Have You Played… Unreal?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Unreal barely feels like a game any more. It’s an engine. “This is Unreal, not Unity,” barely causes a flicker of the original Epic FPS to come to mind. And yet it’s one of my favourite shooters ever.

And it’s still so fun to play. Released six months before Half-Life, in an alternative universe where Gabe Newell had stayed at Microsoft, it would probably be remembered as the most important FPS of all time. History denied it this, because a more important one came out in the same year. But what a thing it remains.

Going back to it now, it’s interesting to realise how heavily it pre-empts the arena FPS – or indeed, invents it. The single-player campaign, which is enormous, regularly featured large open areas in which enemies used their wits, circled you, forcing you to learn new ways to fight that weren’t just pointing and clicking in a corridor.

It was the first game to make coloured lighting look good (to such great effect). Programmer Tim Sweeney was in an unofficial competition with id’s Jon Carmack, adding in new technological features, new ways of doing textures, and perhaps most significantly, some of the most amazing indoor-to-outdoor seamless transitions games had seen at this point. It was the game we all bought a 3DFX card for.


  1. Urthman says:

    One of my top ten “Wow” moments in gaming was playing Unreal fir a bit and then installing my first Voodoo card. Everything looked so impossibly clear and sharp, I thought I was going to get a paper cut on the level geometry.

    (Most of the other 9 are breathtaking sights in Guild Wars 2.)

    • Matt_W says:

      I had exactly the same experience: volumetric fog, reflections, etc. suddenly appeared.

      Unreal used narrative-based events, seamless transitions, no out-of-engine cutscenes before HL did. And it looked better than HL too. That sequence right at the beginning, where you’re in a hallway, the lights shut out, and you can hear a monster charging at you, was pretty amazing at the time.

      • Spacewalk says:

        The reflections (how anyone could get their floors that polished is beyond me) and the water definitely. The water looked very inviting to jump into with the mix of greens and blues and that rippling effect on top which looked reet demoscene. Even if there were eel men lurking beneath the surface I had to stop and gawk at every pool I came across.

      • Nucas says:

        unreal needed to be about 15 to 20 levels shorter. it had impressive vistas but those cool moments dried up fast and didn’t resume until the mothership level at the end. it just went on sooooooo long, and so much of it felt like filler.

    • Darkz0r says:

      Those were the days, haha. First vodoo card which was an ADD ON card, people nowadays can’t believe we actually had a primitive SLI running back then to render “3D” stuff.

      Unreal was indeed a hallmark, 4mb or 8mb voodooo at the time lolz

    • zytos says:

      For me it was seeing Star Wars: Jedi Knight for the first time after installing a Canopus Pure3d. Wow.

  2. Jekhar says:

    Oh yeah! Detail textures, animated textures, colored lighting and that glorious tracker (mod) music! All around good games. The first Unreal and UT will always have a special place in my heart.

  3. Ross Angus says:

    I think I’ve played through it three times. Recently, I watched JP LeBreton’s playthrough using his own tourism mod, from a recommendation from Tom Francis. His commentary is great.

  4. DaGrimOne says:

    This gem of a game gets much to little attention, and although Half-Life was more influential and probably inventive, Unreal was the first FPS where you really felt like experiencing a story, albeit a pretty cliche one. The levels were incredibly atmospheric and the duels with the cleverer enemies were, at that time, absolutely unprecedented. It’s one of very, very few FPSes that I regret not to have finished at the time, but the campaign was looong. And all that’s before mentioning how I spent days tweaking the graphics to impossible levels until my PC, with great effort, produced 1-2 frames/second. Only to admire how awesome that castle in the title screen looked.

    • ansionnach says:

      Not sure exactly what you mean by the first FPS with a story but it could be argued that earlier games such as Dark Forces, Jedi Knight, the Marathon trilogy and Goldeneye were strongly story-driven.

  5. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    There was some fantastic build-up. The prison ship, where you stumble about unarmed as the prisoners are massacred just as you’re about to step around the next corner was beautiful and exciting. The bit where you’re in a tunnel and the lights start to shut down and a wall of darkness advances towards you before the first Skaarj jumps out and tries to invert your skull – brilliant. But the game itself suffered.

