When it comes to pure undiluted SF First Person Shooters (FPS) online it has to be Unreal Tournament (UT). Seeing off stiff competition from Quake III and Team Arena, UT has become the defacto standard and with the immediate future currently clear of games like Doom III and Half Life 2 it looks set to win over our hearts once again with only Battlefield Vietnam also vying for our multiplayer gaming time.
The latest version in a series spanning five years, UT 2004 adds yet more features, improves gameplay and graphics, as well as borrowing the best bits from other titles to overall raise the bar for the FPS genre.
To kickstart everything the games interface has been improved with easier access to the multiplayer offering, community and instant action areas. Single player, as before, gives you the chance to practice your moves and further levels are accessed once you complete certain tasks, killing objectives or won prize money. Of course the single player options aren’t what you buy this game for - however it is still better than most multiplayer First Person Shooter offerings and non-broadband homes will appreciate it.
Joining a game is simple - simply click the join game button and you can be given instant access to thousands of servers across the globe. Within this menu system you are also informed of news about updates, chat with other UT 2004 players, list your favourite servers that you like to join over and over again or see what games are out there on the internet. Testing even in the middle of the afternoon [it’s a hard life really - ed] there were 685 servers you can join to challenge other people across continental Europe Asia and China in addition to the UK.
If your planning to host your own deathmatch or capture the flag (CTF), once again the options are easy and give you ability to set game rules, server rules, bot configuration and mutations such as changing how people move in the air and it is ideal for creating the unexpected for that LAN party you’re organising.
Those who can’t be fussed with waiting get to chose the instant action button that throws you straight into a game online without pause for thought. Five seconds later and you are on a server somewhere in the world battling against other players who have no doubt pressed the same button and are in the same quandry.
This game succeeds the most is in the community aspect and this is yet another area for users to share news and more importantly maps and mods. Already even though the game has yet to ship at the time of writing this review there’s at least one new map from the developer Epic itself, downloadable and free of charge.
The gameplay only builds further on the experience already gained in UT 2003. The inclusion of vehicles and planes gives it a Halo feel and the level of detail and intricacies of the maps themselves will have you reeling out of your chair. The graphics, thanks to help from Nvidia, have improved considerably but still won’t bring midrange PCs to their knees (we tested it with a 2Ghz, 512Mb machine with Hercules 3D Prophet 9800Pro).
Introduced to this version is the new multiplayer mode Onslaught, which is based around trying to capture and hold key power nodes. Nodes must be captured in sequence and then held long enough to be able to attack the best. This fantastic addition really gets tense once you start to fight over control of the last node and was the most popular map of the demo selection.
To help you liase with your fellow commanders, UT 2004 has also integrated voice communication software allowing you to chat with friends using Voice-Over-IP technology. This from a gaming point of view is amazing and saves the laborious task of trying to fight, move into position and chat at the same time and when testing again we received orders gave attack signals and the such like without having to really worry about taking our hand off the keyboard or our eyes of the screen.
In short this game is what every FPS multiplayer fan is looking for. It's fast, it's graphically luscious and it's got the gameplay to match. Top Marks, and if it didn't take up 5.5Gb of hard disk space by including all the UT 2003 content, we may have been looking at full marks.
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