Gamestyle Archive intro: you’d be forgiven that Gamestyle never gave out good reviews for any Dreamcast title. Far from it in fact but we’ve just been wading our way through some real shelf fodder. Speaking of which, grab the keyboard and mouse and get set for combat!
Published: March 2001
VERSION: US DC
DEVELOPER: Secret Level
GENRE: First Person Shooter
ACCESSORIES: Rumble, VMU, Keyboard, Mouse.
RELEASE: Out Now USA, Europe TBA
The arrival of Unreal Tournament on the Dreamcast heralds a new chapter in the ongoing battle of Quake vs. Unreal which has, until recently, been the solely on the PC – soon to be seen on the PS2. Unreal is the most suited of the two to a console release as it is not as difficult to learn and is therefore far more accessible. Like many console owners my first experience of a quality first person shooter conversion was the amazing Quake III but you will be all asking which one is better?
Firstly we must point out that as this review copy is American we have been unable to play UT online and therefore gauge the 8 player death matches (double that offered by Quake III) or take advantage of the broadband adaptor. Time will tell if you and I, in Europe are lucky enough to experience these delights. From initial reports from across the pond our American friends say that UT is the better game online, which is no mean feat considering how impressive Quake III performs.
As with its rival, Unreal Tournament does not require a plot, storyline or characters, what is on offer here is fast and furious, addictive game play – pick up your gun son and go shoot something. As you would expect there are a wide range of characters, which detour from the Quake Alien hybrid styles and instead take a more human or cyborg approach. Throughout the game characters will taunt opponents or mock fallen enemies with sampled speech – and it does sound sampled. This is the first noticeable minus point with Unreal Tournament as that before long the samples will become tedious, just like all those football game phrases during commentaries. The samples and buckets of blood and gore certainly indicate that this was designed for the American market. The weapon sound effects are excellent as are their design but the music is barely noticeable and does not add to the game. While you can adjust the volume of the music or effects, to remove the annoying speech you need to turn of the sound effects completely. Clearly an oversight.
Everything onscreen moves at a steady 60fps although the odd glitch is noticeable when a large area within an arena becomes very active. The levels are well designed and offer a greater range of styles, features and hiding places than Quake III. In fact Secret Level have stated that this version contains over 70 levels which crushes its rival plus the added bonuses which you can unlock and acquire making this the better single player game. The game modes are mainly the same and are as expected: Domination, capture the flag, deathmatch. An excellent Tournament mode rivals anything Perfect Dark offers; in this mode you can command three other bots while you try to control certain areas and the longer you hold these areas the more points you will acquire. The AI of the bots can be misleading at times; just like humans some display weaknesses while others are very ruthless and efficient. Just like the supreme N64 title your weapons have a second function that for instance may be more powerful but will use up your ammo at a quicker rate. The range of options on all modes is excellent as you can set your skill level, bots level, the number of and so on. The offline multiplayer modes do reduce the detail in order to keep the frame rate high but are thoroughly enjoyable but the online mode is the no doubt the real gem.
Although the levels have been reduced in size from the PC original and the textures and overall resolution lowered it does not affect the game. There are so many levels with a considerable range of skills needed to win in everyone. Certain levels will require excellent long range shooting skills while others that are composed of smaller rooms will test your reactions and mouse/keyboard/controller proficiency. I could suggest that compared to the multi-coloured Quake III, Unreal Tournament is bland and in certain levels too dark plus at times the animation can be jerky but this doesn’t affect the enjoyment. The control system in Unreal has been given special thought when it comes to the playing with the Dreamcast pad. On Quake III you had to learn the keyboard and mouse combination as the pad design felt cramped and uncomfortable while playing. Secret Level have not only assigned the controls better they have also given the pad a handicap in order to level the playing field as not everyone can afford to purchase a keyboard and mouse – in fact they’ve done an excellent job overall. I doubt the PS2 version will be as smooth or quick loading as what we have here.
So with all these improvements you would expect me to conclude that Unreal Tournament is the better game? The fact is that even with the added extras and balanced accessibility the game does not look as good as Quake III or plays as fluidly. The sensation I got from playing Quake III is not evident here but that’s not to say Unreal Tournament isn’t a mighty fine game in its own right, which it is. Now all we need is Half-life.