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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 09:45 GMT
Unreal update locks on target
By Darren Waters
BBC News Online

The next 12 months are going to prove an exciting time for fans of first person shooters (FPS) with Halo 2, Half-Life 2, Far Cry and Pain Killer all planned for release.

Unreal Tournament 2004
Would you shoot this man?
With that sort of competition the latest version of Unreal has its work cut out to stay ahead of the game.

Fans of the franchise will be glad to hear that the 2004 edition is a marked improvement on last year's disappointing outing.

But Unreal doubters will find little here to persuade them to come on board.

Unreal is about one thing only: online multiplayer mayhem.

For the uninitiated, it is a futuristic combat game in which teams of cyber punk-style warriors battle it out across post-modern, dystopian landscapes and Blade Runner-esque interiors with suitably impressive weaponry and heavy armament.

The game is very much in the style of a futuristic sport - and comes with a spectator option that allows the more passive players to simply watch battles between players across the world unfold online with a sportscast-style commentary.

Trigger finger

Unreal 2004
Vehicles add greater depth to gameplay and more fun
Unreal is all about reaction times - first-time players will be astounded at the speed of the action with hordes of players sprinting around maps, bounding up and down in the artificial gravity and firing off pin-point accurate blasts with their chain guns/lightning guns/rocket launchers etc.

For anyone aged 30 and above the game is a bit of blur as everything happens at such unrelenting speed. I may have to admit that I'm a little too old to be able to play Unreal effectively.

There is little preamble involved - it is blast or be blasted.

With professional tournaments now becoming established, the makers have ensured that there is a tremendous array of options to customise the game to your playing style.

The 2004 edition has followed the route of Halo and Battlefield: 1942 and included a number of vehicles, adding a whole new dimension to gameplay.

Some of the outdoor maps are beautifully crafted and a new game mode, Onslaught, adds a real tactical bite to proceedings.

UT 2004
If you have a powerful PC, the game looks great
The look of the game has been improved too - although you will need a top-spec machine with a fast processor, loads of memory and a turbo charged graphics card to really exploit the higher graphical features.

The game needs more than five gigabytes of hard drive space - which astounds this 32-year-old who remembers games running in 32k of memory.

On the negative side, loading times for multiplayer maps are agonisingly slow and frustrating as you wait to jump into the action.

But overall Unreal 2004 is a highly-polished FPS and will undoubtedly secure the game's status as one of the premier online shooters.

Unreal Tournament 2004 is out now for PC. A version for Mac is due to be released shortly.

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