Unreal Tournament 2004 – Review
Unreal Tournament 2004 – the latest in Epic Game’s Unreal series of first person shooters – blazes onto your screen in a riot of vibrant colours, frantic energy, shock combos and flying flak. In it you take the part of a tournament contestant, battling your way up through the ranks and rounds, conquering different game modes, until you are crowned the ultimate champion.
After the rather tepid response received by the last title, UT 2003, Epic had to rethink their approach when developing UT 2004. The gameplay, and has thankfully been returned to something much more like to the original UT’s speed, movement and weapon powers, which when combined with awesomely beautiful levels of the type we saw in 2003, makes for a game to be reckoned with.
And it doesn’t stop there. Many of the complaints about last year’s game have been fixed. The sniper rifle has returned, albeit slightly rebalanced to make headshots harder. The Assault game mode is back, and brings with it a couple of the most enjoyable levels in the game, as well as some of the most frustrating. But the biggest change is with the inclusion of a whole new game mode: Onslaught, in which teams battle for control of a network of power-nodes, in order to gain access to the enemy’s base and destroy their power core. Both Onslaught and Assault modes introduce (suspiciously Halo-esque) vehicles for the first time in UT, bringing with them extra challenges and rewards.
The Tournament itself – the single player campaign – has also seen improvements this year, with prize money and team wages bringing a new dimension to the game, however shallow it might seem. As well as the standard tournament ladder matches you can now also fight Head to Head and Bloodrites matches, the first to win double the money you staked on the game in a one-on-one fight, and the second to take a member of an opponent’s team away from them. As well as all this, there are enough maps, game modes and mutators to provide hours of fun and replay value, even if your computer has never seen a modem in its life…
Which brings me to the multiplayer side of the game. Once again UT’s clear and easy lobby and server browser provides the benchmark for usability, and even has a quick play function where you can choose what level of opponents you want to play against, assuming that everyone else choosing this option is being honest about their ability. Lag, while always an issue doesn’t seem to occur too often when using a half decent connection, and the game claims to support speeds as low as 33.6 Kbps. On both counts UT has delivered successfully, where its competitors have recently failed to live up to expectations – particularly Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow. There is even the chance to speak to the players on the server with the touch of one button – and a microphone of course – although this does have the downside of occasional big-headed Americans getting access to your speakers.
By returning to many of the original values of Unreal Tournament, while keeping the gorgeous environments of 2003, Epic has firmly put the Unreal back into Unreal Tournament. Its few problems are too superficial to be mentioned, and will probably be fixed by the patch we are assured is on its way. Buy it…just remember to eat and sleep occasionally.