    Weapons lacked heft out of a determination to not be “pistol, shotgun, rocket launcher” but forgot to replace them with weapons that were fun and interesting. It had a story that faded out early and left no real sense of progression. Environments never quite sold themselves despite Unreal’s eyeball melting graphics tech (look at Half Life! That was a place with PLACE). Enemies could be frustrating instead of interesting to fight, like the hopping, bullet-sponge Skaarj and the flying enemies.

    Unreal was a important game, one that was necessary for today’s games to exist, but Unreal is a transitional game. Ultimately it is important for what came after, rather than for what it was.

    • Focksbot says:

      I completely disagree about the weapons not being fun and the environments not ‘selling themselves’. The razorjack and flak cannons were brutal and brilliant – you could lop off heads and legs, and have enemies crawling toward you on stumps. And I’ll never forget the sacked Nali water temple, or the trudge through the main part of the ship later in the game, reconstructing the horror of the earlier battle from datapads.

      • funkstar says:

        one of the selling points for UT was that the weapons had more ‘oomph’ shall we say (this may have even been on the back of the box), that said having never played Unreal itself I can’t comment on how fun they felt in it, but Epic themselves saw it as something to address for UT so it must’ve been a (fairly?) common complaint

    • Muzman says:

      I was thinking the same sort of thing. I like the game quite a bit and playthrough it now and then. But it’s so obvious it belongs to a different era. Little text boxes to read, obvious game-y design here and there in amongst all the other world-y stuff, no voices to be heard really. They were tentative in trying to marry the power of their engine and true world building, narrative, atmosphere and general coherence in a game. It still feels like a “shooter” belonging to the Doom, Quake, Duke mold. But you could see it coming very close.

      In that sense it puts a cap on an era rather than ushering in a new one. Half Life and Thief would do that a few months later.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      Yes! I remember that I loved the beginning of the game, but that I was so bored after the first couple of hours of the game that I stopped playing.

    • socrate says:

      totally agree with lord custard the ai was fun though because it did what player did in multiplayer match…and compared to todays AI…look at fallout 4 where enemy still don’t realise you’re in a small shack or container and still try to shoot and grenade you as if they could shoot through wall or something…but Half-life just did everything better…the AI of the army and commando troop are still unmatched sadly…even half life 2 had retarded AI alots of the time…unreal had alots of cool moment…but alots of people lost attention and couldn’t follow the story that seemed just a second thought…still a good game and a must play for new gamer since it shows alots of good thing about what we lost in gaming and that a game that old still beat all these fps today in alots of domain.

    • icemann says:

      2 words. Flak cannon. Enough said.

      Best weapon in any FPS EVER. Even more so in multiplayer.

    • dethtoll says:

      I completely agree. I recently played it again over the summer and it has aged very poorly. I remember being bored by it 15 years ago; somehow, it remained boring, and even frustrating. It was like if Quake had been made by Radiohead fans who read Larry Niven instead of metalheads who read Lovecraft.

  6. Napalm Sushi says:

    Emerging from the wreck of the Vortex Rikers is probably my single most memorable moment in gaming. It was like the bit in Gladiator when Juba stares slack-jawed at the Colosseum and says “I didn’t know men could build such things.”

    I wouldn’t have made that link at the time, of course, because Gladiator was still 2 years away. Christ.

  7. Andrew says:

    It’s hard to define those things, but I feel that “Unreal” was (last) best old shooter. Something like: “Wolf” → “Doom” → “Quake” → “Unreal”. Fast, hard (AI is awesome!), environmental storytelling, a lot of weapons, that sort of thing. And “Half-Life” was first new shooter. More-in-your-face story, emphasis on realism (relatively speaking) of combat and environments, stuff like that.

    Both are great, no question about it.

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      Risingson says:

      Agreed. I actually enjoyed Unreal much more than Half Life: its lack of blah blah blah, its silence, fits more to my idea of a game, and the exposition was not that bad. The engine was incredible, expansive, and was a crucial ingredient for beloved games like Deus Ex or Undying.

      The colours! The light effects! The surfaces! I played it a bit again some months ago and still holds up.

      • Andrew says:

        Oh, don’t get me started on Unreal Engine games (“Undying”, “Deus Ex”, ”Rune”, etc.)! At some point I was collecting them, which is weird :)

    • MartinWisse says:

      Unreal was decent, but the real last old skool shooter surely was the original Unreal Tournament.

      • Andrew says:

        UT is MP and don’t have proper SP. Abbreviations!

