Unreal Tournament 2004
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Atari ProphetusThe February 11, 2004 release of the Unreal Tournament 2004 demo gave nourishment to Unreal fans wedged in the desolate void of the past two years. Reminded of the launch of Unreal Tournament 2003, dubious fans held back their praises until they critically combed through each section of the game. The result: a large percentage of old fans and new gamers jumped into forums and IRC channels with banners of adoration for Unreal Tournament 2004. However, the demo is but one drop of water in a bottomless reservoir of exhilaration. The full release smashes our unsuspecting computers with more maps, models, features, and excitement!From the introduction screen to the detailed models and maps, fans uncontrollably smile with happiness. However, the game isn’t entirely superior and continues to exhibit evidence of the genetic relationship to UT2003. The game’s flaws are minor, yet enough for die-hard critics to employ a platform for complaints. This review will quickly highlight the pros and cons, interjected with personal opinions from the BeyondUnreal staff. We’ll cover the interface, graphics, audio, and the game play. So grab yourself a cup of hot liquid and enjoy.Death and taxes remain constant, but so does the love and hate relationship fans have with Unreal’s interfaces. Unreal Tournament presented gamers with the UWindows. Many, including a majority of the staff, loved the simple look and feel of UWindows. When UT2003 was released, fans received a more decorated interface. Sure, the UT2003 interface looked nice, but navigation proved to be frustrating. UT2004 utilizes a similar interface, yet even long time fans experience a few moments of confusion. Although the interface will initially send new gamers hunting for the misplaced manual, overall it does provide many useful features and options.The basic area of the interface allows quick access to change audio, graphics, and game settings. The interface shines when the gamer opens up the multiplayer sections. With a more manageable filter system, gamers can create several customized categories. If a gamer right-clicks on a server, they can create a custom template filter based on that server. In addition, right-clicking on a player will bring up the option to display the player’s stats. Selecting this option will open up the internet browser and display the stats of the chosen player. I’m particularly happy about the Community section. Since the first Unreal game, Epic strongly supported the mod and map community. User created modifications and maps spurred the game into popularity, and Epic stepped up to the plate with the addition of the Community feature. The Community section of the interface allows the casual gamer to download “Ownage” maps and outstanding mods. A simple click on a mod or map will transport the player’s download manager. The UT2004’s interface is filled with numerous options and allows for detailed customization, yet some portions of the interface automatically place our brains into defrag mode.UT2004 is the first Unreal game to include an integrated voice chat feature. Although the program works great, setup and operational comprehension is initially confusing. One major problem I had with the setup phase is the control key configuration. Some alternate keyboard character binds never worked. Overall, the interface works well and provides a graphical exploration of the options.UT2003 was a giant leap over Unreal Tournament in respects to graphics. In contrast, UT2004 slightly nudges the eye-candy meter a few degrees higher than the older version. Compared to UT2003, fans won’t observe more realistic texture details in maps and models. However, UT2004 offers minor graphical augmentations that compose an immense difference between old and new.Vivid animations of explosive effects, Karma generated particles, and remarkably detailed skies beckon to us for attention. Although UT2003 produced these graphical features, UT2004 does it better. Combined with immersive sound effects and atmospheric music, UT2004 hurdles past UT2003. Many fans can recall every note and beat of any Unreal song. While some developers put music as an afterthought, Epic makes it a priority. Immersive music plays a central role in every Unreal game. UT2004 transports fans back to the old days of glory with the shocking inclusion of Unreal Tournament’s intro song. From the dark tribal feel of KR-Convoy to the chaotic industrial tone of KR-Rankin, the music deeply inserts fans into the game.Sound effects are a fundamental extension of any game. Without properly created sound effects, a great looking game will fail. I particularly enjoyed the new announcers. Players can choose between, Classic UT, UT2003, Male, Female, and Sexy voices for both the Status and Reward announcements. The most impressive, but eventually annoying, new feature is Text to Voice. After a few hours, you feel like telling UT2004’s version of Stephen Hawking to shut the hell up. Taken as a whole, the sound effects are well done. When vehicles and ground troops collide, a titanic symphony of effects produces sweet melodies to our ears.Vehicular combat has finally come to Unreal. Vehicle models react well with the world, but will occasionally experience slight problems with a map. For example, the Goliath (tank) can’t seem to bully its way through what normal people would consider fragile objects. This destroys the feeling of operating a powerful contraption of destruction. The Goliath just doesn’t project that “heavy and almighty” sensation. Then there are the human and Skaarj space fighters. Navigation and control of the spacecraft prove complex and exasperating. The most disorienting part about the space fighters is the change in the field of view when accelerating and decelerating. I totally understand that the developers wanted to generate the feeling of propulsion, but they failed. The Manta, Raptor, Hellbender, and Scorpion are nice. Even though I wish the Scorpion’s weapon were an AVRiL or Biorifle instead of the ribbon projectile, it does the job of eliminating ground troops well.Many critics assumed vehicles could not work in this game, but Epic proved them wrong. Game play did not suffer; on the contrary, it improved greatly. Onslaught is the primary game type that includes all vehicles, though Assault does use them on a few maps. My only sore point about Onslaught is the limited amount of maps. Epic’s desire to perfect balance and prolong exciting game play is evident in all game types and maps. Even the inclusion of older UT2003 maps didn’t hinder their objective. Moving forward (or backward if you will), Epic recreated some old school Unreal Tournament maps. CTF-Faceclassic, DM-Hyperblast2, and DM-Morpheus3 are just a few examples of encouraging that good old UT feeling. Even though fans enjoyed that retro feel, UT2004 warped into the future with Bot AI. Some may claim the bots remain easy to overcome even on Godlike. However, even the hardhearted critic must admit the bots greatly improved from the previous versions. I still hate the fact some bots will casually walk by you until you either fire or place your crosshairs on them. Moreover, I loathe the fact every bot will dismiss their roles and home in on me whenever I have the flag. Yet even in the middle of my rage, I admire their human like performance. Watching enemy bots trans-locate across the map to a tactical position, dodge for items, and run like cowards to avoid being fragged jubilates me. Sometimes, I forget I’m in single-player mode and believe I’m actually online against other humans.Epic really vamped up the multiplayer meter. It pleased many fans to see the return of the old school weapons. Enabling the UT Classic mutators revives the UT weapons; like the devastating six-pack rocket and alt-fired grenades. With the inclusion of the UT Classic and UT2003 mutators, fans of those series will feel at home. Some critics opined that these mutators would hinder the game play or flow of the maps –especially the new ones. On the contrary, with or without the mutators, the atmosphere of the maps is positively solid.Unreal Tournament 2004 isn’t flawless, but it does bestride the line of perfection. The primal code of the Unreal engine contains single player instincts, but it evolved and became a multiplayer monster. UT2004 emerges from the pessimistic ashes dumped upon it by critics and screams obedience from all who behold it. We all enter the inviting multiplayer gates and remain content within the land of bits and bytes. The cries and complaints of our husbands, wives, girlfriends, and boyfriends quickly fade into oblivion as we engross ourselves in the glory known as Unreal Tournament 2004.