Review by DKamikaze

"Nice multiplayer. Shame about the single player."

I skipped a generation of UT. This wasn't out of spite - actually, I LOVED Unreal Tournament. The problem was, my last PC didn't. By the end of it's five years in December, it could barely run Doom without crashing.

That PC now dead and dusted, and a shiny new high-end PC on my desk, I downloaded the UT2004 demo and enjoyed it. So, naturally, I pre-ordered the game. I thought it would be fantastic. I thought it would justify the £1200 spent for my PC.

I was wrong.

Thats not to say UT2004 isn't a good game. Skipping a generation, I'm happy to say that I can see how far the series has come in three games. The online play is fantastic when you get the right server, and sucks ups those insomnia-fuelled nights with ease.

The main problem, however, comes in the single player. Not being a noob to UT, I was more than happy to crank it up straight away to ''skilled''. Maybe that was a mistake, as I suddenly realised not all was happy in fragfest land...

The first problem I noticed, was even on my new PC - I had to window the game. I noticed I have to do this for some older games for some reason, but I think anything over a GeForce 4 and you'll find that windowing is the only way to really play this game. Doesn't detract from the game really - it's just a royal pain in the backside.

Then, into the game, I noticed the difficulty curve was a bit poor. It goes from easy to ridiculously hard and back to simple a lot. Up and down more times than Richard Branson. It seemed bizarre that the one-on-one duels would be so ridiculously easy, and some of the other modes would contain some ridiculously hard areas. Of course, with a gentle lightening of credits, you can change the maps and give yourself a better chance.

The next problem is some of the maps. Mother Ship Assault is one map I won't be running back to, ever again, because it's just ridiculously slow, painful and - worryingly - poorly concieved and quite linear. Take away the initial ''Wow! I'm flying a spacefighter!'' - and theres no getting away from how boring the map really is. And thats not the only map that suffers from a noticable lack of inspiration and imagination. You'll soon realise that it's far better to change maps than force yourself to like one particular map. It's not a difficulty issue, as I happilly whipped the game in a free weekend. It's just some maps are a little more painful than others.

And the one thing that will grate is the enemy AI. Or the game bug, whatever it is, me and another set of boards have been debating the problem. It's all the more apparant in Bombing Run, as you force the ball to your enemies base only to get fragged. Nothing wrong with that. Except your teammates dutifully, like loyal puppies, bring the ball back to the base or to you. BAD DOG! Nothing seems to rectify this painfully bad and most infuriating problem, and the sooner it is patched up - the better.

And sadly, thats not the end of the AI issue. It quickly becomes obvious how poor it is at times when you find that your teammates do nothing except pass the buck to you. ''Everybody Attack'' you say... only to find out the bots just run around and don't do any attacking.

Can't be negative for it all though. Some of the weapons are great (Although I find myself switching back to classic UT weapons in Instant Action) and snipering is as fun as it ever was - if not more satisfying. Driving vehicles around is brilliant and running people over in tanks is also great fun. Earning credits is a nice tough, and paying your bots (While at times feels pointless considering how annoying they often are!) makes a lot of sense.

Glaring bugs and map design aside, the game really shines online. Some of the maps - as I said - are painful at the best of times. But some maps shine like foglights in the clear night sky. They are insanely pleasurable to play, and I've become very attached to AS-Convoy. Which, has to be said, is a map I have quickly come to love and master. It's brilliant, it's quirky, chatting to people is often great fun and you do make new friends (and enemies) very quickly. Online, there isn't much to match this game really except the flux of already-hacked servers with stupid admins who deserve a good kick where it hurts.

I can't go without mentioning ONSLAUGHT though - a wonderful new addition where you have to link up power nodes to attack your enemies power core. While it sounds a bit dull, the scale of some of the maps is impressive, and the sheer enjoyment is something that you cannot escape. Onslaught will suck you in. But after a while, you won't care. It's that good.

So, UT2004. A bit of a mixed bag really. Online, this game shines - and thats the reason I guess most of us have bought the game. Online, it is a joy to play. But offline, the game suffers from some slight oversights which I'm sure could have been easily rectified, and some of the maps could have been a little more well defined and crafted.

Do you want to buy this game though, thats the million dollar question. If it's for online purposes, I don't think theres anything out there that quite matches the fun you'll gain from this game. But if it's for offline, single-player purposes... meh, you'd probably get more from other titles instead.

Theres no doubt how far the UT series has come. Online. But the single player... while not the strong point for this kind of game admittedly, badly lets it down.

Do get this game. But do so with the full knowledge that some elements could have been done better. I guess when the fan maps start pouring out, then the game will become even better online... but out of the box, it's good. Very good. But not awesome.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/29/04

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