Unreal Tournament 2004

Review

posted 4/6/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PC
About two years ago Epic and Digital Extremes launched the sequel to one of the most popular shooters at the time. It’s a cruel fate that the Unreal Tournament franchise always seems to come out at the worst possible time for the company. When the first UT was released it had to face heavy competition from the then-popular Quake 3, when Unreal Tournament 2003 was released it had to combat the unexpected juggernaut that was Battlefield 1942. This time it launches amidst the wake of Battlefield Vietnam and Far Cry, but it appears that the designers have learned from their past mistakes and have created what is arguably the most polished and entertaining shooter of the season.

It’s pretty pointless to go over the same old gameplay modes again, if you want a refresher course just feel free to head over to my old Unreal Tournament 2003 review to catch up. Instead, let’s choose to focus on the new additions and elements that really make this game a winner. For starters, the designers brought back the vaunted assault mode that made the original UT an amazing time killer. While the addition of Bombing Run was nice for UT2003, it never did quite fill the void that was left by omitting assault. You’ll also have the new modes that were added in by subsequent patches, namely the mutant and invasion modes. Mutant is basically UT’s version of King of the Hill with a slight twist, the person who is the ‘mutant’ is faster and stronger than everyone else on the map so killing them becomes much more of a challenge. Invasion is a sort of co-operative mode where you and the other players team up to fend off an onslaught of bugs and monsters. It’s kind of like UT-meets-Starship Troopers, just not as fun. But let’s be honest here, you’ve heard all of the hype about the new vehicles and I’ll be the first to admit that they don’t disappoint. Although they’re available in some maps in the other modes their key role is to flesh out the all-new Onslaught mode.

In Onslaught the two sides fight for control of power stations that are spread across the maps. After assuming control of these spawn points that team now has the ability to spawn there, barring that they can defend it from the opposing team. If it sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. It’s basically Epic and Digital Extremes’ take on the highly popular Conquest mode from Battlefield. Except here it actually works much better because the maps are better designed and the gameplay is much quicker. Since UT is a first person engine through and through (meaning it wasn’t built to accommodate player controlled vehicles) I was a bit afraid as to how the game would handle the dynamic between ground troops and vehicles. I’m glad to report that the dynamic is excellent as the vehicle control is reasonably intuitive and they’re not too strong as to completely overpower the ground troops.

There are a number of vehicles available for you control, many of which can accommodate multiple combatants. Most powerful is the massive tank which has a main cannon and a second machine gunner seat. There are a couple of air vehicles available for you to check out. The Raptor flies high above the landscape and allows you to deal death from above while the Manta hovers close to the ground for some up close and personal action. The Manta is particularly entertaining because its speed and agility allows you to mow down hordes of attackers, Grand Theft Auto style. Some people have made some comparisons between UT2004 and HALO as a result of the Hellbender, the jeep-like vehicle that was shown throughout the game’s development. That vehicle allows for one driver and two gunner seats, one that fires a rapid fire projectile and another that shoots a laser similar to the shock rifle. Aside from the vehicles there are stationary turrets that are used for defensive purposes.
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