In a genre filled with sequels and spin-offs, it’s often
hard to keep material fresh and engaging. The first-person shooter
is often like that — releases such as “Quake” and
its successors lose steam over time and spread their original
content so thin that it begins to break down. Fortunately, there
are a few series out there that continue to excel with each and
every new release; the “Unreal Tournament” trilogy is a
fine example. Atari’s latest, “Unreal Tournament
2004,” is a pristine model of how a franchise should

TV/New Media Reviews
Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting…

Beginning in 1999, the “UT” saga began as a
revolutionary endeavor focused on totally immersive environments
and intense, trigger-happy gameplay. Gamers battled up to 31 other
players or computer-controlled bots in a variety of different modes
— from a simple free-for-all deathmatch to a team-based
capture the flag competition. While it was lauded for its
impressive graphics, gameplay and remarkable artificial
intelligence, what players really took a hold of was the intensity
with which the individual and team-based battles took place.

When the highly-anticipated “Unreal Tournament 2003”
was released three years later, it again claimed a top spot among
fans. Atari and Epic Games modified the graphics and physics engine
while tweaking gameplay and adding new modes of play —
Bombing Run, Mutant, Invasion and Double Domination. Even though
the new engine was criticized because it was slowed down and the
popular Assault mode was dropped, “UT 2003” still
delivered a wealth of bloody, aggressive action.

It shouldn’t surprise that “UT 2004” is
everything that gamers have come to expect from this trilogy and
more. As the veritable “Lord of the Rings: Return of the
King” of the videogame world, “Unreal Tournament
2004” is the finest installment yet. Not only has Atari and
Epic Games updated the engine to run on the newest computer systems
available (the minimum requirements recommend a 64 megabyte video
card and six gigabytes of hard drive space), they have listened to
the complaints gamers had with the prior installment. Gameplay is
as fast and ferocious as it was in the first game, Assault mode
returns in new form, the single-player game has been given a major
overhaul — making it less linear and more diverse — and
vehicles have finally been added (in conjunction with a new mode,
Onslaught). Even the annoying announcer has been addressed as
gamers have five different voice options. It seems as though every
detail and quirk has been addressed. Everything works, and it all
works very well.

“UT 2004” isn’t just an incredible
multi-player experience as it has always been; this will certainly
be the game “Halo 2” will be compared to when it is
released. With the latest installment, the developers have
certainly thought of the game with respect to its predecessors and
made it more beautiful, more playable, more powerful and more fun
than ever.


Rating: Five out of five stars.

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