Review by The President

"Unreal is King!"

Before people cared about a story in there frag-fests, you had Quake. And Quake was good. Then, Unreal came. Unreal tries to have a story that involved Rocket Launchers and the like, and it didn’t work. So, Epic Games decided to make Unreal Tournament. It took Unreal, and got rid of the bad parts. And it was good. So, now it is 2004, and now we get the third in this great series. Unreal Tournament 2004 is upon us, and it is also good. Now, not only do we have the amazing bot A.I being used in Capture the Flag, Double Domination, Bombing Run, and Team Deathmatch, you have them piloting vehicles to cause even more destruction. Yes, the once traditional game of run-and-gun has become obsolete, now that a large tank can run you over in an instant. If you need a game that will deliver long lasting appeal, then you have found it. If you want a game that can be played instantly, you have found it. If you want flash, then you also have it as well. Unreal Tournament 2004 is here, and it could literally be a contender for the best game of the year.

Though The UT games have really been known for a compelling, riveting story, it gets the job done to explain why you keep killing people. Basically, a large corporation has set up THE Tournament, where players from all over the galaxy can come and fight for the enjoyment of people. In the Single Player mode, you are an inspiring killer, just trying to get in to play. You need move yourself up the ladders to set up a team, and then, you may be able to play with the big boys. You play in more ladders involving specific game types, and then, maybe you may even be able to play against the former tournament winners.

For the most part, the entire game has been unchanged since Unreal 2003, where the real main changes to the Unreal formula happened. You still want to kill everyone that is in sight; or if you play a team game, everyone who is not on your team. You have many different modes of play, ranging from the traditional, like Capture the Flag, where you need to get the other team’s flag over to yours to score points, or Bombing Run, a mixture of hardcore tackle football and basketball, where you need to get the ball in the opponents hoop for points. Basically, in every game mode, each person is separated in to different teams, and need to score points. The new mode, Onslaught, is completely different from anything else ever seen in UT games. Each team starts out with a main base, and you need to connect all the power nodes scattered around the map to defeat the other team’s base, and you do that by destroyed their main power core. To even be able to attack the other team’s base, you need to be linked all throughout the map by these power nodes. It made lead to a very dug-in match, but Sudden Death kicks in, and each team’s main power core begins losing power, so matches will not last hours.
UT 2004 has a dizzying arsenal of weapons to help you, from the petite Assault Rifle, to the shredding Flak Cannon, or the helpful in Onslaught Link Gun. A few of the new weapons are the Mine Layer, where you shoot spider like mines that look for enemies, the AVRiL, which is an anti-vehicle missile launcher, All of these weapons have a secondary function, for example: the Shock Rifle shoots an instantaneous laser in primary function, then a slow ball of laser death secondary. You also have Adrenaline, which you get from power-ups or killing players, to make you run faster or jump higher.
Using the Instant Action option, you can play against a bunch of computer-controlled bots at any time. Depending on what level you decide to put your bots on, they could act like crazed chimps on a sugar high, moving with no real purpose and cannot even defend themselves. But, if you decide to play with the big boys and turn them up the Extreme, then you shall be utterly destroyed by there cunning, robot ways. You may think that you are good at First Person Shooters, and then you have never tried fighting against these bots. Though they do suffer a bit for not having the adapting abilities like humans, Extreme bots know where every hiding place is, the best weapon to use in a certain situation, and they will beat your behind, unless you know the best hiding places and what weapon to use as well.
But enough about bots, let’s talk about the sweet online play. You can play every mode in the game, but now with real people, that talk smack about how much of a noob you are. Sure, it may be annoying (really annoying when it seems that everyone has a microphone now, with the release of the Special Edition. Luckily, a mute option is available.) but get through it, because playing online is the best part of this game. With the great single player mode, and the amazing online play, there is no reason for you to pass this up.

Graphically, the game looks a bit better than Unreal 2003. Well, if your computer can handle it. The game may actually end up looking like the original Tournament if you do not have a quality PC to handle things like real-time lighting, tri-linear filtering, and even simple particle effects, but the game still runs and looks pretty good on the low and medium settings. All of the background environments look beautiful, full of life when you play on tropical planet, or cold, un-forgiving steel. Any map could give you the feeling of being in an open space; full of flora and fauna, or you could actually be sucked in to space in an instant. Character models are also stunning, with real-time shadows and rag-doll physics all being used. Each character also can be customized to your liking, with many colors to choose from. Though weapons damage is not shown on the players, it is shown on the vehicles and environments to an extant, and it shows a good deal of work was put in for these graphical touches. Now remember, it may not look as good as the up-coming Doom 3 or Half Life 2, but UT 2004 gives them a pretty good run for their money.

The Graphics and Gameplay may be some of the best ever seen on the PC, but the sound seems to falter when compared to the massive greatness of everything else. Most of the background music is standard techno stuff, beats that make sense in a game is set mostly around space and abandoned robot factories where people battle to the death, but is leaves me rather flat. However, when the environments are set around forests and glaciers, the music is more to the imagination, where slower, and slightly a softer techno is being played (no need for a constant drum being blasted in to your ears now, right?)
Along with the music, you have your nicely voiced announcer. UT 2004 has several different voices to choose from, from the original UT guy to the rightly named, “Sexy” voice. Most of the player voices have been recycled from UT or UT 2003, but it does not mean that they sound horrible. Most of voices are really just a lot of grunting and going “yee-hah!” anyway. The music may be seriously lacking of most respects, but it does not sound bad.

UT 2004 is just a very fun game to play. Online mode is a blast to play, and with all the available game modes, it would take a while to be bored of all of them. I was completely immersed in the UT universe, with its style and flair, and it kept me coming back for more and more. Even if you feel that your Internet connection may be too slow to play, at least happily, online, then the engrossing single player campaign should take you a pretty long time to beat. And there is always instant action if you want to test your skills against the best bots in any game, ever. If you do not happen to like First Person Shooters, this game will make you love them.

In the beginning of this year, very few people even had Unreal 2004 on their gaming radar, because there were already three huge First Person Shooters supposed to be released during the year: Halo 2, Doom 3, and Half Life 2. With those three, people though the days of the fast paced, unrealistic shooters were numbered. UT 2004 just kind of sneaked up on everyone, and it may just end up being better then all three of them. Nothing, and I mean nothing out today can compare to the mayhem when someone in a Leviathan comes up, and begins to wreak havoc throughout the map. Nothing can compare to the feeling when you get your first ULTRA KILL! in a server. This is one of the best games ever, and there is no reason for you not to put down 40 bucks and get it. You may just get a free microphone!


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/27/04


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