        Last in a sense of before the divide. And divide is a spectrum here, mind you, ‘cause you can have a lot of old in “Half-Life”, for example.

    • dethtoll says:

      It’s really funny to me how Half-Life gets pilloried in some PC gaming circles because it’s probably the closest to Marathon’s vibe a game has ever gotten.

  8. RedViv says:

    What SJW nonsense is this, a shooter with a lady as the default character? Bah!

  9. shevek says:

    Two things still stick with me about Unreal. It was one of very few FPSes with levels that were designed to be explored rather than simply traversed, and – as far as I know – it’s still the only FPS where you play as a woman by default.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      You were a woman? Huh, I never noticed. More innocent times, I guess.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      NOLF 1/2 are FPS games, aren’t they?

      • LionsPhil says:

        I guess the sneaky focus puts them into a somewhat separate subcategory, and NOLF 2 has a delicious sprinkling of RPG elements.

    • Urthman says:

      I think the Wheel of Time game counts as an FPS (and was a pretty great game), even if it has a lot of RPG magic stuff in it.

      • Urthman says:

        (And the protagonist in Wheel of Time was a woman, I meant to say.)

    • tanglewood says:

      Perfect Dark on N64

  10. thelastpointer says:

    For everything that was and will be, this is my favorite game ever.

    There’s probably a big chunk of nostalgia playing, but damn, nothing ever beat Unreal for me. I still blast through it every two years or so.

  11. Focksbot says:

    So many memories of Unreal – particularly the grappling hook mod which let you take a completely different approach to every obstacle. There was one level which was just a long road leading to a massive tower, at the top of which was a sort of balloon. You could grapple straight to the balloon and finish the level quickly, or use the grapple line to surprise the enemies on every floor of the tower.

    Also, the sniper rifle! Zooming in on enemies playing dice while they waited for you to show up.

  12. ansionnach says:

    It came with my Sound Blaster Live! Platinum card and 5.1 speakers. Ran out and bought them pretty early on but the speakers weren’t that great and 3d sound seemed like a fad so I eventually sold the lot. Didn’t play Unreal much even though I may have had the card a year. It looked and sounded great but I thought it was quite lacking when it came to gameplay. The weapons seemed pretty puny as well. Came as a big surprise when Unreal Tournament was great (even though it can’t touch Quake 3).

    • DevilishEggs says:

      I also got it with a Sound Blaster Live, which I saved up for as a youngster. Should have kept saving and gotten a 3D card …

      • Sic says:

        Ah, Creative. The arseholes that cornered the marked and spread their horrible products to everyone.

        Thank God I was a properly informed child and had a Gravis Ultrasound.

        • ansionnach says:

          After years with the PC Speaker (or no sound at all), I’d rate compatibility pretty highly. First card was a SB16 and it worked with everything. Its OPL3 synth did the job (many games that supported MT-32 or GM did it as an afterthought and the OPL sound tracks were better anyway). Since then I found a few Microsoft Sound System boards boxed as new in a skip and picked up an AWE32 and Yamaha DB50-XG daughterboard (GM compatible). The MS Sound System (version 1) had OPL synth but wasn’t compatible with most games when it came to digital audio as it had no Sound Blaster compatibility. The AWE32 was probably the best sound card you could get as it was fully SB-compatible had hardware GM support through the daughterboard, GM and MT-32 emulation through the AWE-32 (I had it loaded with the maximum memory it could take) and it worked with the AWE MIDI standard (which never sounded that great in the few games that supported it).

          All that history lead up to the SB Live!, with its annoying exclamation mark and even more annoying compatibility problems. You should have seen Creative’s usenet forums around the time this card was released – full of people screaming blue murder because their new Sound Blaster card wasn’t SB-compatible. The emulation and other technology they got when they bought Ensoniq required EMM386 to be loaded and often didn’t work that well. When it did work whatever soundfont they provided for GM emulation sounded about the best I’ve ever heard for games – much better than the DB50-XG, whose instruments often didn’t seem to quite suit whatever was intended. Long story, short: “Sound Blaster” meant nothing without the compatibility. Perhaps there’s a little niche there for anyone who finally solves the PCI-SB compatibility issue? I booted into DOS quite recently on some modern machines and was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the games I tested worked perfectly fine, albeit without sound (unless there was PC Speaker support).

