Unreal Tournament blows away the competition

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I’ll admit to everyone right now, I wasn’t really a big fan of the original Unreal. Though I liked many of Epic Games’ previous shareware titles (Jazz Jackrabbit, One Must Fall 2097, and Zone 66 to name a few), the long awaited Unreal just didn’t cut it for me. It did feature a gorgeous 3-D engine, and some really impressive music, but I just couldn’t really get into the game mechanics. Even worse, the multiplayer over the Internet was unplayable. Patch after patch came out, but still there was no help, and the original claimed dust in my CD carrying case.

Eventually I heard that Epic was planning a multiplayer sequel to make up for the mistakes that Unreal had, but still I was skeptical. Alas, I am once again not afraid to eat my own words. Not only is Unreal Tournament the best multi-player deathmatch I have played in a long time, the single player game takes this game beyond even the almighty Quake 3 Arena in terms of gameplay.

Unreal Tournament (UT) centers around a universal conglomerate called the Liandri Corporation which sponsors an all-out tournament in an attempt to curb violence against its citizens. The tournament consists of five different combat modes. The first is the common Deathmatch, where the object is simply to eliminate (or frag) anyone that you encounter, with the winner being the first to reach a determined number of frags.

The second mode of UT is called Domination, in which various targets, called control points, need to be touched by you or any of your teammates, changing it to your team’s color. The longer the control point stays in your color, the more you score, and the first to reach a designated point limit wins.

Capture the Flag, the third leg of the tournament, follows the grand tradition of other CTF matches found in Quake 2, Half Life, and other FPS titles. The object is simple, invade the enemy base, take their flag and return it to your base before your flag is taken. It might be simple, but when you add rockets and flak cannons, it can be pretty darn tough.

The fourth leg of the tournament, and perhaps the most original, is the Assault mode. In Assault, it is your duty to complete a set of objectives in the allotted time. If successful, you will need to defend these same objectives for the time it took you to complete them in the previous round. These missions can vary from hijacking a battleship’s control room, all the way up to a Saving Private Ryan-esque D-Day invasion to destroy a long range artillery cannon.

The final branch of UT is the Challenge mode, available only upon completing the first four tiers. This is an all-out match against the best in the league. Defeat this leg, and you will be named UT Grand Champion.

As expected from the Unreal series, the graphics in this game are phenomenal, and since it runs under Glide, you can be certain that owners of 3dfx cards will reap in the benefits. Audio is just as good as before, and still has that Epic style Scream Tracker sound to it, just like they used in their earlier shareware titles.

One factor that UT excels in over Quake 3: Arena is the choice of weapons. Sure we might have the typical mini-guns and rocket launchers (which however in this game, can be used to fire a salvo of missiles instead of just one), but we have special weapons such as the deadly-at-close- range Flak Cannon, or the Redeemer, which is a small tactical nuke that can either be dumbfired or controlled via a remote for an instant Monster Kill.

As mentioned, the single player is amazing, with very intelligent bots that can be altered to suit your skill level. But the best surprise about UT is how great it runs in multiplayer. Compared to Unreal’s slow-as-molasses Internet play, UT runs smoothly right out of the box, as I received ping times of under 300 on a 56k modem. Epic should be congratulated for doing a job well done on the multiplayer code.

It would be hard to find any serious faults with UT, perhaps the fact that you have to work your tail off to beat the bots when at Godlike level, or beating online opponents without losing a life, but it is definite that UT changed my opinion about the Unreal franchise, and this 5-gem monster (for both single and multiplayer) will have a permanent place on my hard drive.

In the much-hyped battle between Unreal Tournament and Quake III, I have to give my vote to UT, because the single player levels in UT are a lot of fun to play, and the mutiplayer is mostly lag-free. UT grabs the first person shooter crown, and should hold onto it for the foreseeable future.

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