Lets just get this out of the way first…Unreal Tournament 2004 (UT2K4) is awesome! There, all done, but let me explain why I recommend this game. Joel Davies wrote a very good review of UT2K4 on InsideMacGames back when it was originally released;
To drop an overused cliche: it’s a whole new ball game. Unreal Tournament 2004 finally realizes its place in the genre, and feels like a sports game. Admittedly, you are still running around gorgeous maps, stealing flags, shooting the enemy and generally blowing up everything in sight – but a new team management scheme adds a nice dimension to the experience.
In the single-player ladder, you must work your way up the food chain, draft and defeat teammates, pay salaries, manage a budget, and defend your team against Blood Fist challenges from other teams.
The team management system allows you to draft teammates to complement your gameplay style, but you have to pay to play. You start with a small budget, and it costs money to enter matches. You also have to pay your teammates, so the extra cash earned winning a match and piling on the awards and honors comes in handy.
To get extra cash at the end of the match you can challenge rival teams to one on one deathmatch games for cash. You can also invoke the dreaded Blood Fist challenge to attempt to steal one of their better players for your roster. Blood Fist challenges from rival teams can get dicey in a hurry – especially when they have selected “instagib” match rules.
Instagib matches against bots can go south in a hurry as teams with good agressiveness, agility and tactics scores can really tear through accurate teams effectively. You might be shooting that shock rifle straight, but your teammates will tend to make big fat targets if they have low agility and tactics scores. Having a decent amount of cash reserve will help to defend your best players against Blood Fist challenges – as they become quite difficult against tough teams, even at the easier settings.
There are several game types to choose from: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Bombing Run, Capture the Flag, Assault, Double Domination, Mutant, Last Man Standing, Invasion and Onslaught. Onslaught is the major new addition to UT2K4, and Assault returns from the original Unreal Tournament release.
Onslaught sets two teams against each other in a battle to build and defend linked power nodes in order to build a chain of nodes to the opposite team’s power core. When a chain of nodes are built, the enemy’s power core is vulnerable, and can be destroyed. Of course, there are a ton of players fighting for control of these nodes, and the action can get chaotic very quickly. To add a new element to the game, Epic threw some vehicles to navigate the Onslaught levels – most of which are HUGE. Running around without a vehicle can get old quickly, as most of these levels are built on a massive scale.
The downside to the furious gameplay and vehicular manslaughter is the vehicle control system. I found most of the controls to be a pain, often distracting from the game in order to keep the flier, tank or jeep headed in the right direction. Most use the A and D keys to turn, while using the mouse for aiming turrets or cannons. Others use the mouse for steering and the A and D keys for strafing. I had a horrible time controlling some of the vehicles, and frustration abounded with some fellow folks in multiplayer. This is the only area of gameplay I did not thoroughly enjoy, and I’ll quietly point a finger at Halo as an example of good vehicle control.
Assault was my favorite gameplay mode in the original UT, and I’m thrilled with the latest implementation. Objectives are marked with “trails” that morph into floating arrows that can be called up with a button press, and some maps also have vehicles to combat the sheer scale of the map and objectives. Playing against each other in massive maps like Mothership while the clock counts down is an intense experience, and requires solid teamwork and competitive spirit to beat your opponent.
Depending on who your online opponents and teammates are – multiplayer and single-player games often feel similar. Generally, I prefer playing with the single-player bots unless I know the humans on the other end are going to play seriously and use some teamwork. Multiplayer has the potential to be outstanding, but that will rely completely on the other humans, like every other online gaming experience.
Since the original Unreal Tournament, the graphics have been really pumped up by better graphics hardware, and some really gorgeous textures and models from the fine folks at Epic Games. Many maps and characters are back from Unreal Tournament 2003, but the new maps in UT2K4 are so polished and visually stunning that I found myself standing around in game to gawk at the environments on more than one occasion.
Truly, spending some time wandering the map in spectator mode before the matches begin is a good idea on two fronts: you can seek out all the nooks, crannies and powerups; and you can marvel at the level of detail put into an environment that players run through at a breakneck pace.
The map count is huge – 95 maps out of the box, with 45 new maps. Every map I have played so far has shown the same high levels of detail. For those who have also missed the old classic maps like Morpheus and November – a little digging around the map list should result in a pleasing retro experience.
The character animations are top notch, and the impressive rag doll frags are back in UT2K4. My personal favorite frag effects are the flaming frags caused by rocket launchers – especially when you score a proximity kill by hitting the floor under the player. Flaming gib flying in all directions is really quite a lovely effect. Even a solid rocket hit on an unshielded body will cause that part of the body to burst into flames as the player runs for cover.
- Min OS: Mac OS X 10.2.8
- CPU: PowerPC G4 @ 933mhz
- Ram: 256mb
- Hard Disk: 6gb
- Graphics: 32mb