          Never used an Ultrasound card but the music in the few games that support it sounds good in DOSBox. Might be just me but DOSBox’s emulation of Ultrasound digital sound is very laggy (I’ve got a fast i7 machine) so I still use the trusty SB16.

      • ansionnach says:

        I already had the 3d graphics card (generic Voodoo 1, 4MB). Thought there might be a similarly noticeable improvement in game speed with a 3d sound card… but there wasn’t. The fact that most of my games were DOS ones that needed SB compatibility was a deal-breaker for me. Funny story, but since I was under a ban of sorts from spending my money on games, one of the main reasons I bought was to get Unreal… but it was a bit of a naff game, so money was wasted all ’round!

  13. Text_Fish says:

    Meh. The monsters were pretty boring and the guns didn’t feel meaty. Arguably, Doom was doing huge outdoor arenas five years earlier, and all the Quake’s had its multiplayer beat hands-down.

    It was pretty, I’ll give you that. I recall it kicking off the long and brutal “looks VS gameplay” debate in my circle of friends, and it was always on the wrong side; something to be played by people who were more interested in showing off their powerful rig than actually playing a fun, well designed game.

    I bought a 3DFX card for Quake 2.

    Sorry, I didn’t come here to disagree with everything in the article, but it turns out I do. :o

    • Text_Fish says:

      Oh and I just realised Jedi Knight came out a year earlier. That had a much more impressive sense of scale in its level design.

      • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

        Yeah, Jedi Knights was the ground breaker. The Pixies to Half-Life’s Nirvana. Unreal was, err, Pearl Jam? Not sure where this is going.

      • ansionnach says:

        Yeah, Jedi Knight was good, and they improved the light sabre a little in Mysteries of the Sith.

    • apa says:

      I bought the first Voodoo card for AQ2.

  14. Faults says:

    Oh, Unreal. My one, true love. I still absolutely adore this game. My feelings have mostly been covered by others in the comments here, but also, for the time, the sound and music were incredible. The huge reverbs and environmental audio helped the game have a real sense of place and presence, and the music was just magical and unique – the perfect score for trekking through exotic and unknown territory.

    The game had so many amazing additional campaigns as well – Return To Na Pali (and the community-curated Ultimate Edition), Operation Na Pali, Deja Vu, Hexephet, Xidia, Seven Bullets – all of which expand on Unreal’s mythos in beautiful and creative ways.

    As long as you don’t mind some old (but still very pretty) graphics, this game and the original Unreal Tournament are absolute steals on GOG, and will give you weeks of gaming pleasure.

  15. PancakeWizard says:

    Would love to see this rebooted. I even idly outlined the level beats for it once. It could be done if they keep that ‘Another World’ feel to the sci-finess. It needs to feel alien and impossible, not run-and-gun marines vs skaar.

  16. Psychomorph says:

    One of the few most significant games for me. In fact I still play it.

  17. GameCat says:

    And years later, Unreal still doesn’t have proper sequel (let’s forget about Unreal 2…) or even spiritual successor.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      Weirdly Destiny reminded me of Unreal, or at least the lack on Unreal, in its fantastical sci-fi locations and scale. Shame it never let’s you pause to take it in like Unreal did.

    • Psychomorph says:

      Waiting for Unreal 2… I mean 3.

      I have the suspicion I see grave sooner than this.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      Unreal 2 was terrible, but I have a soft spot for Ne’Ban. The way he talks, the details of his little cabin, the reveal of his royalty that he doesn’t seem to think is important. All that works, and is sadly the only thing that does.

      Actually, I liked the idea of the giant organism planet, but only the concept worked, the execution was just as bad as everything else.

    • Josh W says:

      I found unreal 2 to be more confusing than disappointing, I assume I must have got it at a serious discount or something, but when I was playing it I kept remembering things I’d heard that they were going to try in the game, like what I know think of as “walking dead” style conversation prompts where not answering is an answer, and in the end it seemed less like the (equally unnameable at the time) “unreal+mass effect” I was expecting and instead made unreal just a little more bulky, ponderous and slow.

      But my response wasn’t to be grumpy about it, but to wander through it absorbing the scenery, and constantly feeling like I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere.

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    gritz says:

    I noticed no one here is talking about the Co-op gameplay. Sure, it had a great campaign and fun deathmatch, but I remember it being the first FPS to really make co-op compstomping feel right.

