The Dreamcast version of Unreal Tournament was initially scheduled for release shortly after the PlayStation 2 version of the game, alongside its primary competitor, Quake III Arena. But with the PS2 version of the game already on store shelves and the Dreamcast version of Quake III Arena tearing up SegaNet, the DC version of Unreal Tournament has mysteriously slipped from release calendars. Infogrames, the game's publisher, has decided to push the game's release date back into the first quarter of next year to allow the developer time to further refine the game. We had a chance to sit down with the latest build of the game and found that the extra time has done it good.
The game's graphics bear the most noticeable improvements. The graphics have been enhanced considerably over the last time we saw the game, and the environments are cleaner, brighter, and more defined. All of the textures have been revised and optimized for the Dreamcast's resolution, and the detail really shines through. The lighting effects are colorful and look fabulous, and some of the shading and shadows in the levels really bring out the dimensions of the backgrounds. Additionally, all of the slowdown and frame rate problems in the last build we played have been completely resolved in this build. The game runs at an amazingly smooth rate, even with plenty of onscreen action. With some amazing visuals and a frame rate that never seems to drop, the Dreamcast version of Unreal Tournament actually touts better graphics than its PS2 brother.
The Dreamcast version of Unreal Tournament will feature a total of 70 maps, 20 of which will be DC-exclusive. All of the maps found in the PS2 version of the game will make it to the Dreamcast, except for the maps of the assault mode, which has been removed completely from the Dreamcast version. While Epic initially planned to cut the domination mode from the Dreamcast version, the developer recently announced that the mode would indeed be included. This, coupled with the game's online mode, will definitely make the Dreamcast version of Unreal Tournament the most complete version of the game on any console.
The build we played was Internet-ready, and we got the chance to frag it out with three game testers located at Epic's office. And, though we were playing on a fairly sizable map and only used the Dreamcast's built-in 56K modem, the game literally flew. The lag was hardly noticeable, and there were no instances of time-outs or frozen players. The game will support up to eight players on a server - twice the number allowed by Quake III Arena. The game will also support the upcoming broadband adapter, giving Dreamcast owners with cable modems, leased lines, and DSL plenty of incentive to frag it out with their Dreamcasts.
Another enhancement being tweaked is the game's bot AI. While the bots in the PC and PS2 versions weren't all that smart, Epic claims that the bots in the Dreamcast version of UT will display a troubling sense of strategy. While the AI in the build we played was far from being complete, the enhancements were easy to see. Bots on the harder difficulty levels would stay close to power-ups and ammo, could circle-strafe, and would even use ledges and jumping to their advantage.
The Dreamcast version of Unreal Tournament is scheduled for a January 2001 release. While Quake III Arena will definitely have gotten there first, Epic plans to use that extra time to make Unreal Tournament the biggest and most technologically advanced first-person shooter on the Dreamcast.