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Unreal Tournament 2004 Review
developer: Epic Games
PIII 1000, 128MB RAM, 64MB Video Card, 3.5GB HD
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Mar 16, 04 (released)
|» All About Unreal Tournament 2004 on ActionTrip|
March marks a huge build up in the arena of modern-day multiplayer first-person shooters, with Atari's launch of Unreal Tournament 2004 and EA's recently unleashed Battlefield: Vietnam. We've spent many days and sleepless nights playing BF: Vietnam, but now we take on a slightly different FPS experience... a "little" game called Unreal Tournament 2004. After the relative success of Unreal Tournament 2003, Atari immediately took steps to develop a full-blown sequel. Before we go any further, we must inform all gamers that UT 2004 ships with 6 CD's and consumes a rather hefty chunk of hard disk space (5.4 GB's to be exact). So, the choice boils down to either installing the full CD version or simply buying the DVD version. Or you can get the Special Edition DVD version that includes a variety of bonus features on the second DVD.
If these are your very first steps into the world of Unreal Tournament, the single-player tutorial and a few bot matches should be enough to enhance your skills and get you ready for the majors. Even if you start playing online MP matches instantly, before consulting the game's tutorial, it won't take you too long to master the rules and styles of play. Almost every aspect of gameplay during online matches is intuitive and pretty easy to learn, which will come as relief to newbies who wish to get into the action as quickly as possible. Frankly, this game was evidently designed with both rookies and UT veterans in mind. The same thing goes for the vehicle control system. Maneuvering land and air vehicles was tweaked to accommodate the common keyboard/mouse standard.
Right from the start, we were pleased with the rich content on offer. This clearly shows the developers truly did their best to justify the game's hefty installation. There's an astounding number of maps available, some of which are quite sizeable; plus, it may take you several hours of constant gameplay to discover all their secrets. As you'd expect it, certain maps were designed for specific modes, and there's simply no way you can play a map outside of the mode it was optimized for. In any case, gamers receive the opportunity to blast their way through intense online and LAN matches through ten different modes of play: Assault, Onslaught, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Last Man Standing, Bombing Run, Mutant, Invasion, and Double Domination. Classic modes, such as CTF, Last Man Standing, DM and TDM, all essentially come in their well-known forms with a few changes to spice things up. One of the most crucial changes is the inclusion of the floating bluish indicator (looks kind of like a miniature flying comet) which shows the player exactly where he should be going to fulfill the designated objective. The newly added indicator can be summoned via the 'N' or 'M' keys. Believe me, this option comes as a blessing for players who get disoriented and confused after massive shootouts. In Bombing Run, for example, it helps you find a quick path towards the enemy base. In all, once players get the hang of the entire system, they'll become more and more addicted as the game rolls on. It's really great to see with how much care Digital Extremes approached the task of designing UT2004. These subtle touches won't revolutionize the game, but they're very convenient and useful, and that is something consumers (gamers in this case) will instantly recognize.
Presently, Onslaught and Bombing Run seem to be the most appropriately designed modes available. Both modes present a decent variety in terms of gameplay. Onslaught mode is the key new feature that marks a clear difference between UT 2004 and UT 2003, unquestionably showing off immense progress in the franchise. The only thing we don't understand is why the developers didn't incorporate any of these features in UT 2003. Still, Unreal Tournament 2004 doesn't exactly feature any groundbreaking innovations. The rules of play, vehicles, weapons, and the overall ambiance could, in all honesty, be described as a mix of Quake, Tribes 2 and its number one competitor Battlefield: Vietnam. However, after several days of intense gaming it becomes clear that by creating what is an amalgamation of several popular game concepts, Digital Extremes brought us a very unique experience that can hold its own against any of the abovementioned blockbusters. Ironically, in terms of adrenaline-charged in game atmosphere and ground shaking multiplayer mayhem, it probably tops them all. The sheer quality of the product and the well-thought-out concept of the new Onslaught mode rockets UT2004 high above the vast sea of competing online shooters. This particular mode alone makes the game worth your money. Basically, it puts every single available weapon and vehicle in the game to good use. Its basics revolve around seizing control of a specific number of nodes scattered across the map. Conquering a node can be easy, but keeping it under your control is the tricky part, especially when only a few players must fend off a larger enemy force until reinforcements arrive. The experience of a nail-biting 32 multiplayer match between two evenly matched teams can only be described as spectacular.
Back to the Bombing Run; at first it was kind of hard to pinpoint exactly what was so addictive about this mode. It's nothing but a bunch of players running around to catch a ball and then shooting it straight through the enemy goal. It sounds a bit boring, right? Wrong! What players soon discover is that with the imaginatively created maps that come with this mode, Unreal Tournament takes on a completely different feel when compared to other modes. The SkyLine map, for instance, keeps you on your toes through the entire match. Whether you're defending a teammate who carries the ball or running towards the goal yourself, it's a tremendously enjoyable undertaking. Also, fighting over the ball constantly changes the hot spots on the maps, and that induces even more variety to the overall gameplay.
Beyond any doubt, the inclusion of the Assault mode stands as the one most welcomed comebacks in the series. Experienced UT players will be familiar with this mode, but they will be thrilled to try it out through several unique and completely new maps. This objective-based mode requires you and your teammates to complete a specified task (or series of tasks). Naturally, the opposing team has to do their best to stop you. A particularly challenging endeavor was playing through the 32-player Assault mode on a cleverly designed map, called FallenCity. We were on the red team and our firs job was to take out a huge roadblock that stands in the way of our next goal. The start was truly amazing... a huge group of heavily armed players took off across the city ruins towards their objective, while the enemy team lay in wait. The player who took the point, suddenly ended up with a bullet in his head, and several other teammates started falling down like flies. The rest of the team, however, courageously charged on. In due time, we were able to severely damage the blockade and the entire opposing team came down for a last stand. Such a large-scale battle was a wonderful sight to behold. When the ultimate objective is complete, the roles were switched and we were left to defend the blockade.
Vehicles, new weapons, new modes, tons of new maps, smooth and addictive gameplay all the way, possibly the best MP shooter on the market;
Why didn't we see some of this goodness in UT 2003? Installing 5.4Gigs on your HDD can be a minor inconvenience.