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DescriptionThe prison transport ship Vortex Rikers was on its way to a penal moon colony when an unplanned course change led to it being caught in the gravity well of an uncharted planet. Not many aboard survive the crash landing, and those that do find this new world to be one full of strange beauty, but also many dangers. Not only is it full of dangerous wildlife, but it is the setting of a conflict between the ruthless Skaarj and the peaceful natives they have enslaved, the Nali. As one of the surviving prisoners, the player must escape the wreckage of the Rikers, navigate through Nali villages and temples, Skaarj mines and refineries, other crashed ships and many more locations, with the ultimate goal of finding a way off the planet.
Unreal is a first-person shooter. Its story is mostly told through short text messages, deciphered via a translator from computer stations, personal logs, books and signs. The game features a weapon arsenal of ten guns, each with two firing modes. Besides standard pistols, rocket/grenade launchers, miniguns and sniper rifles, there are such items as the Bio Rifle, which fires blobs of toxic waste which stick to walls and enemies, the Flak Cannon, which sprays deadly shrapnel, and the Razorjack, which shoots spinning blades that ricochet off walls. The secondary firing mode might allow a charged shot, sacrifice accuracy for speed, or even make it possible to guide the projectile.
The game also includes a multiplayer mode. Ten deathmatch maps are available for free-for-all, team deathmatch or a variant called "King of the Hill". A special mode is DarkMatch, for which one special map is available. In DarkMatch, the map is without any illumination, and players must use a searchlight to see anything. The deathmatch modes can be played against bots, and the game also offers a cooperative version of the single player campaign.
Unreal introduced the game engine of the same name, which employs such tricks as colored lighting, curved surfaces, reflective surfaces, "detail" textures (via multi-texturing), and real time interactive mixed digital music.
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AvatarOne of director James Cameron's pet projects after Titanic was an epic sci-fi extravaganza called Avatar, much hyped in Hollywood circles at the time and poised to redefine the notion of a truly alien world on the big screen.
The project fell apart initially, but the scriptment (a hybrid between a script and a treatment ) by James Cameron still exists. Interestingly, you can find quite a few similarities between it and Unreal:
Unreal was in development for several years before its release in 1998. The Avatar scriptment was probably finished as early as 1996-97. Bearing all the above in mind the temptation to start wondering about further suspicious parallels may be quite strong, but in spite of these similarities both titles have few else in common and many aspects actually veer off in wildly different directions. Even so, the coinciding factors can make for an interesting minutia comparison.
BotsUnreal was the first FPS shooter to official include Bots, A.I. characters which mimic the actions of live players during multiplayer deathmatches. Although previously fan-programmed Bots had been created for games like Quake and DOOM, Unreal was the first game where the Bots were officially included by the game's programmers.
Many features of the Bot A.I. were used to program the A.I. of the game's single player enemies, particularly the Skaarj. As a result Unreal's single player enemies had a degree of flexibility previously unseen in their ability to fight, manuever and navigate levels.
Combined attackThe "combined attack" mentioned in the manual applies to the shock rifle. Fire a plasma blob with the secondary fire button, then, without moving, fire a shot with the primary fire button. The shot will pierce the plasma blob in midair, exploding it (with a nice blast radius).
Cover artThe reason the jewel case is so prominently displayed in the box design is because there were four different jewel case cover designs, all of them screen shots (look carefully at the second box scan and you'll see "Actual Gameplay Screen (2/4)"). This was a clever way to show off the game's graphic superiority.
Cut featuresSome Unreal-Previews in 1997 told us about some proposed features which didn't make it into the final game. For example: - the character can morph to four other shapes - you can build your own deathmatch-arenas and - connect them via Internet. So you can - walk from one Deathmatch-Arena to another via teleporters...
EightballThe eightball weapon in the game is called like that because it originally fired 8 missiles. Play testing revealed 6 made a more balanced weapon, but the name stuck.
EngineThe Unreal engine had a unique feature. It could render using DirectX, OpenGl, and Software Mode. It even included support for 3dfx Glide drivers. Most 3d engines before and since only support DirectX or OpenGL, but not both. It took 4 years to design. It had several features that weren't included in the Quake II engine:
German versionViolence was reduced for the German version of Unreal. The "reduced gore" option is missing from the menus, enemies simply disappear instead of being gibbed, and severed heads also vanish instead of flying through the air.
But most notable are changes to the opening level: Corpses and blood stains were removed as well as background sound effects and scripted fight scenes - drastically changing the game's atmosphere. Some pain screams and similar background sound effects are also missing in later levels.
GraphicsUnreal has a lot of "scene" tricks, like colored lighting, dithered texturing in software for 8-bit displays, XMs/ITs for music, music from scene musicians, and other engine enhancements. The name "Unreal" is the same name used by a pioneering demo from Future Crew.
MicrosoftThe game's technical advances at the time attracted so much attention that even Bill Gates himself requested a meeting, in absolute secrecy, with the developers of Unreal. The meeting took place in early 1997, but by that time GT Interactive had already acquired publishing rights for the game.
SoundtrackA soundtrack CD by Straylight Productions was released in 1998. It can be bought at http://www.synsoniq.com.
UMXUnreal re-introduced a music format that was popularized on the Amiga computers. The UMX format is a variation of the Mod file.
Mod files are packed files that contain instrument samples and tracker formatted music. The Amiga had dedicated hardware that could load and play instrument samples at various speeds to produce different pitches.
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