10

UT2004 is not just another multiplayer FPS, it's the ultimate FPS experience.

Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sounds 9
Value 10
Tilt 10

The Good
* The massive choices of gaming styles
* Gaming Optimisation
* Well developed characters

The Bad
* A little intimidating for newer players when jumping online
* No Necris Clan!
* Time

I had some real appalling experiences for online playing. It actually stemmed back in the days of Diablo II. I spend some time building up my Barbarian character to level 40 before venturing into the online world. Teaming up with a group of unknown players and during a heated boss battle, I accidentally hit my fellow partner the sorceress. The sorceress retaliated and killed me to teach me a lesson. Mind you the damage was minimal however my Barbarian never resurrected (as it was under the 'nightmare' rules) and I was never to be seen again.

I came out of hibernation into the world of UT1999. Played through the single player modes then with a couple of mates I've played online. This time I was prepared and owned some. Little did I know that one of the players was ranked 38 in the world; got owned and naturally I asked for some tips and all he replied was 'It's all about tactics' and smiled. Did he explain further...nope. I left.

UT2003 for me is mainly a single player venture with a couple of spouts for online playing and left with my tail tucked between my legs. To those who read my UT2003 review I stated it's a 'clear example of Spencer's Survival of the Fittest'. Well, I barely survived as it was tough however I moved on.

And now here I am in the UT2004 world. This time experience is my friend. UT2004 offered a game play that I never seen in any of my online 'career'. It offered assistance for the weak. It's like a good friend who's happy to hold your hand in that time of need. It's not just another FPS, it's an experience you'll never forget.

So what made UT2004 different? It's all about the diverse game play options.

Let me start and say UT2004 has a whopping ten different styles of game play. Defensive, offensive, team based, objective based, fragging, driving, flying, drowning, getting burnt; it has it all. Game play like Death Match (and all its variants) and domination will test your fragging ability whilst Capture the Flag, Bombing Run and Assault will test whether your 'friends' will spill the beans about 'tactics and team play' and the grand daddy of them all Onslaught rolls all of the above into one sweet package.

It comes with a health warning that if you decide to jump into the online mode. It's highly suggested to try the single player mode first. The single player has definitely vamped up since previous UTs that now its sports a real tournament. There's an entrance fee, winnings and able to out buy players. Good stuff for that 'accountant' in you. Of course you need to win every style of game play to meet the ultimate champion Xan the Man. You can even opt to practice the maps using the 'instant action' mode. Anything goes here; bot levels, gaming styles, add/delete vehicles and anything else that you can imagine.

It's in this 'instant action' mode is where you take your first baby steps. The bots are so clever that you think they are human players. I actually tested this out with a couple of mates of mine to see if they can tell who the bots are. Some stated that my character was a bot (I'm not sure what exactly that means however we were playing on 'master' level therefore I take that as a compliment). Just on the offside, there was a survey made by the developers of Unreal to see how many players actually played online and offline. Amazingly it was 50/50. However it gets better that you can enter the game as a 'spectator'. This is vital for your success as you can see what the other players are doing. Another words, to those who constantly tell you that 'tactics' is all you need to hear, you can actually see these 'tactics' (or better still record them) in full motion. Know thy enemy!

However, going online is where the action is. Funny to mention that another person I know always brags on about online play and how it's superior to offline as you have the opportunity to 'broadcast your victory'. Well, it was because of my offline experience I can display my 'trophies' online. Did I see him recently...nope.

The Unreal Engine is a force to be recognised. Being around since the days of Quake (and actually toppled the Quake legacy) it had a chance to mature. Well known for its optimisation, you can play UT2004 with just about any decent PC and still looks mighty fine. Graphically you are not going to see better. Only Far Cry and Half Life 2 can topple this.

The sound quality is superb. Every gun fire has a unique yet identifiable sound. From the boom of the Goliath's Tank to the zap of the Lightning gun, it's all tuned for perfection. The musical scores will definitely get your blood pumping and suits well for the map itself and the voice acting are spot on. UT is also famous for its taunts and UT2004 is no different. The taunts adds spice to the game as you will constantly hear taunts from 'You forgot to turn your safety off' to 'Tag 'em, bag 'em' and some that it's best to be remain in the game itself.

You are not going to get better value than this game. I have invested way over 100 plus hours and still learning the ropes. It's one of those games that it's easy to learn and hard to master. My favourite weapons by far is the rocket launcher, minigun and if allowed the translocator (an item which allows you to teleport at short distances and if you happen to teleport through your opponent then it's an instant frag). To date I still seen some new marvelous tricks with these weapons. Of course there is a myriad of other weapons to choose from and considering there are ten different 'sporting events' and sixty plus maps, the engine itself also enables modding. And being Unreal the modding community is humongous. You cannot possibly get bored at all.

That said and I know it's hard to believe, there are some weak points to the game. To those who played UT1999, there was a clan (and evidently my favourite) called the Necris somehow disappeared from the face of UT2004. Only the 'bonus packs' (which is free to download) contains only two members. The good news is that 1) the modding community has made this clan a full-blown force to be reckoned with and 2) they're back in UT3. Also the training grounds is a little on the 'weaker' side. The in-game tutorial does explain the basics of the game however very little in the form of tactics. But as I stated before, use the 'spectator' mode and you'll become the next UT god.

I was impressed with the storyline for UT2004. Every map, game play styles and even characters all have a descriptive history. It was great to see this as when selecting your character and/or clan, it helps you immerse with the game as it feels like a real battle. There is also a 'mutation' that you can select to play under 'clan' rules. That said for example, Juggernauts will be a little slower however harder to kill whilst the Gen Mo'Kai tends to be quicker on their chicken legs with lesser health. There are good web sites dedicated to the World of Unreal and it wouldn't surprise me at the slightest that a MMO will be created in a not-to-distant future. And you heard it here first!

Unreal Tournament if jumping online almost immediately will intimidate the newer players. It's extremely fast and aggressive as there's little chance to breathe or blink. You spawn, you die and repeat. However, in saying that, everyone is treated on the same playing field. Everyone is equal; opportunity is there to those who would like to learn (and I'm not talking about your 'friends' giving you worthless 'tactics' tips either). It's also not a slow game where it takes literally forever to spawn. UT2004 brings back the fun in multiplayer as there are so many different game play styles that will grab even the most fickle of FPS players. Give it a try however if you do, it will suck your life away. You have been warned.

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