One game not to miss.
Let me say this. When it comes to Unreal Tournament 2004, it is an essential game for me. I play it every now and again and still enjoy every second. But now on to the review.
First off, it is a First Person Shooter tournament and its singleplayer component knows and reflects this. It uses bots (A.I. with an assigned model) with varying skill levels that depend on the difficulty level that you have chosen to play with. The tournament theme works well and has rewards which fit in with its theme, Such as cash rewards, Teammate swaps (Usually hired or fought for), One-on-One bet matches and more. For every match you win you get credits which allow you to pay for your team-mates to get them to play in a match, a fee of sorts. Credits also allow you to make bets with other teams as well, and they allow you to play in matches, sort of like a golf tournament. You eventually rise to the top and verse the returning champion of the tournament. You can verse other teams for their members and they can do the same to you. You can challenge teams one-on-one and they can challenge you back. It works quite well to create the feel of a tournament and it maintains its atmosphere.
The shooting mechanics aren't really anything new at all have been seen before. The fact the ammo isn't in clips, but is still limited keeps up the pace. Most of the guns are either FPS staples such as the rocket launcher, minigun, machine pistols, sniper rifles, etc or they are staples from the UT series (which the other ones are as well) which include the redeemer (think nuke launcher, but slightly smaller, Only slightly), The link gun (a plasma firing gun) and the other guns are new super weapons.
The multiplayer is still quite alive with players, despite the age of the game, and features two newish game modes that weren't in Ut2003 (its prequel), though there are available to play in the "Skirmish" mode and in singleplayer: Assault (making a return from the original Unreal Tournament) and Onslaught. Assault is a two team attack and defend match and Onslaught is capture nodes linking to the enemy base and destroy the enemy node while preventing them from destroying yours, with vehicles and lock on rockets added in.
There are small Gameplay mechanics such as adrenaline which, when you reach 100 means you can do a combo for an ability (such as invisibility, healing, speed and more) which last until you run out of adrenaline as use of these aforementioned abilities cost adrenaline which drains quite quickly. Double damage, health kegs, super weapons, and Mutators (which allow you to modify some aspects of a match such as weapons, gravity, etc), Also add to the core gameplay.
There are a lot of mods available for the game mainly because it is bundled with the Unreal editor, which is a good place to start for aspiring mappers, modders, modelers and skinners (the textures for the character models. Mods number in the thousands and range from new weapons to new maps to new vehicles to total conversions. It's a good engine for machinimators to make machinima for, due to the Matinee tool which allow you to manipulate a camera in a map (not ingame) and to place characters and play their animations (This is probably not the best explanation around though, and the graphics, while they aren't the best, hold up and aren't hard on the eyes.
All in all, it is a great game, fun and it never gets old. Definitely a classic.