    It’s a pity that mode never really took off back in 1998.

  19. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    The memories! Loved this game. It was the first thing I played after getting my Voodoo 2. Still think it looks incredible. And the scale of it! The floating islands. That crashed spaceship, where you walked up the valley of its impact slowly realising how f-ing big it was, and that the only way round was through.

    Halo was such a rip off, from the ship based opening to the arena combat.

    But Unreal will always be my intro to multiplayer FPSes via the bot system. I spent so many more hours playing that than the single player. They should have made a multilayer only sequel!

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      Wait, Halo was an Unreal ripoff because you started on a spaceship and then got off the spaceship? Because that’s the only thing their opening levels have in common. And Unreal’s deathmatch has more in common with Doom’s (i.e. still not much) than it does with Halo’s.

  20. GWOP says:

    Here’s Campster’s video essay on Unreal’s brilliant intro.

    link to youtu.be

  21. oceanclub says:

    Any gamer of that era will always remember leaving the claustrophobic ship into that amazing landscape and “standing” there, slightly stunned. It’s the PC gaming equivalent of Lawrence of Arabia’s match cut.

    But, erm, the game does go on too long and gets bogged down and frankly the enemies weren’t that fun to fight (a problem the sequel Unreal 2 really highlighted). I’ve played it twice and never actually finished it. Maybe one day.


  22. GallonOfAlan says:

    Sure. Was more colourful than Quake, certainly, but it hasn’t stood up nearly as well. Also those Nali were fucking annoying bastards.

  23. Urthman says:

    Also, was Unreal the first game to include bots for deathmatch? I never played online back then, and playing deathmatch with the bots in Unreal was the first time I’d every tried that FPS mode and was surprisingly fun.

    • Faults says:

      It was the first game to have bots as part of the retail package. You had stuff like ReaperBot for Quake I and II (IIRC the dude who coded ReaperBot was Steve Polge, who actually programmed all the AI for Unreal) beforehand, but they were mods.

  24. JoeFX69 says:

    I was 13 when this came out. I saved for over a year to buy a voodoo (then a voodoo2 which came out mid way through saving) and 64mb of ram.

    I still remember the PC Gamer reviewer (probably Matt) saying about the graphics…

    “this is to Quake 2 what Quake was to Doom”

  25. ariston says:

    I wrote them an angry email, because the game was like a slideshow on my pc (had an ATI Mach something or other with a whopping 1MB memory). They coolly replied: “all I’m saying is, if you think Unreal’s textures will fit into your 1 MB, then you’ve gotta be kidding. Buy a new card.” Best customer service ever.

  26. merzbau says:

    Two things I fondly remember that I don’t think anyone’s mentioned yet:

    1. The variety of character models selectable from the multiplayer menu but applied to the single-player game. How did I know this? Because if you selected one of the characters with an artificial leg the game would change their footstep sounds from thump-thump to thump-clang and that was frigging AMAZING.

    2. The portal method in the Unreal engine for attaching rooms together! It wasn’t dynamic like in, you know, Portal, but enterprising mappers had a field day with it, including a truly stunning DM-Escher level I kind of want to track down and replay right now…

  27. Schnallinsky says:

    I got the game around the first time I bid my first own CDs. I don’t remember exactly why I picked them – probably I judged them by the cover – i got Portisheads “Dummy” and Pulps “This is hardcore”. I turned off the music, and listened to those two records over and over again, for days on end.

    I replayed the game some time ago (nostalgia), but the original soundtrack just doesn’t feel right.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      What a great post! I used to do this. 1080 Snowboarding on the n64 IS the prodigy’s fat of the land video in my head. Dummy is such a great album.

  28. aoanla says:

    I remember being shown Unreal by a friend who wanted to show off the really impressive graphics and being really impressed, but I didn’t get around to actually playing it myself until several years later. (By which time it was no longer quite the cutting edge experience it had been at release.) The AI was still really impressive, though, although personally I’m glad we’re not in the era where games wanted to be quite as punishingly difficult as they were then.
    But, the thing I most remember was the Nali, and the fact you were rewarded for helping them. Somehow the concept made a strong enough impression on me that I believed for years after that Unreal actually tracked a “Nali kindness” stat over the entire game (it doesn’t – only events within each map count for that map), and I think when playing it I even suspected it might change the ending… So, that was the big innovation for me in FPS design.

