshapen babies at 500. In alternate fire, you get to fly the goddamn thing. Hilarious, in deathmatch, seeing a cruise missile bearing down out of the sky and your enemies scattering like sheep.
- ROCKET LAUNCHER
The classic stand-by of the first-person shooter. This one allows you to hold down fire and stack up to six rockets for a spread fire. Alternate fire bungs them out like bouncy grenades. Satisfying sounds, slow enough to dodge, maximum devastation.
Devastating at short range but still, perversely, its puny little ingots of red hot metal look as though they shouldn't cause that much damage. Alt-fire is a neat little exploding bauble like a Christmas tree decoration. Only deadlier.
Slightly upgraded from the original, Tournaments machine gun is more like its Quake II equivalent, severing on-coming targets in a spray of blood. Useful for finishing off opponents worn down by rockets and other explosive attacks. It also generates tracer-fire, which is useful for the victim to gauge attack direction.
- SNIPER RIFLE
Ah, Baby. Sweet Darling Baby. My love. My one and only. The best sniping weapon ever - In all games. Right mouse tracks you in (up to 8.5 times zoom) while left delivers a high-velocity bullet to your target. You haven't lived until you've placed a bullet between the eyes of an opponent two miles away. Awesome.
- GES BIO RIFLE
On first look, rubbish. On second look, its glowing balls of deadly bio matter are still rubbish. But In a fraught close- up deathmatch situation you'll see Its value. Alternately-fired bails are explosive and sticky.
- SHOCK RIFLE
Nice. A thick, instantaneous plasma beam in normal mode. An incandescent ball of plasma in alternate. A solid allround performer, useful for close to medium encounters.
Bog-standard starter pistol which takes a leaf from Quake Ill's book by being powerful and deadly. Requires a reload every so often but, In John Woo-style double mode, can wreak serious havoc.
- IMPACT HAMMER
Yougottabejoking. When all is lost, you're left with this, a Dyson that blows highly compressed air. But if you can get close enough to a foe, It will shred them.
What we thought
"Not only is it likeable, fun and entertaining, it's also feature packed, intelligent and a worthy playing field for all gamers."
What you think
- "Just because Unreal Tournament throws up a few new ideas for online gaming that doesn't make it superior to Quake III. I took your advice and got hold of both games along with three of my mates. The result: a unanimous decision for Quake III. I'm sorry, but we all believe that just doesn't have the same atmosphere and playability."
- "What a game! The warm fuzzy feeling you get the first time you plant a bullet in your opponent's forehead... Ah, there's nothing like it. The bottom line is: this game kicks ass. Quake is dead. Long live Unreal."
- "Pure class. The single-player is excellent and well thought out, but you haven't played it properly until you've played it over a LAN. It's the best multiplayer game to date, beating even Half-Life and AvP. You should have given it at least 94%." "As for Quake III- it has to be one of the worst first-person shooters I have ever played. The mods are fairly good, but the weapons are crap."
- "You asked for criticism of UT, here goes... Load times! I have a Pll 400 with 128Mb RAM and a GeForce DDR - a respectable machine for running UT. So how come when I start the game it feels like I've gone back to Speccy tape loading?"
A game that needs little introduction from us, Unreal Tournament took the first-person-shooter genre by storm when it was released last year, winning Game Of The Year in our Reader Awards. So all in all, it's not too bad. Understatements aside, this is the biggest amount of fragging fun you can currently have on your PC, without having to go online to play Counter-Strike with a bunch of strangers. The action is fast-paced and manic, but most importantly, the bots have a near life-like quality. In fact, they're often more fun to play against than humans, because once you beat them they don't go round whining that they only lost because their mouse was broken and they had a crap ping rate.
All the game types are here, from good old deathmatch to CTF levels. You've also got a massive selection of mutators to wade through, and if you do fancy indulging in some multiplayer action, then you and up to 15 others can have a massive fragfest to satisfy your human desires for mindless violence and bloodlust. If you don't already own this game, then there's no excuse for not buying it now, and if you still can't afford It, tell your loved ones that all you want for Christmas is a copy of Unreal Tournament.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
Unreal Tournament Screenshots
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