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  Unreal Tournament

By: Kirk Hiner

 

Genre: First person shooter
Format: CD
Developer: Epic Games and Digital Extremes
Mac Port: Westlake Interactive
Publisher: MacSoft
Minimum Requirements: 200MHz PowerPC 603, 120MB hard disk space, 64MB RAM, CD-ROM, MacOS 7.6
Network Feature: You better believe it!
3Dfx Support: Rave and Glide
Retail Price: $44.89
Availability: Out Now

 

This is a challenge
to anyone who ever
took a man down in a 3D shooter
and liked it.
This is your last chance
to prove that you are the best of the best.
This is the gladitorial arena of the future.
This is a single player trial by fire.
A heavyweight deathmatch
championship of the universe.
For those willing to build a mountain of bodies
and climb to the top.
In an environment that stuns.
Against an A.I. that kills.
For those willing to stake their lives
in the pursuit of victory...
we salute you.

Yep, that pretty much sums me up. Well, except for maybe that whole mountain of bodies thing.

Okay, including the mountain of bodies.

The above statement comes from the prize that so many of us Mac gamers have been seeking for the past couple of months, the Unreal Tournament trophy. It's actually quite a coincidence, because the exact same statement is etched into the Most Improved Student Life Editor plaque I won at the Herff Jones Yearbook Camp in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania back in 1987. What confused me more than the somewhat violent proclamation was the fact that I'd never before been a student life editor. From what had I improved?

But hey, that was a long time ago. It was so long ago that all I can really remember from the trip was eating veal for the first (and last) time and going to see Adventures in Babysitting. I certainly don't remember building a mountain of dead bodies, but I don't doubt having done it. I'd've done anything to win that coveted Most Improved Student Life Editor plaque.

This is why I was looking forward to Macsoft's Unreal Tournament. I could now build that mountain of bodies without having to first sit through seminars about copy editing and leading. Although, with the number of mods already available for Unreal Tournament, I doubt the Herff Jones Leading Seminar Mod is too far behind.

But I'm getting ahead of the industry a bit, thinking a little too far outside the box. Right now I'll just focus on the game. Unreal Tournament is a variation of the ground breaking and immensely popular first person shooter, Unreal, also published by Macsoft. In Unreal, you were a prisoner aboard the Vortex Rikers, a space ship that crash landed on a distant planet. Alone, cold and scared (well, maybe not cold...I'm not really sure what the temperature was), you were forced to fight off the skaarj, slith, kraal, and other nasty creatures as you battled your way off the planet. Yet despite all these wonderfully hideous creations, gamers passionately preferred to kill a more heinous and violent enemy...their buddies.

As with most first-person shooters, the real competition lay in the multiplayer action, where the enemies were smarter (usually), faster (sometimes), and more fun to taunt (always). Thus, Unreal Tournament was born. It was born kicking, screaming, clawing, and blasting its way into the computer gaming world with the force of a volcanic eruption. Unreal Tournament is not for the casual gamer who likes a little action and some pretty graphics. It's not for the Mac user looking to waste some time before beginning that freelance project. Unreal Tournament is for...well...go back to the beginning of this review if you don't know for whom this game was made.

Unreal Tournament is easily the most intense computer game I've ever played. There are precious few moments to rest once the action begins, and even those are tainted by the screams of your teammates as they fall in combat, wondering why you weren't there to help them. If you're not in the middle of the battle, you're collecting weapons or setting up an ambush. As the instructions more or less point out, if you want to live, you'll have to keep moving.

There are many types of multiplayer games from which to choose, and I won't go into detail on them as they're pretty much standard across all multiplayer shooters; deathmatch, capture the flag, assault...you know the routine. In some you work alone, in others you're part of a team. And although teamwork games are more difficult, they're also the most fun, I think. Granted, pausing from the action to shout orders to your teammates (done by hitting the V key and then using the mouse to navigate your options like menus in Windows 98) is annoying, but ultimately essential to win the battle. After all, you can't very well assault the enemy base if no one knows who has point, right? What I would like to see is the option to assign verbal commands to the keyboard, and the ability to program your own phrases into the list of taunts. I'm sure it's possible, if not practical, and it would certainly make me happy if I could shout "Ride my majestic frigate!" after scoring an ultra kill.

Yeah, like I've ever scored an ultra kill.

Commanding your computer controlled teammates is especially important in the single player version of Unreal Tournament (yes, there is one) as they tend to be pretty stupid. It seemed that every time I got killed assaulting an enemy base, my teammates would run back to the beginning to meet me. That's an awfully sweet gesture, I guess, as it's always good to be missed, but I would've greatly preferred if they'd stayed up at the enemy base and tried to do some damage until I returned.

As with Unreal, there's no shortage of weapon types available to meet your fragging needs. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, of course, and it shouldn't take long to find your favorite. My problem was learning to use the right weapon at the right time, as opposed to using the pulse blaster for everything. There are also various protective devices and health power-ups to keep you in shape, but it's best to not depend on them as you can never tell when they'll reappear after being used by someone else. Instead, take charge, be an internal locust of control type of person, and learn to fight.

In Unreal, despite what other gamers suggested, I made my way through using only the keyboard for control...oh, and an invincibility cheat code. But In Unreal Tournament, I decided to adopt the keyboard/mouse combination. People, it makes a world of difference. Now that I'm used to the accuracy of aiming with the mouse, I'll never go back. Unreal Tournament affords you the option to learn this technique in the single player version, where each game type is introduced with a tutorial level. There, you can run around and shoot walls and stuff until your heart's content...or until the "instructor" unleashes an enemy or two for you to practice on. These tutorials also provide a better opportunity to check out the scenery.

The graphics in Unreal Tournament are of "Hey, Playstation geek, look at what my Mac can do" caliber. The scenarios are lavishly designed and are much more colorful than any other 3D accelerated game I've played. Unreal Tournament looked good enough on my fiancee's iMac to make her father lament his recent purchase of a PC with no 3D acceleration (as if he shouldn't have already been lamenting the PC itself), but it's on my G4 with the ATI Rage128 that the graphics became art. I could talk of textures and transparencies all night, but you by now know what the Unreal games look like with proper 3D acceleration. You can bet that when I get my hands on one of those Voodoo5 cards this year, Unreal Tournament will be the first game I boot up.

Speaking of booting up, Unreal Tournament takes over fifty seconds to start on my 450MHz G4. What's up with that?

Honestly, I didn't expect to enjoy Unreal Tournament as much as I did. After all, the similarities between this game its predecessor pretty much stop with the engine. Also, I'm a story guy, and I usually can't really get into a game without proper motivation. Well, Unreal Tournament, with no cut scenes or back story other than the throw-away premise of a tournament started to stop space miners from getting too rambunctious, has practically no motivation whatsoever...until you're in the game. Then your motivation is to not become a body in another player's mound, and that, my friends, is motivation enough.

So salute me, fellow gamers. For my life is going to be staked quite a bit in the pursuit of the victory. I'm sure of it.

 

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September 02, 2014

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