Unreal Tournament is without a doubt the single most critically acclaimed multiplayer focused first person shooter ever made. It came out at a time in the genre lifespan when not just the typical run and gun single player campaigns would cut it. Games like Quake and its sequel had started pushing the multiplayer barier very much so and had made it a nearly expected aspect of any game that followed it. Unreal Tournament, on the other hand was the first truly multiplayer focused first person shooter, and by all means it was the best. Up untill the release of Battlefield 1942 in 2002 it had not been dethroned in the slightest. Unreal Tournament has always been the fan and critic favorite over the last few years, so it's really no surprise that when the best multiplayer first person shooter gets a followup sequel that it gets a lot of attention is it? Not at all, because Unreal Tournament 2004 not only lives up to the hype, but it surpases it. It is safe to say this is exactly what fans have been waiting for, and it will last them for years to come. It goes without saying that if you liked Unreal Tournament, or Unreal Tournament 2003, this is a must-buy for you. It really is that easy to reccomend. It's quite possible not only the best multiplayer PC game since Battlefield 1942, but it easily could be said to be the best ever. The one and only problem that is really noticeable with the game is that it requires a pretty good PC. If you're running a rig from 2001 or so, you might want to update it before you spend the money on this game. A 1.2 GHZ Processor, 128 MB of RAM, and a 64 MB GeForce 2 (or some equivelant) is what is reccomended. It may not sound all that grueling on your PC, but it really is. You'd be better off going in to the game with at least a 1.5 GHZ processor, 256 MB of RAM, and a GeForce 4 Ti series card. These things aren't terribly expensive anymore, and it is well worth the price to make this game run smooth enough where you'll have steady framerates for online and off. The game itself is multiplayer focused. There is a single player, but it isn't like Half-Life's or Halo's single player. It's just the multiplayer maps with automated bots. So basically it's just the multiplayer offline. There are plenty of difficulty ranges for the bots on the maps, and as you get to the higher difficulties they can provide for a pretty decent match. Generally though, this is an online shooter, and that's what it does best. If you're not going to be playing this game online, you have to ask yourself if it's really worth playing against bots all of the time rather than real human oponents. In UT2k4, there are over 40 newly introduced maps for you to play as well as a barage of older maps from the previous games. There are 10 different modes to play in that are packaged with the retail version of the game, and more are on the way from the fabulous community and their amazing modifications to the games. The retail modes include; Assault, Onslaught, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Bombing Run, Mutant, Invasion, Last Man Standing, and Capture the Flag. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are pretty basic. Easily the most popular modes in the game, and the modes that get the most community modifications, this is where the classic Unreal Tournament gameplay is up. If you've never played either of these two modes in a previous Unreal Tournament game, or any other online FPS for that matter, what you do is players are pitted against eachother to play basically a game of kill or be killed. You want to kill as many people as you can, and die as little as possible. Person with the most points by the end of the match wins. Team Deathmatch is almost exactly the same thing, it's just with selected teams. Double Domination is a fairly simple game as well. Each level holds two different domination points, to score you must run and gun your way in and capture each teams Domination points. The way you capture the Domination points is by running them over. The way to score the point is by holding them in your team's possesion for 10 seconds. Once you've successfully captured the Domination Points the clock will reset and you will be able to do it over again. Last Man Standing is exactly what the name says. From the beginning of the match you start with all of the weapons, but there's a catch, you have a limited number of lives. As you play through the match, you try your hardest to remain alive by the end and make sure you are the last man standing. Bombing Run is one of the more unique games that you can play in Unreal Tournament. It's a lot like football, actually. There is one ball in the middle of the arena and the first team to shoot it into the other teams end zone so to speak, wins the game. There are two ways to score points, shooting it in, or going kamikazee and killing youself by throwing your whole body with the ball in to their goal. It offers up a great game of death-ball. Invasion is where you have a team that must stand fast and hold strong against hordes of enemies as they try to invade your territory. You have wave multiple waves that last between 90 seconds and four minutes. You can't respawn during a wave if you die, and as long as one of your team members makes it through the wave all that have fallen will respawn for the next round. Mutant is another new addition to