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Unreal Tournament

There is something deeply satisfying about putting a bullet in the back of your mate's head, turning to him and screaming "I got you, I got you, I got you" like some crazed infant. On the flip-side, there is something equally as satisfying about defending a friend from wave after wave of attackers, only to have him clap you on the shoulder and say "Nice one, geezer!" like some illiterate east-end wide boy.

There are few games that can cause such diverse reactions, but Unreal Tournament, with its heavy bias towards Internet and LAN play, is definitely one of them. The fact that Quake 3 is taking its time means that Unreal Tournament will be the yardstick by which it is measured.

For those that don't know, UT is the sequel of sorts to Unreal, the first person shooter that didn't do as well as Quake 2. The problem with Unreal was the fact that while it looked and sounded great, the multiplayer was dogged with lag problems. Times have moved on and UT is out to prove that it is the undisputed king.

If you ask filmmakers, authors and game designers what the future will be like, they'll tell you it's a violent hellhole, corrupt and rainy - well, mainly rainy. Unreal is true to this ideal, taking the view that violent blood sports are popular and even sanctioned - hence the Tournament.

The Tournament mode in UT is the "single-player" element, but as single-player games go, there is no sense of character, no plot -- people arrive in your field of view, and you kill them. Tournament mode is a weak single-player effort, whereas the Internet/LAN play can reap hours of rewarding gameplay. As a comparison, think of the popular beat 'em up, Street Fighter, in single-player - you're restricted to repetitive battles, with the simplistic goal of winning each one until there's none left. The premise of UT's Tournament mode is simply to rise up the ladder, challenging various bots to different games. You start off in the Deathmatch ladder; once you've progressed far enough in that ladder, another challenge opens up for you. Oddly, the Tournament mode is not as exciting as the practice session facility that you can use. Although the words "practice session" may sound boring, it is far from it, because unlike Tournament, you have access to all the maps and the seven different styles of play.

Yes, you heard right - seven. Standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag are included but on top of that are Assault, Domination, Last Man Standing and the InstaGib Deathmatch.

The Deathmatch games are what you would expect. Kill everyone until the frag (kill) limit has been reached or until the timer runs out. The one who has the most kills or reaches the limit first is the winner. The levels are fun to run around in and the designs include tightly packed spaceships and large fortresses with lifts and battlements. The levels require several different skills, including precision shots in the claustrophobic levels and large explosive devices for the spacious areas. The number of people and the size of the map dictate the pace of these games, allowing you to tailor it to your preferred style of play.

Assault is a team-based game, with one team that attacks and the other defends. Winning the game is usually a matter of pulling switches or blowing things up. Things are a little harder when you are attacking because the defense team has computer-operated gun emplacements guarding their base, and thus, can sit and wait for you to cross the treacherous terrain from their start point. These games tend to be a bit slower, and require the use of bots/friends to cover you while you progress towards the objective points.

Domination is like Capture the Flag, where a series of immovable markers are scattered around the map. When touched, the marker changes to your team colour, and for every five seconds that the marker remains "claimed," your team scores a point. So the gameplay consists of a balancing act between defending your markers and attacking your opponent's. The sudden switches that take place can make for very exciting games.

Another mode is Last Man Standing, a survival-based game where it's the person who hasn't had all their lives blown away who wins the day. Still another is InstaGib Deathmatch, a frantic game where one shot from a weapon will blow you to pieces. Lives are lost quickly and it is the fastest, most accurate person who will come out on top.

The game itself would be nothing without the bots, the computer-controlled players. The way you can adjust them is frankly amazing. Each little tweak adds something extra to the game. Let's say you want to play a deathmatch, but your mate Steve doesn't want to play. That doesn't ruin your night because you can just play against Steve-bot.

 

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