By Shamus Posted Thursday May 18, 2006

Filed under: Game Reviews 10 comments

Cinneris has a post about the original Unreal Tournament versus UT2003 and UT2004. I was surprised to read this:

[…] and to this day more people play UT99 than play UT2003 or UT2004.

Wow. I didn’t know that.

When the new UT2003 came out I grabbed it right away. I’d been a hardcore fan of the original. When I played UT2003 I was crushed. It wasn’t the same game at all. This wasn’t just fanboy nitpicking. This wasn’t just a reluctance to embrace a little change. This was more or less a whole different game.

There were two main games for online deathmatch: Quake and UT. One was not better than the other. They enjoyed a little Mac Vs. PC-style rivalry, but neither one truly dominated the market or eclipsed the other. They were just two very different games. So it was a real shock then UT2003 came out and I found it was more or less Quake. What the heck?

Cinneris mentions the double-jump as a major fan irritant. It is a bit too Mario for the world of deathmatch. But my main gripes are multitude, and lie elsewhere.

  • In UT, the default weapon (the weapon you start with as you appear in the game) had some punch to it. In Quake, the starting weapon is a “machine gun” that might – if the target sits still – be able to eventually tickle someone to death.
  • In UT, levels were tighter and running speeds were lower. Characters were proportioned more or less like normal people. In Quake, levels can be large and open, everyone runs at high speeds, and characters are kind of squat and bulky.
  • In UT, weapons and items look like physical items laying around the level. In Quake, they are more iconic: Weapons hover and spin like floating powerups in a Mario game.
  • Quake comparatively less damage. Weapons felt weaker, particularly the lower-level weapons. Individual projectiles did less damage, but weapons shot faster so there was more stuff flying around. This is sometimes called having “spammy” weapons, because it proliferates the number of projectiles flying around the world. Players end up just hosing everything down. In UT, the weapons were more uniform, and the gap between the best weapons and the worst weapons was much narrower. Weapons also had a lot more puch.

Not a Robot Ninja Girl

In all of these ways, UT2003 made itself more like Quake and less like its own predecessor. Take note that I am not knocking Quake. It is a very popular game and has many avid fans, but it is a different game. We now have two games that are more or less the same, the Quake franchise and the UT200x games.

(Many of these changes tilt the game on favor of the better player. In a match with only a few participants, killing someone causes them to respawn in a random location with the starting weapon. If the starting weapon is weak, they will be very vulnerable to being killed again. If there is a big gap between the best guns and the worst ones, then the player who was most recently killed has even more of an uphill battle trying to get back into the game. The result is that the loser keeps losing. In my own opinion, the Quake game is better for the hardcore public deathmatch, or a tournament, but UT seems a little more suited to a pick-up game between friends.)

This move doesn’t make sense from a business standpoint. The fact that so many people would rather play the seven-year-old original instead of moving to the one with the fancy pixels shows that the original has deep, lasting appeal. If these people were just being picky, they would have caved in and moved to the new game years ago. Making the upcoming UT2007 more like the original would entice all of the die-hards to put down the old game and give the new one a try. To wit: Epic could probably sell more games that way.

So this isn’t about money. I can only conclude the guys at Epic just like the Quake-style gameplay better.



From The Archives:

10 thoughts on “Un-Unreal

  1. Dan says:

    The original UT forced you to learn how to use the weapons to get optimal use of them. In the later installments it didn’t matter what gun you were using, they all sucked. In the original you could test different guns against eachother. rockets vs. flak, goo vs. mini gun ect. There was always a “gun for the job”. The change in level sizes pissed me off too, it became harder to make your escape when you were low on health/ammo. Guessing what people were gonna do and where they were gonna go became harder as well because there was more room to move. this took all the strategy out, you could no longer force people into corners, hallways, and stairwells to set them up for kills. Winning a match of UT gave you a sense of true victory like you were the one who really did play that much better. And when you lost you knew why you could look back and see your mistakes. Now in UT 200x when you win you don’t care and when you lose you just get mad and you feel cheated.

  2. Dan says:

    but I did like the addition of adrenaline and the shield gun ( it helps when your making your escape or when you just started the match in a room full of people with rocket launchers)

  3. Cineris says:

    Agreed on all these points. I had the same experience of finding that I was playing Quake. I don’t know what happened there — The only thing that needed to happen was to give the community a graphical upgrade, some new maps, better netcode and such. It was an auto-hit and they completely blew it.
    The Enforcer wasn’t the most powerful weapon but it was accurate and could take someone down quickly if they didn’t take you down first. They replaced it with a chest massager. They even made the melee weapon weaker, which completely blows my mind. I never heard anyone complaining about that unbalanced super-weapon the Impact Hammer (and I should know, I played hundreds of games using that weapon exclusively just for the fun factor), but they went ahead and made it so that it not only takes longer to charge up, but does significantly less damage when charged too.

    By the way, one of the reasons why UT2kX’s popularity issues aren’t immediately obvious is because the server browser reports bots as players. Since Epic has had ample time and ample complaints about that, I have to wonder whether it’s an intentional feature to inflate playercounts. It certainly looks better to see 8/16 or 16/32 than 1/16 or 1/32.

  4. Shamus says:

    The impact hammer! I’m glad you reminded me! I totally forgot about that. We’ve had HOURS of fun in “hammermatches”. If you’ve ever played a map DM-1on1Contact (Contact of the Mind) it’s a small map perfect for 2-4 people to chase each other around with the impact hammer.

    Weakening the melee weapon took away an entire dynamic and an amusing gametype. For no reason, as far as I can tell.

  5. Cineris says:

    Forget the Impact Hammer? How can the greatest weapon in the entire arsenal be forgotten? The magnificent valor of a man roaring forward into battle, piston primed, rockets and flak and bullets streaking by, or the animalistic grace of two combatants circling and charging like bulls in that most ancient and sacred form of ritualistic combat, the piston duel, how can this be forgotten!

  6. Zenja says:

    The razorjack was the best weapon – decapitating an opponent you couldn’t see, but you knew that he was just behind the corner. It was hilarious to decapitate yourself.

    I agree with a lot of the community, they should have just updated the graphics for UT2K?, and kept the UT99 gameplay. I still prefer UT99, but everyone is playing BF2 or WoW these days.

  7. Dan says:

    hey don’t forget that they added new modes to the 200x games and vehicles…oh wait I don’t give a poop about them

  8. Eric says:

    Ya know the original ut was just HORRRRRRRRRRRENDOUS, it was like playing mickey mouse death squad turbo plus. I mean there wasn’t enough violence and bloodshed. It was very softcore, and the character models were to chibi like for me. Now you take Duke Nukem 3D, That’s a game of the millenium!! I mean he said it all ” I came here to chew bubblegum, and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubbalicious!!!”. Now I have get back to another great game Disney’s Toontown online. Beeyatchasss!!!BOOOYAKA!!!!! nuff said.

  9. Cineris says:

    Heh. If the original UT was horrendous then 2kX was even worse. Because they switched to karma ragdolls for corpses, and the ragdolls are invincible, you get lots of floppy corpses but barely any blood or gibs. You can’t even pulverize an enemy’s corpse, very lame.

    Good news on UT2K7 though: Armor vests and thigh pads and shield belts are back. Dodge-jumping is out. Hopefully the gameplay is tight, fast, and brutal.

  10. ['N']Braah says:

    Dude none of u sees the best in ut2k4 – ALL THE DODGES
    If u actoually know how to play dodges make the game so much more fun, but in ut3 they’re takin em out, LAMMMMMMEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!u want a ground fight go play Quake 4

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