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

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More than 10 years on, Facing Worlds is still a timeless CTF map among many multiplayer online FPS players.

Round 2...Fight!

In a move which seemed more deliberate than coincidental, Unreal Tournament hit the market in 1999, a short year and a half after Unreal, and ten days before Quake III: Arena. Of course, the writing had been on the wall for a while: Quake and Quake II, and to a lesser extent Unreal still remained popular as multiplayer games. The announcement that Quake III would lack a single-player campaign was controversial, but was warmly recieved, and when it was revealed that Unreal Tournament would be nothing less than a stand-alone multiplayer-focused FPS, it was clear that the computer gaming market would have yet another battle royale on its hands.

While many lauded Quake III's multiplayer-centric design, Unreal Tournament was praised for its innovative approach to team-focused online multiplayer. Going above and beyond Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch, UT featured objective-based play in Assault, and a capture-and-control system in Domination, two modes which still remain fan favorites to this day. The game featured a huge range of maps with varied architectural styles, ranging from castles, to temples, to sailing ships and to deep space installations, including classic maps like Facing Worlds. Even the weapons seemed bigger and more innovative. Echoing Unreal and the other games like Marathon, UT featured alternate fire modes for all of its weapons, including the ASMD Shock Rifle combo, and a rocket launcher that also served as a grenade launcher and homing rocket launcher (and that was before you could charge it up to fire up to eight rounds simultaneously, in either a fan or a spread pattern). The Redeemer also made its appearance, starting a tradition of ridiculously overpowered superweapons in future Unreal games. Single-player play, sold as an offline tournament progression against computer-controller players, was also bolstered by what many saw as some of the best bot AI for its time, using work originally developed for a popular Quake bot.

The result of all of this was a game that was a bona fide success for Epic, winning multiple awards and garnering accolades from critics across the industry. Like its predecessor, the refined version of the Unreal engine driving UT would go on to power a bevy of future games, including well-recieved games such as DS9: The Fallen, the first two games in the Harry Potter series, and Clive Barker's horror-themed Undying.

A (Shock Rifle) Blast from the Past

While time has seen the Unreal engine iteratively grow into the industry juggernaut that it is today, it has not been kind to the original Mac ports of Unreal and Unreal Tournament. Support for the original OS 9 port dried up after Mac port developer Westlake Interactive disclosed that it had actually been maintaining the game on what was practically a volunteer basis. Westlake head programmer Mark Adams worked on an experimental PPC OS X patch for UT in 2001, but it was unfortunately never completed and remained buggy. Furthermore, it needed a working OS 9 system to actually install the game. The Unreal Tournament Preservation Group (UTPG) launched two years later with the hope of a new Windows, Linux and Mac OS X-compatible patch, but sadly the UTPG apparently closed up in 2006, and with it, active development of an current OS X compatible version of UT (now more affectionately known as UT99). Thankfully, Unreal and Unreal Tournament both work well in WINE, and their availability on GOG means that wth a little effort, Mac users can still enjoy these games in all of their blood-soaked glory.


Archives  Features  Crossing Over: Unreal & Unreal Tournament