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Crossing Over: Unreal & Unreal Tournament
July 9, 2012 | Justin Ancheta

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Unreal’s levels still look good, even despite their age.
Game: Unreal Gold
Release Date (Windows): May 22, 1998 (Original); January 21, 2000 (Unreal Gold w/Return to Na Pali)
Release Date (Mac OS): October 13, 1999 (224b7 Patch)
CrossOver Profile: Read Here
WineHQ AppDB entry: Read Here
IMG Review: n/a
Test Platform:
       MacBook (Mid-2007/Late-2006; GMA 950, 10.6.8, CX 11.03)
Price: $9.99

Game: Unreal Tournament: Game of the Year Edition
Release Date (Windows): November 30, 1999
Release Date (Mac OS): November 7, 2000 (436 patch)
CrossOver Profile: Read Here
WineHQ AppDB entry: Read Here
IMG Review: Read Here
Test Platform: MacBook (Mid-2007/Late-2006; GMA 950, 10.6.8, CX 11.03)
Price: $9.99

Your Reality Altered...Forever...

The year was 1998. The Asian Finanical Crisis redefined how we thought about our relationship with Japan, US President Bill Clinton redefined how we thought about our relationship with cigars, and a young bedroom programmer out of Maryland named Tim Sweeny would redefine how we thought about our relationship with the First Person Shooter....

At least that's what the marketing would have us believe. My first memory of Unreal was looking at the fold-out two page ad plastered in the inside front cover of an issue of PC Gamer. "Real...UNREAL!" boldly proclaimed the tagline, with a sexy woman's tongue unfurling into what turned out to be a decently photoshopped snake (the language also was eerily reminiscient of the equally blustery print ads for Trip Hawkins' ill-fated 3DO). Cue the screenshots of a polygonally unhappy Skaarj charging at you right out of Na Pali Castle. Later ads would feature similar imagery, with the proud disclaimer "*(Actual in-game screenshot)*" not-so-subtly put in a corner of the page. For an experience which was apparently supposed to make you question the very fabric of reality, and lose all distinction between the real and the virtual, Unreal wasn't exactly going to replace your hallucinogenic drug of choice. But, for a computer game that challenged the reigning king of FPS, Unreal was a game which couldn't be easily dismissed out of hand.

It almost seemed like Epic's Unreal was the scrappy upstart to the reigning champion in id Software's Quake II, but from looking at the screenshots, it was clear who came out on top. Unreal boasted huge, wide open environments that almost seemed like they were bursting with color, compared to Quake II's alien industrial environments, heavily caked with varying degrees of brown and grey. The grotesque and menacing Strogg of Quake II, while better looking than their demonic predecessors in Quake, looked clunky and blocky compared to the blade-wielding Skaarj, and the mysterious non-combatant Nali. Ambient life populated outdoor areas, further adding to the atmospheric quality of Unreal's levels. It was a triumph for Epic MegaGames and codeveloper Digital Extremes, made all the more miraculous by the fact that the bedroom-programmer-turned-project-manager Tim Sweeny and his small team had no prior experience dealing with a project with the size and scope of Unreal, and risked everything on its success.

All of this graphical wonderment, however, came at a terrible cost. Despite the fact that it shipped with a capable software renderer, when running at maximum settings Unreal was a highly demanding game. On the Mac side, publisher MacSoft noted in the game's printed manual that Unreal ran best on a Power Macintosh G3, the dream machine among Mac users of the day (and a far cry from the game's minimum system requirements). It wasn't long before people used Unreal to show off the power of their new (and expensive) 3D graphics accelerators, like 3Dfx's almighty Voodoo cards. It also wasn't long before Epic and other companies recognized the potential that the Unreal engine had as a licensable technology; soon, much like the Quake II engine, the original Unreal Engine would go on to power a host of future products, like Rune, Human Head's Viking-themed third person action adventure game, Klingon Honor Guard, and Deus Ex. Epic had established itself as a major player in the video game industry, and Unreal had become a household name among gamers. id Software, however, wasn't content to rest on its laurels with Quake II, and they weren't about to let Unreal go unchallenged in the marketplace. Quake II had further signified the rising popularity of online multiplayer as a new market for computer games, and id knew where to go next with its sequel.


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