Unreal Tournament 2004

February 19, 2006

The Unreal series started with [i]Unreal Tournament[/i] in 1999. [i]Unreal Tournament 2003[/i] came out in late 2002, and received much acclaim from gamers worldwide as being one of the best First Person Shooters around and having some of the best computer A.I. in a game. The Unreal series has now entered into its third installment, [i]Unreal Tournament 2004[/i]. Before this review goes on any further, lets just make this clear: [i]Unreal Tournament 2004[/i] is one hell of an awesome game.

What makes [i]Unreal Tournament 2004[/i] so great is the content within the game. The game has, and count them, a total of one hundred different maps divided into nearly a dozen different gameplay types. Yes, a hundred maps. To be fair, [i]Unreal Tournament 2004[/i] basically splices most of [i]Unreal Tournament 2003[/i] into itself, and a good number of [i]UT2k4[/i]’s maps come straight from [i]UT2k3[/i]. Have no fear though, as there are plenty of new maps available, and the older maps are still just as enjoyable. Of course, there is a downside to the game having one hundred different maps. While [i]UT2k4[/i] comes as a steal of a price, you’ll be getting a whopping six CD PC game, which takes up an overwhelming 5.5 gigabytes of space on the hard drive. It’s all worth it though, and if you happen to have a DVD drive, you can also get the special edition set, which packs the entire game into one DVD, and comes with a headset and other extras.

The [i]Unreal Tournament[/i] games have always been about frantic FPS action, and [i]UT2k4[/i] doesn’t disappoint. The gameplay is, for the most part, just like the gameplay from [i]UT2k3[/i]. You’ll end up jumping in all sorts of different directions, frantically trying to aim your weapon while dodging the enemy’s. At times, a kill shot may be completely due to luck, as it can be near frustrating to aim your weapons while jumping around like a fish out of water. This frantic gamestyle is what makes [i]Unreal Tournament[/i] so compelling though. If you count out gametypes where you work as a team, the only strategy you really need to know in order to play [i]UT2k4[/i] is how to aim, and head into the fray, guns blazing. This makes [i]UT2k4[/i]’s learning curve easy for new players to get used to. They can simply get into a game and unleash their wraith upon the other players, learning as they go along.

You might be asking yourself why this game is so much different from any other PC FPS around, if that’s all it takes. [i]UT2k3[/i] eliminated this question by adding in a variety of different game modes that focus on teamwork. These are more accustomed to intermediate and advanced players, and involve a lot more strategy than your basic deathmatch and team deathmatch. Bombing Run, Capture The Flag, and other modes were introduced, and like [i]UT2k3[/i]’s map selection, they too make their way into [i]UT2k4[/i].

[i]UT2k4[/i] also adds in its share of content, including many new game modes. The two most anticipated modes are known as Onslaught and Assault. Onslaught is a complete change from the traditional UT gameplay, mainly because of the addition of vehicles. The objective in Onslaught is to capture what are known as nodes placed throughout the levels, until you make it to the power core located at the enemy base, which you then have to destroy. The maps in Onslaught mode are big, and actually require a good usage of vehicles in order to be successful. This doesn’t mean lone players without vehicles are helpless, and the game does a good job of balancing pretty much everything. Tanks are powerful enough to take out most vehicles, but are prone to aerial attacks. Smaller vehicles are fast, but easily destroyed, and while infantry aren’t exactly strong enough to take out a tank very easily, a tank will have a hard time clearing out large groups of people.

Assault is a mode where one team attacks a series of enemy objectives in order to complete the final objective at the end of the level. Meanwhile, the other team must defend their objective until the timer runs out. Assault (and Onslaught for that matter) is one of the modes that require a lot of teamwork in order to be successful, and if your team is scattered around the map, you will probably lose, very badly at that. Vehicles are present in Assault, but not to the extent that they are in Onslaught.

The downside to these two great game modes is that, neither of them have many maps. Assault has less than a dozen maps, and while Onslaught has a couple more, there still aren’t a whole lot. The good news is, it’s only a couple weeks since its release and Epic Games has already released three different maps for Onslaught, so you know they aren’t sleeping on the job.

Like its predecessors, [i]UT2k4[/i] is at its best when playing online. There’s no better challenge than playing against other real people, and there’s no better experience than working with others to complete an objective. The added headset that comes with the special edition DVD boxset allows people to communicate with each other and issue commands. You can also use headsets other than the special edition, so those who have bought the six CD set don’t have to feel left out.

Even though multiplayer is where it’s at, you shouldn’t count out the offline computer A.I. The UT games have always had some of the best A.I. in a multiplayer dominating game, and they are actually challenging enough to play against, unlike the A.I. in a game like [i]Battlefield 1942[/i]. The singleplayer campaign treats the [i]Unreal Tournament[/i] like, well, a sport. You first battle through deathmatches and once you climb the ladder; form a team of computer bots to fight with you. As you progress, you will unlock more of the higher gamemodes like Bombing Run, which fuses football and the UT gameplay into one, and the classic Capture the Flag, which has each team fighting for the other team’s flag.

The graphics in [i]UT2k4[/i] are amazing. Weapons bob as you run, and the detail of the maps are great. Vehicles look great as they come bearing down hills towards you, and in only seconds, your head has been chopped off by a Manta hovercraft. The rag doll physics have returned from [i]UT2k3[/i], and it makes dying a little enjoyable. There’s just something captivating as you watch your character’s dead, limp body fall from a 10,000-story skyscraper. It’s probably a little disturbing in its own merit, but if you are disturbed by a dead body flailing all over the place, you probably shouldn’t be playing [i]Unreal Tournament 2004[/i].

[i]UT2k4[/i] lets you create your own character from a huge amount of skin choices, including many from [i]UT2k3[/i]. While character creation level isn’t as detailed as that of a RPG, it is nice for a FPS. The sound quality is excellent, which you probably would expect from a game like this. You can have around 4 different voices to choose from in your character’s profile, and there is also a command menu to communicate with other players. Like stated above, you can also use a headset, which will allow you to talk out tactics with your fellow teammates. The music sounds good for this type of game, with the usual dark, ominous rock feel to it.

As you might have guessed by now, this game is awesome. The game easily opens itself up to new players with deathmatch, and reels in veterans of the series and FPS fans by adding in a number of tactical gameplay types. This is simply one of the best FPS games to come out in a long while, and it deserves every bit of the score it gets. To be frank, if you are a fan of the FPS genre, and you have the PC power for it, there is really no reason not to buy this game.

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.