Videogame Flashback: Unreal Tournament

Before Gears of War was their biggest IP, Epic Games’ Unreal Tournament was battling with Quake 3 Arena for the competitive online shooter crown. Despite Quake 3’s heavy metal soundtrack and grittier, almost 2000AD style visuals, I was firmly in camp Unreal – and I loved that game.

This is where the commentator would announce a "HEAD SHOT!"

I remember an evening in 1999, three friends came round. One of them, Mark, came bearing a PC mag cover disc and told us that he had something to show us. After he installed the Unreal Tournament demo, the four of us crowded around my family PC (it had a Monster 3D Voodoo 2 Graphics Accelerator) and watched him navigate the maelström of an Unreal Tournament deathmatch on Morpheus. Our jaws hit the ground. At that point we’d never seen anything like it. Morpheus was a low gravity map with three multi-story buildings floating in space. Mark leapt through the air dual wielding handguns that looked like Judge Dredd’s Lawgiver. Plasma beams pierced the sky, buzzsaw blades ricocheted off walls and left armoured soldiers decapitated… and then there was The Redeemer – a mini nuke launcher. My wallet had no choice. I HAD to buy Unreal Tournament as soon as possible!


And buy it I did. I played Unreal Tournament non-stop, becoming obsessed with downloading mods, skins, voice packs and maps. My favourite skins made the in-game characters look like Flash Gordon and The Punisher. I only ever played Unreal Tournament online twice (hey, I wasn’t paying the phone bills and a 56k connection could only get you so far). When I did play online though, I recounted the matches to my friends like old war stories. Most of the time I was happy playing with the AI bots – tweaking the settings to give them different characteristics. I’d spend hours jumping between the different game-types. My favourites included the objective based ‘Assault’ and the King of The Hill/Territories variant ‘Domination’.

Years later the underwhelming Unreal Tournament 2003 arrived and was quickly barged outta the way by Unreal Tournament 2004. To me, neither game had the same draw. Things got chunkier… Quakier. There were aliens, pre-created characters, and in UT2004 there were vehicles. Unreal Tournament‘s successors just didn’t feel right or have the same charm as the original game.

Despite not owning a PC, I still have my original copy of Unreal Tournament and I still have some mods and skins on a disc. I sure would like to give it a bash one day. After years of gaming evolution I bet it wouldn’t be the same though.

If you really want to get your teeth into the details of the game, hit up the Wikipedia page here.


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