The famous PC multiplayer game Unreal Tournament was in fact a spin-off of the single-player shoot-em up game Unreal released by Epic Games. Unreal was a futuristic fantasy game where a prison ship crashes, leaving a lone prisoner to survive in the forbidding world where he has been stranded.
Unreal featured the best graphics of its day, including revolutionary texture techniques and amazing gameplay. The game was incredibly long, and NPCs1 were spread far and wide, making the game unappealing to those who had only recently played more intensive games like Quake2.
The next game in the Unreal franchise, Unreal Tournament, was released just before the turn of this century, featuring an improved graphic engine, more intelligent 'bots3 and a completely different game.
Unreal Tournament was different from the previous game in that it was in the form of a tournament in which players competed against each other or in two teams - it was a multiplayer game. This idea caught on quite rapidly due to the new availability of cheap internet access, with players from all over the world competeing against each other online. Those without internet access could fight against a horde of 'bots instead.
In order to give the game a wider strategic scope, the bots would now take orders, and would taunt each other using digitised speech. Bots could now have different 'styles' of play, mimick common human players' strategies, and generally give players a run for their money. They are programmed to use cover, go for the more powerful weapons, find med-kits when they need to heal, and will retreat when outmatched.
Unreal Tournament won several awards and was considered, by some, far superior to its rival Quake III Arena. Quake III had better graphics, but some people thought that it failed to have any outstanding playability or lasting fun, probably caused by the few choices for the multiplayer games.
The Evolution of Unreal Tournament
Since the release of the original, Unreal Tournament has become more complex with the UT 2003 and UT 2004 editions4. New combat types emerged, along with new bonuses and modifiers. Recently, the game has leapt forwards with the introduction of vehicles and turrets, something which nobody had really considered until games such as Starsiege Tribes illustrated what a good idea they were.
One of the most prominent objects in all the Unreal games, the weapon you are carrying when you bump into your enemies will often decide who comes out of the brief exchange alive. The weapons have been changed over time to ensure that each game is a different challenge.
In Unreal Tournament, the following weapons were available for use:
Translocator - a portable teleportation device which you fire into position.
Impact Hammer - a basic close combat weapon with the added ability to deflect bullets.
Chainsaw - just like the wood-cutting variety, but exceedingly difficult to obtain in Unreal Tournament.
Enforcer - a basic handgun, although you could obtain two of these if you took someone else's.
BioRifle - this fires one large or many small globs of biosludge, a toxic green substance.
Shock Rifle - a gun which fires a slow moving cloud of 'antiprotons' which can be detonated using a carefully aimed beam of protons.
Pulse Blaster - a simple repeater rifle which could also fire a link beam, slowly vaporising anything in its way.
Minigun - repeater gun which fires hard cast ammunition. It has remained completely unchanged over the years.
Ripper - this gun fires spinning disks which bounce off the walls, ceiling and floor.
Flak cannon - firing many small flechettes at a time, this gun is devastating at close range.
Rocket launcher - lauches one to six rockets or grenades, and has a lock-on mechanism.
Sniper rifle - possibly the best weapon in Unreal Tournament, the sniper rifle came with an eight times zoom lens.
Redeemer - a one use only tactical nuclear weapon which you could guide to its destination.
Changes made for UT 2003
Unreal Tournament 2003 was designed to look fresher than the original game, and so has shinier, more advanced weapons. This explains the loss of the physical weapons - the chainsaw, the ripper and the impact hammer, with the shield gun replacing the hammer. The weapons kept from the previous game are adapted and renamed, and the massively destructive ion cannon5 is introduced. One notable innovation is that the pulse blaster becomes the link gun, which allows players to work together by linking together for a more powerful beam. The sniper rifle is replaced by the lightning gun, a point of contention later resolved in UT 2004.
Further changes made for UT 2004
Whilst adding even more weapons, Unreal Tournament 2004 also seems to have replied to the will of the masses by reintroducing the sniper rifle alongside the lightning gun, and allowing players to wield two of the weakest weapon, just as in the original game. The new weapons are aimed mainly at the new vehicle-based section of the game, and include a grenade launcher, minelayer, avril anti-tank launcher, and another painting gun, this one being responsible for calling in an airstrike.