  29. Faults says:

    It appears the RPS hivemind swallowed my last comment on this article, but it’s worth pointing out that quite apart from the regular singleplayer campaign and deathmatch modes, Unreal and UT have many fantastic additional community campaigns. Return To Na Pali: Ultimate Edition, Operation Na Pali, Deja Vu, Xidia, Seven Bullets and Hexephet are all wonderful additions that will seriously extend the life of the game if you enjoy singleplayer and co-op Unreal.

  30. nightcabbage says:

    To me, the best games transcended themselves in their fans’ minds to be an actual world… a place that “exists”, and that you could travel to. What I remember most about Unreal was how Na Pali felt real. The jonesing to hop onto the computer wasn’t to “play a game” and “shoot monsters”… it was to go back and discover more of Na Pali. Even all these years later, I still remember it in a similar fashion.

    I recall the fantastic strangeness of a place completely different than anything I had experienced before, and how even though the genre was technically science fiction, almost everything about it felt very ancient and mystical. I recall slowly discovering the tattered vestiges of a veiled monk-like race, their echoed memories coming to me in fragments as chants (in the game’s OST.) I recall it being night, and gazing at strange stars in a cold sky with a howling wind at my back as I floated out of a tunnel to find a hidden village clinging to the side of a valley… and surely that was a damp chill on my skin I felt at the time? I recall standing beside a lantern on a castle rampart made of hewn stone, looking far, far off into the distant horizon of a multi-colored sky, and wondering what was out there beyond the mountains that hemmed you in. I recall feeling completely alone, on a distant world, far far away… and I couldn’t think of any other place more entrancing to be. It was MY place that I could go back to time and time again, and even though after a time I knew the maps my heart, it still felt like there was more out there to discover.

    It really was magic. It’s hard to encapsulate unless you were of the right age with the right mindset and played it at the right time. And the magic was so powerful as to make it enduring. To this day seeing a screenshot of the sunspire or hearing a portion of one of those instantly recognizable UMX music tracks will immediately place me back there again.

    To me, Na Pali is still out there, somewhere, waiting to be explored again.

    • elaforge says:

      This is exactly how I felt. And it was so long it had the feel of an epic journey. By the end you felt so far away from those first steps, and the endless loneliness made it feel even farther. To this day I don’t think I’ve played another game that gave that feeling of distance and a journey. And what other game takes a time out in the middle to take a boat ride down a river at night?

      I think it also had to do with the unpolished nature of the game, that it wasn’t put together like a movie where every scene has to mean something, which usually means some heavy handed script writer has to make sure the densest 14 year old will get the Big Message it’s trying to express. Instead, you get a semi-structured sequence of scenarios with some vague hints of story about them and you must infer for yourself what it means. And all these implications that the Nali also had a pretty grim side, and that they had some kind of high technology upper caste and etc. etc.

      I also liked that the overall goal was basically just to get out of the situation. The first task of a prisoner is to escape. Not saving the world or defeating the ultimate evil (though of course the path to the escape ship leads right through the alien queen’s bedroom). The implications that you are the prophesied saviour of the Nali are just implications, and there’s nothing to suggest that your motivations are anything more than stay alive and get out of here. That sort of accidental or ambiguous messiah was something I liked about Morrowind, and the various sequels totally threw away. I always imagined my character was just a tenacious felon trying and continually failing to get off the planet and cutting a hole through the slavemasters along the way. And of course that ending… once again stranded on a ship going who knows where.

      And that sunspire. I’d love a redo with modern graphics. Not modern storytelling and cutscenes and Bob the Nali telling you your next task via radio. Though better written translator entries and more scripted sequences could be nice. Maybe more open levels with multiple paths… Farcry 1 meets Unreal 1…

  31. icemann says:

    For me, Unreal was the reason I bought a gfx card. Voodoo 2.

    EASILY one of the best FPS games of all time in my opinion. Fantastic graphics that still look beautiful today (how many games from the 90s can you say that about even today?), such great music and damn good combat. Oh and the weapons. FLAK CANNON.

    To this day, I make a point of coming back and playing this game ever few years.

    Just don’t talk to me about sequel. Meh.

    Unreal Tournament was certainly great as well, but for me this was the stuff. A game everyone should play atleast once. If only to see that first view of the distance after leaving that prison ship, with that beautiful music in the background. Damn.

