- Genre: First-Person Action
- Format: 2 CDs
- Developer: Epic Games and Digital Extremes
- Original Publisher: Atari
- Mac Publisher: MacSoft
- Minimum System Requirements: 933MHz G4, Mac OS X v10.2.8 256MB RAM, 32MB AGP video card, DVD Drive, 6GB hard disk space. Internet or LAN connection required for online play. (Note: Some maps and game types playable on 800MHz, or faster, processors.)
- Network Feature: Yes
- Price: $39.95
- ESRB Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, mild language)
- Availability: Now
- Official Website: [url=http://www.unrealtournament.com/ut2004]http://www.unrealtournament.com/ut2004[/url] (the source of these screen captures)
The formula of "Blast Everything That Moves" has been done to death in gaming the same way that "Three Chords, Loud As You Can" has been done in rock music. Like rock music, however, people just seem to keep on coming back for more of the same. It's a little reminiscent of the way a scientist will study the same molecule forever, looking for the infinite in something so constrained.
This is just a lot of fancy-pants talk that says Unreal Tournament 2004 is like good, old-fashioned rock and roll: There's no re-inventing anything...just a lot of what we've already come to know and love. And I do mean a lot of it.
The original Unreal Tournament was released in 1999 (a sort of sequel to Unreal, which was released a couple years before) as a multiplayer-only, deathmatch-style game with some team-based variations on good old meat-and-potatoes blastin'. The game took the world by stormMac players in particular, for whom it worked pretty much flawlessly, allowed for Mac-to-PC networking and allowed for the use of any mods or conversions that the PC version could use. It's inarguably one of the most important Mac games ever released.
Since then, MacSoft has released Unreal Tournament 2003, which was basically a repeat of Unreal Tournament, only with some new weapons, game types and much improved graphics. At its heart, however, it was a buffed-up version of the original, and while the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy has merit, UT2K3 offered rather little for your money that the original wasn't already giving you; maps, guns, gameplay modes, shiny graphics, lather, rinse, repeat.
Finally, we get to Unreal Tournament 2004, whose formula is simple and yet extremely effective: Take all the best that previous versions of the game had to offer, add a few new touches (but not enough to re-invent the game) and then make sure there's so much content included with the product that your hard drive chokes on it. It's a simple formula, but the execution is so thorough (almost verging on the excessive) that UT2K4 has become the best of all the Unreal games to date.
A lot of young 'uns these days believe that it's the number of polygons and flashy lights that make a game good, and those little eye-candy junkies are going to love UT2K4 like few other games before it. The game is rife with cutting-edge graphical technology and top-drawer artistry to bring it to life: Big, fat explosions, life-like character animations, crusty and pitted metal and lots of Spielberg-style effects going this way and that. Most impressive of all UT2K4's visual boasting points, however, are the fine details. For instance, I was particularly struck with a mission that takes place on a giant moving truck carrying cargo of various kinds. The illusion of the truck being in motion was sustained well by the sound and moving terrain, but it wasn't until I was passing by some freight that my jaw fell open: Giant crates held in place by (apparently) nylon straps that twisted wildly in the buffeting wind. That's right, the straps were twisting in the wind. Unreal Tournament 2004 is full of this sort of minutiae that not only makes this game great, but also promises to make any other game that licenses the technology into something special as well. The excellence does come with a cost, however; with the exception of MacSoft's Halo, UT2K4 is probably the most demanding game your Mac hardware has met to date. MacSoft's website lists the minimum system requirements as follows: Macintosh 933MHz/G4-G5 or faster processor, Mac OS X v10.2.8 or higher, 256MB RAM, 32MB AGP Video Card, DVD Drive, 6GB hard disk space. Internet or LAN connection required for online play. (Note: Some maps and game types playable on 800MHz, or faster, processors). Believe me, folks...when they say "minimum," they're not kidding. Unless you're running a tricked-out G5, Unreal Tournament 2004 is very likely going to introduce you to the limits of your hardware.
In order to enjoy all this awesome graphical power, you're going to need to have some terrific environments to play in. UT2K4 has got you covered; over 95 maps are available right out of the box, and this doesn't count the maps that are available online for download. Huge, sprawling outdoor realms; ruined, medieval swellings; rat-mazes of metal corridors...this game has pretty much got it all. It's a testament, again, to how the creators of this game have put their effort not into changing the UT experience, but instead into making sure there's a whole lot of the experience. Thank God they have this figured out.
How are you going to spend your time in these gorgeous new environments? UT2K4 offers a number of gameplay modes that are guaranteed to keep the game fresh for as long as possible, and will definitely take the "blahs" out of Deathmatch. Naturally, you can play a flat-out, free-for-all Deathmatch where guns are blazing and every man is for himself (a team-based variation of this is also available). You can play the classic Capture The Flag game where it's a race to see who can nab the enemy's flag and take it home. You can get into more sophisticated, team-based gaming with the Assault mission, where one team defends an objective and another one attacks it, and then you switch. The Onslaught game mode is a match that really leans on teamwork to succeed: Strategic points are captured and defended in a huge outdoor arena which not only demands solidarity among your team-mates, but also the skillful use of vehicles to win the day.
Vehicles? That's right. For the first time in a UT-style game, the player can hop into a sweet ride and take the battle on the road. UT2K4 offers no fewer than nine unique player-controlled vehicles and a dramatic shift in the fundamentals of gameplay is introduced by them. Ranging from a lightweight skimmer like the Manta to a heavy transport such as the Leviathan, the vehicles add tactical complexity (read: fun) to the missions in which they are included. Obvious comparisons between UT2K4 and Halo will abound, but the overall feel and use of the vehicles is markedly different between the two shooter games; UT vehicles are more widely varied between them, so the experiences of taking a Raptor high into the air and firing guided missiles or manning the Liandri DH-85 turret are quite different, whereas the experience of Halo vehicles are not quite as varied. The inclusion of these various flyers, tanks, transports and space fighters adds a much-needed lift to team gaming in UT, and the balance has obviously been ironed out with great care so that those with the heavy firepower still have to pay attention to what the soldiers on foot are up to.
So much more could be said about the fine points of UT2K4, from the advanced AI of the computer-controlled bots to the little extras such as Unreal TV (a mode that allows spectators to log in and watch matches as if they were sporting events) to the wide range of nifty weapons that shake-and-bake your foes in a long list of interesting ways. The real deciding factor about Unreal Tournament 2004, however, isn't how many features are stuffed into the game or what improvements have been made since the last revision, it's about what a gamer is looking for. While no-one can challenge the extent to which Epic Megagames has buffed, polished and stuffed to bursting this highly refined and finely combed offering, the nucleus of Unreal Tournament 2004 is still the basic Deathmatch style of gameplay. As such, one has to actually like that style of play to be able to enjoy all that UT2K4 has to offer. Content abounds, graphics shine and player options are rife, but if you're not the kind of person who loves the adrenaline rush of a good, old-fashioned shootout, then all of that will fail to move you. This is probably the only real criticism that can be leveled against UT2K4: If you're not a fan of blowing other people to bits, then this game isn't likely to be the one to change your mind.
In the end, Unreal Tournament 2004 inculcates the same kind of gameplay experience that UT 2K3, Unreal Tournament and Unreal all did: Run, aim, squeeze the trigger. What this latest version offers, however, is so much tweaking, refinement, content and player options that it has succeeded in doing a masterful job of taking the game to all-new places while leaving the heart of the Unreal Tournament experience pure and untouched, as it was meant to be.
Tags: Reviews ď Game Reviews ď