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Unreal Tournament 2004 Preview

publisher: Atari
developer: Epic Games
genre: Action

PIII 1000, 128MB RAM, 64MB Video Card, 3.5GB HD
ESRB rating: M

release date: Mar 16, 04
» All About Unreal Tournament 2004 on ActionTrip

These days Unreal stands as an irrefutable synonym of superior modern-day gaming technology. (We could debate about this for days I guess. - 2Lions) Supporting a great number of top-notch titles as well as countless mainstream video games, the Unreal technology soon saw new upgraded reincarnations in the single-player FPS Unreal II: The Awakening and its well-polished online multiplayer counterpart Unreal Tournament 2003. Surrounded by an ever-growing community of devoted fans both games sold like hot cakes upon their launch. Carrying the Unreal franchise to this very day, Epic Games and Digital Extremes settled to cooperate on a new project, Unreal Tournament 2004, which began taking shape almost immediately after the successful release of UT 2003.

Although UT 2004 won't be showing off any new developments in the Unreal technology, it's safe to say there will be plenty of perk ups in the gameplay. The most praiseworthy innovation is the addition of vehicles, which are bound to bring a completely new feel to the game. Things have been refurbished this time around with land, space, and air-based vehicles thrown into the picture. So, instead of making their way through huge levels on foot, players are going to get an opportunity to ride in various types of vehicles. In one particular map you can zoom around in space ships and fly into any enemy base while your adversaries fire at you from multiple gun turrets. Players may also operate a variety of ground vehicles, the most interesting of which is a transport that can carry troops into battle. It was brought to our attention that vehicles will initially be accessible only in the new mode of play, which the developers named Onslaught. Although this might sound as somewhat of a discouragement, you should also know that using the game's built-in editor (UnReal Ed) will allow enthusiastic mod-makers to add and use vehicles whenever they want. The Onslaught mode is similar to CTF mode and is quite easy to get into. It is played on a large map where each team has the objective to infiltrate the enemy base and connect the core to its own base. To do this, players must capture nodes that are scattered throughout the level, thereby creating a path that attaches the core of your base with the core of the opposing base. Once you capture a node, you will respawn in that spot every time you die. This moving respawn point is a commendable improvement from having to run all the way from your base spawn point to the key point on the map.

Players who've had a chance to participate in PlanetSide matches should be familiar with this one. Another thing, which will hopefully make UT fans even happier, is the return of the so-called Assault mode. (Oh hell yeah, that one rocked in the original UT - 2Lions) During this competitive mode two teams face each other, while one team is required to finish a certain task and the opposing team needs to prevent it. After an objective is reached, the teams will exchange roles and attempt to complete the same task quicker than the other.

Things will be a lot more challenging this time around. Epic Games' Cliff Blazenski, the lead designer of UT 2004, recently commented on how the development team needed to improve AI patterns, in order to ensure improved computer-controlled "Bot" team coordination and movement. Bots are more skilled in dodging, jumping, air control, lift jumping, and stuff like that. Now that vehicles are in the game, bots are also skilled at driving and flying. According to Cliff, bots act very effectively as a team and they also prove to be worthy opponents when you face them one-on-one. It seems their intelligence was beefed up to the max this time, making them think and act similarly to human players - so, it's safe to assume they're susceptible to mistakes throughout gameplay as much as you are.

One more plausible addition to the gameplay is voice chat support, which will be incorporated as a standard feature in the game. It goes without saying of course, that this is a far more useful solution than the somewhat slow and impractical keyboard chat thing. It's much easier to coordinate attacks with your teammates, rather than waiting for someone to acknowledge via keyboard or default message.

When it comes to weapons, you can expect to test some very interesting new goodies. For starters, you get to use a dual assault rifle and a cool spider parasite mine. This mine, after being unleashed can run after their unfortunate pray in a most irritating kind of way. You may also control them to a certain degree and aim them towards your adversaries. Players will also get to fire the anti-vehicular rocket launcher, colorfully named the AVRiL.

That's all the info we have for now. As mentioned earlier, UT 2004 is powered by the same technology that stood underneath UT 2003. So, there were very few (if any) modifications and improvements made in the existing engine code. Regardless, thanks to the new features, maps, characters, vehicles, and gameplay improvements, the game should keep UT fans occupied for quite a while. Furthermore, Digital Extremes and Epic Games have promised that UT 2004 will contain all the content from Unreal Tournament 2003, along with two previously released free bonus packs. Owners of UT 2003 will be happy to learn that they'll get a $10 dollar rebate on purchase of UT 2004. So, in a way it will be like you're buying an expansion pack.

You should expect the game to appear in store shelves across the North American continent February 2004. Atari and DE recently announced the delay as they need more time to fine tune the gameplay mechanics and tweak the AI code.



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