Developer: Digital Extremes
Release Date: March 16, 2004
Pre-order 'UNREAL TOURNAMENT 2004': PC
The original Unreal Tournament took the on-line gaming world by storm when it first came out. Setting new standards for death match shooters as well as sporting some impressive visuals. A few years went by and Epic along with Tim Sweeney were busy putting together a new engine to power the next version of Unreal. Dubbed Unreal Tournament 2003, Digital Extremes put together a fun, fast paced death match shooter. But overall it failed to fully recapture the game play of the first one. UT made great advances in the FPS death match arena, but UT 2003 did not really take it anywhere and in some cases maybe even taken a step or two back. Thankfully that is all about to change with UT 2004.
UT 2004 goes back to it's roots and from the very first time you play the game you will know that the Unreal of old that you couldn't stop playing for hours is back in full force! Upon boot up you are created with that classic Unreal theme song from the first game that is sure to bring back some happy memories. Thankfully that is not all that is coming back from the first one. One of the most loved and played modes from UT that was totally missing in UT 2003 is back in full force in 04. Thats right, Assault mode is finally back and better than ever! The very addicting Bombing run from 2003 is also back in action along with your standard Death Match, team death match and CTF game modes. Double Domination, Mutant, Last Man Standing and Invasion round out the list of old playable game modes shipping with UT 2004.
All of the old game modes play out pretty much how they did in the past, with some new twists here and there. Over all theres not to much difference in them compared to other versions of UT, which is not really a bad thing considering how well they worked in the past versions. Assault has probably seen the most changes out of all the old modes, but it still keeps the feeling of the original.
New to UT 2004 is the Onslaught mode, which tosses Vehicles into the mix of things. Onslaught battles take place in massive outdoor environments that range from hilly, grass cover fields to space battles. Each of the maps has a 2 main bases with power cores inside of them. Scattered around the map are a bunch of strategic control points that the teams can capture and spawn from. But there is a catch. You can only take control over these points if you have direct access to them from other control points. Same goes for the bases, you have to have access to them from one of the control points. So you can't just fly over to the other teams base as the start of the match and start attacking it. You have to gain access it by capturing a series of these control points. And if one of your control points goes down that effects your access to the other teams base, you have to recapture it before you can continue attacking their base. The objective is to take out the other teams power core that is inside their base, when you do that the match ends and that team wins. While the control points on a map can be repaired and fixed after an attack, the power cores can not. Any damage inflicted on them during the match stays. So protecting them at all cost is a good idea.
Each map has a set of Vehicles that you can take control of and use to get around the map quicker and wreak havoc on the other team. There are 9 Vehicles in all, although some are not always available on all the maps. They range from tanks to hover craft to flying craft that can sore high above the battle field. The developer Digital Extremes has really done an amazing job with the vehicles. Not only are they all very balanced, they control very well too and are a blast to use. Before I had trouble seeing how they could get vehicles to work in a game like UT, but DE not only got them to work, but work nearly flawlessly. They add loads of depth to UT and easily help make Onslaught the best mode in the game. I would even say that UT 2004 would be well worth the price even if this was the only mode in the game. Yes, it's that damn fun!
Graphically speaking, not much has changed from 2003. There have been some tweaks here and there, but you would be pretty hard pressed to see any real visual differences between the two games. There are a lot of new models and textures though. And all of them look great. The UT engine still holds up well compared to other games out there, but with games like Far Cry and Doom 3 on the horizon, it's starting to show it's age and look a little dated.
Over all UT 2004 is a very impressive game. It goes back to it's roots and brings back some old features while at the same time adding in a new mode with full vehicle support. Even with vehicles, the game still feels and plays a lot like the classic unreal, which is a very very good thing. Epic and Digital Extremes were not only able to recapture the magic of the first Unreal Tournament but were also able to improve upon it greatly. Stay tuned for our full review of UT 2004 next week, and if you haven't already do your self a favor and download the demo today!
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