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One 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:

  • Both feature a basic plot premise where, by virtue of circumstances mostly beyond his control, a reluctant hero becomes the saviour of the native race of an alien planet forced to mine their land for ore of utmost importance to an invading race coming from the skies. In both cases the saviour is seen by the natives as someone who also came from the skies and is thus initially met with some alarm or distrust only to be later hailed as a pseudo-messiah.

  • The native race is called "Na'vi" in Avatar and "Nali" in Unreal. The physical description of the Na'vi by Cameron can be visualised as basically a cross between the Nalis' tall, lean, slender bodies and the IceSkaarjs' blueish skin colour patterns, facial features, ponytail-like dreadlocks and caudal appendages.

  • The Nali in Unreal worship goddess Vandora. The home planet of the Na'vi in Avatar (which the Na'vi worship as a goddess entity) is named Pandora.

  • In Avatar, one of the most dazzling alien settings described is a huge set of sky mountains, "like floating islands among the clouds". One of the most memorable vistas in Unreal is Na Pali, thousands of miles up in the cloudy sky amidst a host of floating mountains. The main sky mountain range in Avatar is called "Hallelujah Mountains". The main Unreal level set in Na Pali is called "Na Pali Haven". Both include beautiful visual references to waterfalls streaming down the cliffs and dissolving into the clouds below.

  • The Earth ship in Avatar is called "ISV-Prometheus". One of the levels in Unreal takes place in the wreck of a Terran ship called "ISV-Kran". Even more striking, in the expansion pack Return to Na Pali, the crashed ship the player is asked to salvage is called "Prometheus".

  • One of the deadly examples of local fauna in Unreal is the Manta, essentially a flying manta-ray. In Avatar, one of the most lethal aerial creatures is the Bansheeray, basically a flying manta-ray. The expansion Return to Na Pali even features a Giant Manta, while in Avatar one of the most formidable predators is a giant Bansheeray, which Cameron dubbed "Great Leonopteryx".

  • In the two stories (especially Return to Na Pali, on Unreal's end), a plot point arises from the fact the precious ore behind the invasion of the planet ("tarydium" in Unreal, "unobtanium" in Avatar) causes problems in the scanners.

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.


Unreal 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 attack

The "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 art

The 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 features

Some 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...


The 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.


The 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:
  • Volumetric Lighting: An effect for generating fog, smoke or plasma. It was used in great effect for obscuring view.
  • Dynamic Lighting: A real time render of colored lights. You could mix colored light sources to produce other colors. You also could see moving shadows

German version

Violence 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.


Unreal 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.


The 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.


  • Do you remember the Pirate game in Orlando's Disney World: "Pirates of the Caribbean"? Go to the level "Serpent Canyon". When the boat enters the very long and very dark cave, turn on your flashlight and look to your left. You will find an interesting sign.
  • The Demonlord you meet in level 29 shoots rockets at you - but they aren't the normal rockets! On them, the Canadian flag is printed along with the word 'PEACEMAKER'.
  • The prison ship you arrived on was called the USS Vortex Rikers. It shares a name with Riker's Island prison. Coincidence?


A soundtrack CD by Straylight Productions was released in 1998. It can be bought at

  1. Main Title
  2. Vertex Rikers
  3. Dusk Horizon
  4. Dig
  5. Chizra
  6. Chizra Ceremony
  7. Visions
  8. Ruins
  9. Skytown
  10. Cellars of Dasa
  11. Erosion
  12. Isotoxin
  13. Crater
  14. Bluff Eversmoking
  15. The Queen
  16. Guardian of Stone
  17. Wargate
  18. The Fifth Hub
  19. End Title
  20. Unreal Euro Dance Mix
The entire music soundtrack is also available in the music folder on both the CD and when you have installed the game. However, the music-format is in UMX and can't be played on your default player. You will need a program that run that sort of format, you can find it here on


Unreal 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.


  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #78 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
  • PC Gamer
    • April 2000 - #26 in the "Readers' All-Time Top 50 Games Poll"
Information also contributed by Alan Chan, Emepol, Felix Knoke, Ghostbreed, Manfred Glubber, MAT, PCGamer77, re_fold, RĂºben Alvim, Scott Monster, Silverblade, Zaghadka and Zovni

Contributed by Trixter (9112) on Oct 28, 1999. [revised by : Patrick Bregger (253358)]. -- edit trivia

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