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SummaryOkay conversion of a great game
The Goodt's Unreal Tournament...on Dreamcast. That in itself is pretty impressive. For a long time, console ports of FPS games were always compromises. This did a great job of showing the DC was, for the time at least, able to keep up with the latest games. Of course, that's only part of the equation. Unreal Tournament on Dreamcast has a rather complicated history and must be judged not only on its merits, but relative to its PC and PS2 counterparts as well as its Dreamcast rival, Quake 3.
Quake 3 was its nearest competitor and the easiest comparison to make. Unreal Tournament really shines here, basically doubling all Quake's accomplishments with eight players instead of four, 71 maps instead of 32, 12 weapons with two functions each instead of 9 single-function weapons and an extra game type, domination. The translocator in the Capture the Flag and Domination games greatly changes the game as well. Basically Quake 3 has little in the way of significant gameplay advancements over the original Quake. You merely jump, aim and shoot, whereas Unreal Tournament has much more complex and inventive weapons as well as numerous new options.
Most of the options from PC are here, including practice with bots, the deathmatch, capture the flag and domination game types. It actually comes with more maps out of the box, with a good number of additions in the deathmatch section. Graphics are quite good by Dreamcast standards, looking about what a fairly mid-range PC could accomplish.
It also edges out the PS2 version in terms of sheer number of maps and the textures look somewhat better. More importantly, it supports Internet play with up to eight players while the PS2 was limited to four players via split screen or LAN. While the PS2 is limited to the default controller, Dreamcast allows use of a keyboard and mouse, which are general held to be the preferable method to control a first-person shooter.
The BadUnfortunately, only one each keyboard and mouse are allowed per system and they take two controller slots, limiting you to three players per system, tops. More importantly, it limits other players to the controller, which unfortunately is pretty sucky. A lot of this is Sega's fault for making such a limited controller compared tot he PS2 or really any other controller that's come out since 1996 or so. As you need to be able to move in two axes and aim in two axes, the single stick and face buttons are taken to begin with, leaving you with nothing but the D-pad and two triggers. As each weapon has two triggers and you need to be able to jump as well, so something important is going to inconveniently go on the D-pad.
The developers don't really help the situation by only giving you three control options (plus axis-inversion) rather than letting you customize things to your liking. The only option that gives you both triggers on the controller triggers is Goldeneye-style, where the stick move and turns you. I didn't want that. Besides the lack of buttons, the feel of the stick just isn't precise enough for this kind of game, leading you to have to use ridiculous amounts of auto aim.
While the Dreamcast's textures look a little better than PS2's, it doesn't measure up graphically to that version, much less the PC. The problems are mainly in the effects. The overshield belt is now opaque instead of the translucent effect seen on other platforms. The swelling effect is gone, which means the vaccuum chamber in Pressure produces a rather unspectacular death and the fatboy mutator is out.
Other areas have been simplified as well. Armor is now a straight number rather than the separate armor for head, torso and legs seen on the PC and PS2. There is no more ducking, either. Both are presumably because of the control compromises. More importantly, instead of the five character models seen on PC and PS2, there is now only a single model: male soldier. While this model has a nice variety of skins that largely do a decent job of hiding that's it's only one model, the loss is very much felt. This is made even more annoying by the fact that the Skaarj character Dominator is depicted on the cover, despite not appearing in the game along with many other cool bits added in the official free expansion packs, even though these were available well before the Dreamcast version hit. You also won't be able to play rune games, for instance.
The loss that is felt the most is assault mode. Apparently, the existing maps didn't fit in Dreamcast's memory and rather than redesigning them or comign up with new maps, the mode was cut all together. While this still leaves it with one more mode than Quake III, it comes up short compared to other versions of Unreal Tournament.
While the game itself supports eight players, many maps have an actual limit that is lower than this presumably because of memory constraints again. Only five out of the forty-six deathmatch maps support the full complement and only about half the domination and capture the flag maps. Well under half the maps support four-player split-screen as well.
A lot of the appeal of the PC game was its expandability. Of course, this being Dreamcast game, there isn't anywhere to put downloaded content and it unfortunately didn't ship with enough to make up for this loss except in the area of maps. You'll find the list of mutators pathetically short, I've already explained the problems with modes and character models and you might even find yourself wanting for Domination maps.
There are also a few problems that really apply to every version of the game, such as the sometimes-wonky script-based AI. For instance, in the map Pressure, there is a vacuum chamber with a rocket launcher inside that has a button on the side that will kill anyone who enters. The bots repeatedly saw me standing by the button, but ran right in anyway.
Unfortunately, as Sega.net is no longer operating, all the good points of online play are moot since it doesn't work anymore. More annoyingly, two maps are locked until you log into Sega.net. As I had broadband Internet and was unable to find the elusive broadband adapter, I never did this and now can't play these maps.
The Bottom LineUnreal Tournament is a good game that unfortunately got a bit cramped when Secret Level tried to stuff it into Sega's little box. The lack of system memory and poor controls when trying to use the standard controller make it the weakest release of the game. On the other hand, it holds up quite well compared to other first person shooters on the Dreamcast. While Quake III handled a little better thanks to needing fewer buttons and had a good variety of player model, the sheer number of options (as well as marginally better graphics) make Unreal Tournament the winner out of these two.
However, this isn't terribly important now as the game is rather old and anyone who's reading this almost surely has a PC that can run it quite well unless there's some die-hard out there using the Dreamcast web browser. The PC version is better in every imaginable fashion unless you really like split-screen. The only real reason to buy the Dreamcast edition is to see how well the port went. This answers is that it went about as well as could be expected considering the system's limitations. It's still a very good game, but buying this particular version doesn't make a lot of sense unless you're just curious.