My father bought the PS2 version of Unreal Tournament off eBay when I was around eleven years old. It seemed like a bit of a random purchase, considering we didn’t typically buy stuff online, but perhaps he was interested in it; perhaps he thought I’d be interested in it. If he thought the latter, then my goodness did he turn out to be right.
Unreal Tournament was the first FPS I ever played. To start with, I was somewhat dumbfounded by the controls, but after many agonizing hours of running into walls and falling off elevators, I got the hang of it. I came to like this new breed of game (from my experience), and then I came to love it. After many hours of fragging (always Free For All), I came to believe that I must have been one of the greatest Unreal Tournament players in the world, having become able to dispatch bots on Inhuman difficulty in both normal and Instagib modes with ease. This was, of course, innocent childhood arrogance that was quickly dispelled upon my first treading into online multiplayer waters.
I played the console version of Unreal Tournament for many years before I finally acquired the PC version, and a PC to play it on. I believe I’d already played some FPS games on PC, and had gotten used to the controls there, but that didn’t stop me from having to re-learn how to play Unreal Tournament after losing to average bots. I was also overwhelmed with the new amount of maps and characters and options there were. This, I realised, was the full version of Unreal Tournament, and not that junior version over on the console (although the PS2 did have some unique maps which I still miss to this day). Once I’d re-acquainted myself with the gameplay on PC and made myself at home, I figured I’d venture into the online servers and kick some butt over there.
Unreal Tournament, at this point, was already almost a decade old. I failed to account for the fact that the only remaining playerbase would therefore be one of hardcore fans who’d played for hundreds, possibly thousands of hours more than I. They were also multiplayer veterans in the sense that they didn’t train themselves on bots; they were used to the unpredictability of players, which rivals that of even the highest level bot. Needless to say, the walls of Deck 16 were painted red with my repeated loss of blood and limb.
I decided to stick to bots, mostly because I didn’t feel like sinking hundreds of hours into getting as good as the hardcore players around me. I’m not a particularly competitive gamer, certainly not enough to warrant such a commitment of time and frustration. If I’m competitive at all, it’s in the sense of single player progression; I’d happily do some sort of achievement race, and often try my hardest to get the rarest achievements in a game. But dying over and over in the hopes of getting better and defeating strangers I’ll never meet again? Not my cup of tea. Not to say that that’s a bad way to play, of course. If you find something fun, do it!
A few years ago I got my gaming-capable laptop, and bought all the Unreal Tournaments on Steam after having been deprived from the sequels for so long. I remembered looking up videos of Unreal Tournament 2004 and longing to play it, but having an awful PC and no money. UT2004 may be my favourite of the Unreal Tournament games, partially for how it looks; it has an aesthetic which ages incredibly well. There’s also a fair amount of tweaks to the movement, and of course, a different selection of maps. It’s my go-to fragfest, if I want to kill a few hours with a podcast.
I vividly remember reading about “Unreal Tournament 2007” in a gaming magazine on a long road trip and becoming highly excited. This would go on to become Unreal Tournament 3, the estranged cousin of the franchise that nobody’s really certain about. Epic decided that combining the grittiness of Gears of War with the happy-go-fraggy gameplay of the previous games was a good idea. It was not. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, though, as I’ve spent a few hours playing it and whilst it’s not currently installed, I can see myself going back to play it in future. Maybe for the achievements- yes I’m aware that I have a problem.
I’ll quickly mention that they’re making a new Unreal Tournament that’s completely free, and it’s playable now. However, last time I tried to play it, it was very unoptimised and my PC didn’t like it, so I’ll wait for the full release and hope that it gets better. I’m very pleased that the folks at Epic decided to make another Unreal Tournament. It’s awoken a dead community from the slumber of eternal replayability.
The entire reason I’m writing this blog post is because of a series of events which happened yesterday. The website Bundle Stars was selling a Quake bundle which I was tempted by, but ultimately did not end up buying because I’m currently as rich as the quality control in a Ubisoft game. I then remembered Quake Live, the formerly free to play Quake game which I’d dabbled with for about half an hour in the past. I say “formerly free to play” because an interesting turn of events has taken place; the game, which had been free to play with a premium service for the last five years, is now listed as costing £6.99. I’m not sure when this happened, but it was sometime this year. People are furious, because it’s no longer free and it reset everyone’s progress, but I’m in the rare position of being better off for it as the premium service no longer exists and the game is already registered to my account! Having access to all 100+ maps, I decided to give it a proper spin, and learning this alternative (let’s be honest, probably original) arena shooter for the first time caused me to reminisce about my first time playing Unreal Tournament. I do miss the announcer from UT, though.