  32. emertonom says:

    The most notable thing about Unreal in my mind is that it’s the first game I remember seeing a dev log for before it came out. The internet was pretty young then, but the devs were really excited about the tech behind the game, and they posted little videos of some of the monsters and that sort of thing before the game was actually available. It looked so mind-blowing to me back then! I was really impatient for it to come out. When it did, the first few levels seemed amazing, and the next few not so much, and I don’t really remember the rest. I did like the “secondary firing” mechanic, and particularly the razorjack weapon, but honestly much of the game is kind of a blur to me. A year later, though, when System Shock 2 came out, I was struck that this was the same kind of thing they’d done at the start of Unreal, but carried through into a proper full game. (There’s a moment in particular in SS2 when you’re looking through a glass door and someone is killed in front of you, and it’s *extremely* reminiscent of a scene near the start of Unreal.) Admittedly, the original System Shock had been the pioneer of that stuff, but that ran so poorly on my machine at the time that I didn’t fully appreciate it until years later.

  33. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Playing it on a borrowed Matrox M3D was perhaps peak gaming moment for me. Not because of how good it was, but how much of a jump forward it represented.

    Excuse me while I go dig out some Alexander Brandon .xm’s and rock out..

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    particlese says:

    Glad to see this game being remembered so fondly. At this point, I have nothing useful to add except that the Titan and eightball were also really cool, and that it has bunnies who wanted nothing but for you to find the ammo and health packs. Even Skyrim, with its of non-hostile wildlife, doesn’t have such amazing technology: You have to shoot the bunnies to get a piddling health pack, and maybe the ammo you just chucked at it.

  35. Hunchback says:

    Uneral was Epic!

  36. zeep says:

    Unreal was also great to play with Infiltration COOP. Infiltration, mod for UT99.

    You play through Unreal as an infantry.

  37. asthasr says:

    I never liked it, actually. I played Quake, then moved on to Half-Life, and I began to make maps for those games. Approaching it from a mapper’s perspective, Unreal was primarily notable for how blocky everything was. Compared to the nascent “realism” of Black Mesa (which always felt like a cohesive whole, even though it wasn’t) or the abstract geometry favored by Quake mappers, Unreal always felt flat and dull, punctuated by gaudy lights.

    • Faults says:

      It’s funny, I think there were definitely two very separate ‘schools’ of mapping back then. Everybody was either hardcore into Quake and Quake II, or avowedly Unreal. I was definitely in the latter camp – I thought that Unreal’s BSP methodology was kind of ingenious and elegant (subtracting geometry out of solid space), and I couldn’t understand why anybody would find Quake’s method of blocking in two-sided brushes, running a script to cull unused ones and then play the old game of ‘hunt the BSP leak’ to be enjoyable or condusive to good workflow.

      But the proof is in the pudding, and of course Quake/qii/half-life had some incredible maps. Although I’d emphatically disagree with you that Unreal’s felt blocky or flat, but that’s probably nostalgia talking :P

      • asthasr says:

        I think the blockiness is actually due to the subtractive geometry. “Building” things is intuitive; carving isn’t. As a result, many Unreal maps ended up with big, blobby shapes carved out of the “universe,” and then with structures built inside them. This approach (box maps) was also used in Quake, but with horrible results: no culling could take place because everywhere was “reachable.”

        After a while, I didn’t have very many leaks that were difficult to chase down. Sometimes I would forget to put a skybox on a room or something like that, but it’s not hard to notice. Half-Life also had a very useful “tracer” that you could turn on. It would draw a line that bounced around the level until it touched the void. Most leak-hunts took me less than a minute.

  38. bill says:

    I have indeed played it. I just finished playing it for the first time infact.

    Playing it years later, it’s a mixed bag.
    The graphics (with oldUnreal patch) hold up surprisingly well. It has a fair number of touches that I associated with newer games and hadn’t realized it had got there first.
    Some levels are great, but some are horrendous. Some weapons are good and original, but some are mostly confusing and useless.
    The enemies have good bot AI, which can make combat fun, but also frustrating at times.

    Basically, it’s really uneven. It doesn’t feel like a coherent game in the way that Half Life mastered, it feels like they made a random collection of levels, weapons, etc.. and then tried to jam them together into a game.

    Hence, it’s WAAAAAY too long and appears to have about 7 ending levels.. only to be followed by a bunch more levels and another apparent ending.