Review by matt91486

"Unreal: Tournament surprised me, considering there are very few first-person shooters that I do not detest"

I was depressed at first when I learned that the only PlayStation 2 game that I would be able to play at launch was Unreal: Tournament. First person shooters had never really been my favorite genre, and Quake II had nauseated me to the point where I thought about taking dramamine. But once I began to play Unreal: Tournament I was pleasantly surprised with a tournament fighting game that focused less on furthering a pathetic story and more on good, old-fashioned competition.

The concepts in Unreal Tournament start out simple, but they get much more complex as you progress through the game. There are five different types of tournaments that you will need to enter to complete Unreal Tournament. There will only be one available from the start. The one that you have available from the start is called ‘Deathmatch’ and it is basically just getting to a set number of frags before the computer bots do.

Eventually you will acquire modes ranging from ‘Capture the Flag’ to ‘Domination.’ ‘Capture the Flag’ is the same game that you all played as children with guns and without getting tags. ‘Domination’ is my personal favorite game. There are three checkpoints in a level, and you need to gain control of them and guard them until you obtain a certain number of points to win the level. It is great fun if anything ever was. Even better, any mode that you unlock in the Single-Player Mode can be used in the Multiplayer Mode! Talk about motivation to progress! There are also more standard killing sprees for you to play through, four total modes in all.

Now what good is having a wide range in levels to play if you cannot control your quirky players well? Apparently quite good. Unreal: Tournament utilizes the Dual Sticks to control your players, which takes a while to get used to. I tend to move the aiming stick when I want to move the character -- and vice versa -- quite frequently. Other than the movement problems, Unreal: Tournament controls quite well, with an easy to utilize firing interface, aiming that doesn’t require a lot of effort, and efficient weapon transferring for maximum fragging abilities.

Now naturally, with all of these modes, you gotta start somewhere. The first levels in each mode do a nice job of outlining exactly what your supposed to do, almost a combat-tutorial of sorts. The artificial intelligence does a nice job of upping its abilities as you progress as well, though I have noticed that in Capture the Flag the difficulty progresses a little too fast. Otherwise your skills should be getting up to par at the same rate that Unreal: Tournament becomes more and more challenging, so I don’t foresee many problems with your progression.

Not having problems with progression is a good thing, because the faster you advance through Unreal: Tournament, the sooner you unlock more multiplayer levels. And in a game such as this -- where even the single-player feels like multiplayer -- you need lots of stages to hold your interest. Since you generally will pass a stage within the first couple of tries, you can progress through more than forty intense arenas, so that you never get bored.

Speaking of bored, that almost rhymes with gore -- a parent’s worst video game related nightmare. Well, Unreal: Tournament does gore tastefully. Yes, there is a reason for the ESRB rating Unreal Tournament with the ‘M’ rating, but the gore is not nearly as dreadful as you would think it could be. Most importantly, you do not see gore with every victim. Basically, the gore will only be visible if you are firing at your opponents from pointblank range, or you are using a contact weapon like the Impact Hammer. It is probably still there, you simply cannot see it. And how can something affect you if it is quite difficult to see? (Excluding situations like poison spiders that you are about to sit on.) See parents -- nothing to be afraid of here.

Though I suppose that the quirky character designs could scare some people that are not fond of strange European fashions, since many of the characters seem to be straight off the runway, wearing outfits that you would almost die laughing if you saw a real person wearing them, but look strangely good on the models that strut their stuff. To go along with the strange get-ups, Unreal: Tournament includes some of the weirdest looking weaponry to ever hit a home console. They were obviously designed to look futuristic, but some of the weapons are a bit too flamboyant to ever make development of them feasible.

In an attempt to further the futuristic atmosphere even further, a rock-techno blend was selected for the musical background to your endless killing and maiming. Now for techno music, it’s not bad. But music in this genre should never be heard in a first person shooter. In fact, in FPSes, I like to just here background effects -- the footsteps of ones foes, a machine gun firing off a round in the distance, a switch being flipped to open a door -- make it more like you would hear if you were actually in the game and did not have a boombox plugged in while navigating for your very life.

To make this situation especially frustrating, the background sound effects are among the best I have heard in a first person shooter, even now in 2002. I love that weapons have their own individual noises for them, something I have been pushing for in every shooter that I review. And you still get to hear a few background nuances over the deafening roar of rock-techno, so you can keep track of what your friends and foes are doing to a certain degree. The limited dialogue that goes on between characters and players is also somewhat amusing.

People who are just watching Unreal: Tournament, amazed at how their friends can just get sucked in, may find that funny as well -- until they try the game for yourself. There is so much depth in the forty levels, so much fun, so much frantic action and fragging, that you just do not want to stop playing. The PlayStation 2 is still a bit low on great party games two years after its release, but this launch shooter is still one of the best.

As a port of one of the best PC games ever made, Unreal: Tournament rose to the top of the console shooting heap, at least for a time. It led console only players into the cult-like world of fragging in ways that they could have only dreamed of. Luckily reality almost surpassed the heights of the dreams, because at its new bargain price, Unreal: Tournament should be fragging away its competition.

PROS
*Great multiplayer action, even when playing alone.
*Gore is not overpowering like in some shooters.
*Four modes and tons of levels to flesh out your gaming experience.

CONS
*Music could have been slightly improved.
*Control scheme is obviously designed for the PC.
*A few more extras would not hurt anyone.

SCORE SUMMARY

GAMEPLAY--9
GRAPHICS--8
MUSIC--6
SOUND--7
CONTROL--6
FUN--9
CHALLENGE--MEDIUM
REPLAY VALUE--HIGH

OVERALL--8


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/02/02, Updated 08/02/02


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