Once upon a time there was a company called Epic. Epic decided to make a shooting game with really pretty graphics so that lots of people would buy it. Epic called the game Unreal, and everyone loved it. But when everyone decided to play Unreal together, they found that the evil lag demon was out to ruin their fun. So Epic made Unreal Tournament and banished the lag demon to the land of Wolfenstein. All across the land everyone rejoiced - they could play Unreal Tournament against with each other without the evil lag demon. Everyone loved Unreal Tournament so much, that Epic wanted everyone to be able to play. Epic asked the guys at Secret Level to make a version for the Sega Dreamcast. Secret Level did just that, adding more levels and features to Unreal Tournament as well. Everyone rejoiced, and they all lived happily ever after.
If only it were that simple. In reality, it's no small miracle that Secret Level managed to pull of such a top-notch conversion of UT. Cast your minds back to Quake III Arena. Remember that horrible frame-rate problem? Too few levels? Retarded bots? Four-player limit? UT promises to vanquish these problems and give us some first class shooting action on the way, but can it deliver? Read on…
The first thing you'll notice about Unreal Tournament when it first loads is its simple menu system. Unlike certain games of the same genre which could be mentioned, the game automatically loads all of your control preferences, saved games, and unlocked levels when you start it. Very nice. UT is also very arcade-like in nature. If you want a quick blast, just click on practice, select the level, bots, and difficulty you want, and you can frag away.
The game's also surprisingly easy to control using the standard Dreamcast pad, although if you want to get the most out of UT, you'll be wanting a Dreamcast mouse and keyboard and possibly a VGA box too. With that sorted, it's time to go onto the game's Tournament mode. This is the game's proper single player mode, and it allows you to progress through different ladders, each ladder using a different gametype. If you're a complete newbie to first-person shooters, then there's also a comprehensive tutorial which you can choose to take before you attempt to start the ladder. First comes the Deathmatch ladder. This simply involves blowing your opponents to bits with a weapon of your choice while trying to stay alive yourself. After a few games of Deathmatch, a new ladder opens up - Domination. Domination is a brand new gametype - completely original and very fun. Domination is also your first taste of teamplay in UT. You have to work with your teammates to "dominate" control points around the level simply by walking over them. These control points are marked with a grey "X" if no-one is in control of them. If a team claims that control point, then it changes to that team's colored emblem. Ideally, you want to dominate all three control points around the map, as the more control points you hold, the more points your team gains per second. The first team to hit the point limit wins.
After you've mastered Domination, the game allows you to move on to Capture the Flag. Capture the Flag -- or CTF for short - is one of the most popular modes of play for on-line gaming. Again, you are a member of a team, but this time you must work as a team to defend your flag (located inside your base) as well as attempt to grab the enemy's flag from inside their base and return it to yours. Sounds simple? It is, but CTF is one of the areas where UT's marvelous level design really shows. Epic and Secret Level have put a lot of effort into making impressive and genuinely awesome arenas which run smoothly.
My church is just plastured with stained glass depictions of starving ugly people. I need to worship Xan or something.
After gaining the CTF, DM, and Domination trophies, you are able to access Challenge mode. This consists of simply three one-on-one deathmatches against very tough AI players. After you've beaten these guys, you can go on to challenge Xan, the arena champion for the title of Unreal Grand Master. Xan is as tough as they get, and if you can beat him on a high difficulty level, then kudos to you.
UT's weapons are the standard first-person shooter deal. You've got the minigun, rocket launcher, and handgun (enforcer) among others. It's also worth mentioning that every weapon in UT has a secondary firing mode, which effectively doubles the number of attacks available. The game also boasts a few original weapon types that are completely new to the genre. First up comes the Impact Hammer. To fire this, you must first charge it up by holding fire. Once that's done, simply walk up to your foe and watch his innards decorate the level. The Shock Rifle's combo attack is also an example of some originality. Fire a secondary ball of plasma, and then shoot it with the primary beam to cause a massive explosion with equally massive splash damage.
The game's graphics look surprisingly close to that of the original PC version. Some effects have been toned-down or removed, but the feel of the game remains, which is undoubtedly a good thing. The frame rate is also impressive. In a deathmatch with four players, it hovers at around 30-40, although this can differ depending on the map, but we'll save that for later. Overall, the graphics impress, and many of the graphical effects from the PC version have made it across.
Sound is another area where UT excels. It's atmospheric at times, and at other times it simply helps fuel the action. The quality of the sound effects has been noticeably reduced from that of the original PC version. While this can be annoying, it's a small price to pay.