The word visceral never really had a meaning until Unreal Tournament came along. It was a phenomenal first person shooter that was so good it left Quake III Arena for dead. It was colourful, violent and fast. Arguably, UT was the game that ended iDâ€™s dominance as the daddy of the first person shooter. Quake III was a long awaited game, was also exclusively multiplayer, and came out a mere 10 days later. The clash was the gaming equivalent of Oasis versus Blur or VHS versus Betamax.
At the time I was working for Dennis Publishing where lunchtime gaming frag-fests were part of the culture and UT was much preferred over the colourful but less hardcore Quake III.
Unreal Tournament was based on the engine from the previous yearâ€™s graphically ground-breaking solo game, Unreal. It required relatively high 3D horsepower but the engine could cope with both indoor and outdoor maps with aplomb, something that couldnâ€™t be said of its iD rival.
What I particularly liked about UT was its weapons, which were unique and made Quake IIIâ€™s arsenal look staid. What really made them stand out was the fact that each of them had a secondary mode. After this, any game I played that had only a single fire mode seemed positively limited.
The basic Enforcer was inevitably weak, but what was cool was that you can pick up two. The secondary mode was very cool, turning them sideways, gansta stylie! The Shock rifle was literally a bolt out of the blue â€“ shooting precise laser beams, which could actually blow an opponent of their feet. The secondary fire shot a slow ball of energy, but if you hit this with the primary fire both then it detonated the energy ball creating a large explosion. Time it right and you could take out multiple enemies â€“ genius.
The Ripper was perhaps UTs most distinctive weapon, shooting circular saw blades out at a speed â€“ quite viscous. The Minigun and Rocket Launcher were fps stalwarts but they were never more satisfying than in UT. The Sniper Rifle also was fantastic for its incredible zoom, and the ability to get an instant kill if you got a headshot. My personal fav weapon though was the Flak Cannon, that shot molten shards with a powerful spread damage that devastated at close range on default mode. These bounced around enabling you to shoot round corners or cause havoc in enclosed spaces. This was backed up with a secondary mode that lobbed the shards precisely, useful for distance attacks.
The Redeemer was the slightly absurd guided mini nuclear missile. When launched you could steer it via a camera in its nose to seek and destroy your enemy, though your body was completely vulnerable to attack while in this mode. When it landed though, it tended to make a mess. The unique Translocator let you beam yourself into otherwise impossible to reach places and helped speed you across the map.
The gaming modes were awesome too, be it classic deathmatch or the excellent Capture the Flag modes. The CTF map Facing Worlds is surely a contender for the best gaming map of all time.
The sounds were as good as the visuals, and to this day the booming â€˜Headshotâ€™ sample can be heard in many Counter-Strike: Source servers. UT2007, based on the Unreal 3 engine is due out next year but it will have its work cut-out to match the impact of the original Unreal Tournament.