Another year, another Unreal Tournament.
I'll be honest this is the first Unreal game I've played for a long time, and to be honest I was very pleasantly suprised with what was offered to me. The game is a first person shooter with a variety of game modes. as you can see from the games title the emphasis is on 'Tournament' play, rather than story driven single player mechanics. The game features some pretty sharp AI bots and the opportunity to play with people from accross the world in the many internet servers available.
The game puts you in control of a warrior, whether human, alien or miscellaneous you will be doing battle with other similar warriors in ten different game modes. There are a wide variety of weapons at your disposal, including sniping weapons, rifles, heavy weapons and others.
The main game mode appears to be Onslaught. In Onslaught mode there are two 'power cores', one for each team. These power cores are connected by a number of nodes. For you to damage your opponents power core you must control the adjacent node (you capture nodes by using a weapon known as the link gun). So the game has you running around capturing nodes in an attempt to defend your core, whilst destroying your opponents core. This type of game can go on for a long time, with each team trying to gain ground on their opponents only to lose ground in another area. Many games go on til the time limit.
Thrown in to the mix are a good range of vehicles. The vehicles do all have the feel of the vehicles in HALO, and it is pretty obvious that the inspiration comes from there. The physics behind the vehicles do work well and are always a joy. Ground vehicles will bounce and tumble, and air vehicles swoop with ease. The control system is very forgiving allowing you to really push the vehicles to their top speed around the games environments. The weapons on the vehicles are also fun to use, one of the ground vehicles has a set of spring loaded blades in it rear. When passing an opponent you can trigger these and cut them down in a single blow. The Goliath tank is an awesome piece of machinery which can destroy other vehicles and players in a single shot. The use of vehicles is particularly well balanced by their vulnerabilities. Even though the Goliath is powerful, it is very slow, mening that some of the fast flying craft can open up on it, destroying it in no time. This encourages team play as different vehicle types are complimentary and a force of two or three vehicles can prevent vulnerabilities from being exposed. An anti-vehicle weapon is available to those who are on foot, the Avril. The Avril can lock on to an enemy, and fire one rocket at a time. As long as the lock is maintained you are pretty much guaranteed a hit, and most vehicles will be destroyed with one hit. This means that you are not overpowered or left out if you are left without a vehicle. In addition to this, cores and nodes have fairly powerful turrets that can be manned by players.
Of the other range of game modes Assault can be fun. In this mode each team has a set of objectives, one defending, one attacking. For eaxmple on the convoy level the ultimate goal of the attackers is to steal the opponents missiles. This is done in a number of stages such as, activate the crossing platform, then open the main doors, for each attacking goal there is an appropriate defending goal, i.e. prevent the crossing platform from being activated. Once a team has won or time runs out, attackers and defenders switch. This game mode can be fum as there is a lot of team focus with all members of a team striving for one small objective at a time.
You will also find your standard game modes in the game such as deathmatch, which can still be fun, but the real beauty of the game lies in the more innovative modes.
Graphically this game is very, very nice. Textures are well designed and character models are gorgeous. But most importantly of all the game can run on mid power systems, rather than demanding a super-computer. Even on the lower video settings the game looks like a top title should and on the higher settings your in for a real treat. I would say that the graphics are one of the games stronger points. This is a good example of a game doing nothing new but instead imp[roving on what is already out there. There are no innovative graphical features and the boundaries have not been pushed any, but the quality is definitely there. It's good to see a developer making a game that does this rather than selling their product on some graphical 'gizmo' that does nothing for the game. As for perfomance, I run Unreal on a 2.8GHz AMD processor with 512meg of ram, using an ATI 9200 128meg Radeon. Even though my graphics card can be considered as 'entry level' i can run the game on high video settings and comfortably get 35+ frames per second in the heat of battle. On a better graphics card expect significantly higher frame rates.
There are a massive amount of maps available for the different game modes. We all know that variety is the spice of life and that having an extra map or two can extend the life of a game, but UT:2004 has about a hundred maps in all. Of course you will have your favourite maps for your favourite game modes but jump into a different game mode and a fresh challenge will await you. This does keep you on your toes and on a server with rotating maps or map voting it does prevent one team using the same startegy again and again to hand you your ass. The maps are particularyly well designed and there are a range of environments, including inddor futuristic environments, sprawling deserts with stone buildings, snowy mountain passes and in one case a rolling vehicle convoy. This variety will definitley have you coming back for more.
I always have difficulty in finding things to say about a games sound. Thats probably because most games have very high quality of sound production. The game features all the grunts growls and explosions that you would expect from such an aggressive game. In addition to this the soundtrack is particularly well fitting with the nature of the title. Expect your obligatory thumping techno music that is associated with many titles of a similar ilk.
Its simple, the game works. The game definitley posses the X factor, though players with internet connections will get the most from the game, as playing against bots is only half as fun as playing against real opponents. I have one criticism of the game, and that is the loading times, as a single load can drag on for what seems like an ice-age .The loading screen doesn't have a progression bar, which sometimes leaves you looking at your screen wondering whether your game has crashed. The game provides a decent challenge for someone who just wants a bit of pick up and play gaming every now and then, but also provides a deeper challenge for those who wan't to get further involved in the game, as you quite often will see clan matches being fought out. Solid physics, top notch graphics, and some brilliant ides will provide Atari with a guaranteed hit.