Vehicles and Turrets
Unreal Tournament featured one turret, the Minigun turret, but these fired autonomously and were only present on Assault maps. Vehicles and turrets were only really introduced in Unreal Tornament 2004, with the following types being available:
Goliath - a typical tank with main gun turret and side guns.
Hellbender - a four-wheel drive with weapons similar to the Shock Rifle and Link Gun.
Scorpion - light anti-infantry ground vehicle with the ability to deploy blades on either side to chop enemies in two.
Leviathan - a mobile fortress with rocket launcher, anti-vehicular turrets and mini super-weapon.
Manta - lightweight hovercraft with plasma weapons and the ability to jump buildings.
Raptor - aircraft with plasma weapons and a rocket launcher.
Phoenix - the autonomous bomber responsible for the damage caused by the use of the Target Painter. These, just like any other vehicle, can be shot down.
Spacefighters - specialist vehicles for space missions, they come with instant-hit lasers and radar-guided missiles.
Turrets - these are all fixed and come with a Minigun, Link Gun or Ion Cannon.
Vehicles and turrets have added greatly to the gameplay of Unreal Tournament, as they allow the player to make more strategic decisions about attack and defence. They also allowed the Assault combat type (See below) to reach a new level, with spectacular battles taking place.
In Unreal Tournament, the following styles of play were available:
Deathmatch - a free-for-all where the player with the most kills wins.
Team Deathmatch - two to four teams fight and the team with the most kills wins.
Last Man Standing - all players have a limited number of lives, and the last player alive wins.
Domination - two teams fight for control points which give the team holding them a steady flow of points. The first team to a set score wins.
Capture the Flag - two teams attempt to score by physically taking the other team's flag back to their own base while protecting their own.
Assault - one team attacks, fulfilling certain objectives, while the other team defends. The teams then swap over, and the team with the fastest attacking time wins outright.
Changes for UT 2003
Whilst losing Last Man Standing and Assault, UT 2003 introduces Bombing Run, an American Football-style game, and replaces Domination with Double Domination, where teams fight over just two points.
Further Changes for UT 2004
UT 2004 incorporates all the previously known combat types while introducing Invasion, Mutant and Onslaught. In Invasion, a team must defend themselves against waves of monsters and in Mutant, one player is granted superpowers and the others must defeat them. However, Onslaught was by far the most radical mode introduced - two teams must capture nodes in order to create a path of nodes to the enemy power core. This allows the team to destroy the enemy power core, thus winning the game. Both teams are provided with vehicles and turrets at their power nodes, providing them with the raw materials for a completely new type of game.
Mutators alter the way the game is played in many ways, and have increased in number since they were first introduced in Unreal Torunament. Many mutators now exist, and the following list contains just a few of those available:
Big Head - the better a player is doing, the bigger their head becomes, making them an easier target for struggling players.
Instagib - only the Shock Rifle can be used, but all hits are fatal.
Zoom Instagib - Instagib with zoom lenses.
Low Gravity - jumping has a much greater effect, and players can safely fall from great heights.
Arena - only a certain weapon and its ammunition are available.
Quad Jump - players can jump three extra times while in mid air.
UT 2003 saw the introduction of Adrenaline, which is gained by performing well in the game and by picking it up as players run past. Once enough Adrenaline is collected, the player can use a special move for a limited time from the following:
Speed - the player can run twice as fast.
Booster - the player's health slowly increases.
Rampage - the player can run and fire faster.
Invisible - the player becomes practically invisible.
UT 2004 then added some extra ones:
Pint-sized - the player becomes about half as tall.
Camouflaged - the player becomes camouflaged from enemies.
The game has also become more complex both graphically and in terms of the way it mimics the physics of real life, as the complexity of the computers upon which it runs has also increased. Altogether, Unreal Tournament has been constantly evolving since its first release, and this has made each new game a completely different entity. This makes another edition of the game likely sometime in the future.
Ironically, the popularity of Unreal Tournament 2003 spawned a new single-player game, Unreal 2, just as Unreal had originally spawned the multiplayer games. This new game had the same ground-breaking gameplay and graphics, but it had a storyline too, and was a welcome break for some from the multiplayer environment that had started to dominate the shoot-em up world.