PC Games: Unreal Tournament 2004

First person shooters have come a long way since their inception. The slew of cur-rent next-generation titles just being released and on the horizon, such as FarCry and Doom 3, are great examples of how far the FPS titles have advanced. Not only have the graphics and audio been amped up, but computer-controlled AI, balanced weapon sets and vehicles make for a more enjoyable gaming experience.

UT 2003 was released last year with much fanfare but left a bad taste in the mouths of the UT fans. Sure, it was a huge improvement on the original UT title, with the refinement of the menu system, settings and the new game engine being most notable. But fans felt that the game’s pacing was too fast, and the exclusion of the assault game mode and the original sniper rifle left them fuming. The demo of UT2004 was released a couple of months back and was well received among the community. It seemed that the new version was going to address these afore-mentioned problems, but fans were still sceptical.

So, how does UT2004 stack up against its predecessors? The new version incorporates 10 different combat modes comprising Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Double Domination, Bombing Run, Last Man Standing, Invasion, Mutant, the much-welcomed return of Assault mode, and the new Onslaught mode. The latter tosses vehicles into the mix for the first time and includes nine different types of land- and-air based vehicles. Some new and some old weapons have been included, most noteworthy being the original sniper rifle and the AVRiL, a missile launcher that spits out homing missiles.

Some FPS titles of late have tended to focus more on the multiplayer online play, so that the single player campaign is severely lacking or has been omitted altogether. UT2004 raises the bar by producing a solid single player mode, providing an equal balance between the two different modes. A tournament system setup is implemented with competition ladders for the different combat modes and allows players to manage their own team, drafting and recruiting players. A good single player campaign is essential for players wishing to build up fragging skills before being thrust into the world of online play.

Graphically, the Unreal engine still produces quality lighting and atmospheric effects, with some minor tweaks to physics and gameplay. The in-game audio is bolstered by a voice-over chat feature when using a USB headset, which offers endless opportunities for taunts and bragging when playing against friends.

Epic and Digital have gone to great lengths to create a balanced and unique title, and it shows. More than just a refresh or expansion pack for its predecessor, UT2004 yields enough quality content to be a stand-alone title. UT fans will lap up the much needed improvements and will voice their opinion in unison: this is how UT2003 should have been.

Score Card

Visuals: Detailed, sharp environments

Audio: Online chat is a must

Gameplay: Action packed and true to the original

Publisher: Atari

Developer: Digital Extremes, Epic

URL:www.unrealtournament.comPS2

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