Written by  :  Trixter (9128)
Written on  :  Oct 24, 2000
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars

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The first fully-balanced 1st-person shooter.

The Good

Unreal Tournament has to be the pinnacle of "1st-person shooter" games. There's just too many reasons why, so I'll cover some of the reasons I think other reviewers have touched on only briefly:

  • The editor. UnrealEd is not only fully-functional and chock full of features, but the rendering system (not based on BSP tree compiling) makes it really easy to quickly "compile" and test your map. Half-Life, by comparison, uses BSP trees (which compile in about 3 minutes) and light maps (which compile in about 3 hours).

  • 45+ maps right out of the box. 'nuff said.

  • Music! The music is based on 'scene "tracking" files/editors (similar to Amiga music modules) and ranges from okay to great. Using this custom music format also allows for close to 2+ hours of interactive music per game with plenty of space left on the CD. And since the CD isn't required to play any more (see below), you get music all the time if you want it.

  • Patch level 432. With 432 and above, you don't need the CD in the drive to play any more.

  • Feigning death. You can lie down and play dead if you want to. ;-)

  • Works on low-speed machines. In addition to the many hardware tweaks you can make (type "preferences" at the system console to access that menu), Unreal Tournament also has a high-quality 32-bit software renderer as well -- and by "32-bit" I mean it renders 32-bit color (24-bit color with an 8-bit alpha channel). Many older, simple video cards can support 320x240x32-bit color with no hassle. The end result is that not only does the software rendering look decent, but you can play UT on more platforms than you can other games *cough*Quake3*cough* because UT will fall back to software rendering if your 3D hardware isn't supported properly, like in Linux or Windows NT. The end result of all this is that even if you have a Pentium 166, you can still tweak the game enough so that it runs at 20 fps on your box. And if you think 320x240 gameplay sucks, try doing it on a 32-person LAN in one of the teamplay modes. Doesn't suck now, does it? :)

  • Attitude. Some of the auto-taunts are priceless ("Sit down!", "Try turning the safety off!", "I'm sorry, did I blow your head off?", etc.)

  • Bots! If you want to hone your [email protected] k1ll1nG sk1llz at home before going online and getting the crap kicked out of you, you can play practice games of any type with any number of 'bots of varying skill levels. You can even give the 'bots personality, like fixing the skill level of each 'bot individually, changing their appearance, even their preferred weapon. You can even have the 'bots auto-adjust their skill level based on your performance.

But most of all, the gameplay is balanced. What does this mean? It means that each weapon has been tweaked to be just as powerful and effective at killing as every other weapon. A player can specialize in any certain weapon and, if he or she is good enough at it, can be just as lethal as any other player. Massively-powerful weapons (like the Redeemer, a miniature nuclear warhead) are offset by their refire rate (the Redeemer is an incredibly slow missle, for example).

Balanced gameplay is good. You want balanced gameplay, trust me.

The Bad

The expandability and customization features are lacking and undocumented. This doesn't mean you can't expand UT -- just the opposite, you can. But it's not made very easy for the end-user, and documentation on doing it is very hard to come by (the only docs I could find on the subject were written by other UT fans, which makes me wonder where they got the info). In fact, I didn't even know it was possible to upload your own sounds until I came across an Internet deathmatch server that had custom sounds.

With the exception of the Sniper Rifle, the weapons are not "traditional" weapons. (Last I checked, guns that 1. spew rotary saw blades, 2. emit a continuous stream of energy, 3. pummel human flesh into pulp, and 4. spew toxic green goop are not considered "normal".) This is offputting to those who are used to "normal" weapons, like those found in Half-Life/Team Fortress/Counter-Strike.

The "balanced gameplay" design falls short in one area: The original gun you start out with. It's pretty wimpy compared to the rest of the weapons. But even this is remedied if you manage to pick up another one, because then you can wield one in each hand for some John Woo-esque action.

The Bottom Line

There simply isn't a reason not to like this game! It's balanced, it's expandable, it comes with a great world editor, has tons of dedicated fans/fan sites/mods, and it has solid networking code. What's not to like? The original version at the time of this writing was $29.95 US, with the "gold" edition right around the corner with even more extras, so pick this game up! What are you waiting for, Daikatana 2?