UT2k4. The beginning of the match starts out as a regular deathmatch, but as soon as one player draws first blood he then becomes the Mutant. After that, everyone is then pit against the Mutant, and only the Mutant. Mutants have super powers that include lots of ammo, invisibility, and beserk. These things offer for a very intense match that is actually quite fun and pretty original. This is one of the better new matches in the game. Capture the Flag is the same as it has always been. There are two teams, the objective is to capture the opposing team's flag. The goal is to go in to their base, capture the flag, then return to your base alive. There are many great maps for CTF this time around. There are also many great maps from the older games, including December, and even Facing Worlds Classic and it's sister map, Face 3. To anyone that has played the older Unreal Tournament games, they know it's all about the Facing Worlds maps, because they're back and as good as ever. Assault is another great mode in the game. There are two teams, the attackers and the defenders. The point of the game is for the two teams to battle it out throughout various locales in the Unreal worlds. There are some that take place on vehicles, some that take place in space, and some that take place on land. The ones in space offer up an interesting gameplay feature that allows you to fly space vehicles around the territory and gun out your opponents. It's actually quite a great mode and really suped up the gameplay. Last but not least is the fantastic Onslaught. Easily the best mode in the game, is also the most original. Teams in this mode battle eachother for control of various points on the map. The point of this mode is to be as careful as possible using your best strategy and wit to make sure you win. This isn't like Deathmatch where you just run and gun, you make every move count in order to secure all the points on the map and make your team win the match. The game delivers great gameplay that hasn't been seen in any of the Unreal games in the past with the introduction of vehicular gameplay. Like games such as Halo, and Tribes 2 you have the ability to control various vehicles that will help you move across the map and totally control the points that you must take over. The first team to successfully secure all of the power nodes and destroy the enemy's power core wins the match. With such variety in Unreal Tournament's gameplay, it's tough not to applaud it on every level imagineable. There is really nothing wrong with it that is even remotely apparent. Almost everything about it is flawless. Every mode features a tutorial mode, and there is even a single player campaign that basically just shows you the ropes of how to play Unreal Tournament to get you ready to go face the bots or if you have the means, to face human opponents online. Unreal Tournament 2004's graphics look very similar to 2003's installment. They are very good. Easily the best you will find for any multiplayer focused game out there right now. But after seeing almost the same thing over a year ago, it leaves you feeling a little underwhelmed after all is said and done. Don't take that the wrong way, though. Because the graphics are flat out superb, they just don't compete with the top of the line stuff we've been seeing come out over the last month or so. They are close, but they aren't the best. The sound in the game is pretty good. It's not the best out there, but it certainly suffices with the rest of the game. The soundtrack works great with the game, although it isn't really all that noticeable. You won't be humming the toons after you get out of a match most likely, so don't expect anything too memorable. However, the voice overs and sound effects are flat out fantastic. The announcers in each match fit the game perfectly and really add to the atmosphere of each match and the mode you will be playing. It features all of the classic Unreal Tournament narration, and then some. It's definitely the best sounding and best looking Unreal Tournament that is out today. This isn't a game you'll be playing for a week and then never again. This is one game that will last you for years. With games like Half-Life 2 and the like on the horizon, there is going to be some stiff multiplayer competition. But with Unreal Tournament's great variety in gameplay, there is a good chance that it will remain the King of multiplayer games for quite a long time to come. There are already new maps, and modifications to download only a very short while after it's retail release. So if that doesn't say something about the dedicated community, not much else will. It's really simple. If you're looking for a single player first person shooter, look elsewhere, this is not the game for you. But, if you're looking for perhaps the best multiplayer experience ever created in the history of the industry, this is definitely the game for you. It's tough to make such bold claims seeing as there are so many incredible games in its genre, but Unreal Tournament comes out of the dust and reclaims the crown as the most complete multiplayer action game available. Unreal Tournament 2004 is the most realized version of the series that has been seen yet, it's also certainly the best. 2004 has a lot of great games coming its way, but this one is already a possible shoe-in contender for game of the year.