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back to article Unreal: Epic’s would-be Doom... er... Quake killer

The summer months of 1998 have gone down in history as the period in which Larry Page and Sergey Brin took their PageRank web search engine technology and formally founded a company around it. They called it Google. Microsoft had just launched the internet-centric Windows 98. This writer had started working full-time for a web- …

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Unreal never did it for me in the way, say, Quake 2 did, but it certainly looked gorgeous. Volumetric fog, wide-open spaces, and very high-detail enemies all contributed to that. If I'd had a PC with more muscle, maybe I would've enjoyed it more.

Not sure how we're calling generational splits, but Half-Life was based, at least originally, on the Quake engine and is superior to Unreal (and everything else that came before it) in almost every respect. So, no, not the best single player FPS of its generation.

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I have to agree. It looked good but there was something strangely sterile about Unreal. I tried to play it more than once but could not bring myself to care about what I was doing no matter how I tried. I can't figure out what it was but it just seemed soulless compared to the alternatives of the day.

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JDX
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I didn't happen to have a PC it would run on properly since it basically required a 3DGPU (ah the days of 3dfx) - on my PC it actually did dithering to do colour shading in software!

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Windows

This - though for me Unreal came at the time I was falling out of love with computer games. Quake II was the last game I ever finished.

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Agreed

It was dull, despite multiple attempts I could never get into it, compared to things like Quake, Doom, System Shock, etc I was indifferent. Graphics aren't everything.

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re Half Life

Yes! Unreal was exceptional - I've loved every game in the series except Unreal2, but Half Life was released in the same year, but is surely the best single player FPS game ever. So many scenes from it stick in the memory, and anytime I hear the menu, health or charging sound effects, I'm instantly taken back to being lost in damp tunnels looking anxiously for head crabs -This doesn't happen me with Unreal.

Bizarrely, both games somewhat lose the plot 75% of the way through!

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Meh

Re: Agreed

Yes! Technically brilliant, way out beyond anything else around at the time, but not particularly fun. Also the Skaarj were so freaking tough - on the difficulty setting I played on at any rate - that fighting them felt more like an enormous chore than an enjoyable challenge.

I thought the original Quake did a great job of using the dulled colour palette to give a kind of grimy atmosphere that somehow made it more fun. Unreal looked like a crazy light explosion in an all night disco party but it lacked the solidity of Quake, never mind the many awesome things that Half Life brought to the table just a little later.

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Half-Life

Indeed, Unreal didn't really appeal to me, and IIRC it was buggy as hell when it came out. I already had Quake2 in my wish list, so I bought that instead. I did get to play Unreal at a friend's house, but we both agreed that it wasn't just there for us, and of course the multiplayer sucked.

Half-Life, however, was a much better experience. I didn't get to play it 'till 2000 though, and it was still an awesome game by then. Definitely kicked Unreal's socks, both in single player and multi. Hell, it spawned Counter-Strike which spun off into its own game! The other mod I've seen evolve into a full-blown game is Team Fortress.

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Alien

Re: "sterile"

I don't get that. The music was classic, the graphics were stunning, the gameplay was compelling, and overall the game was incredibly atmospheric - a masterpiece IMO. I can't think of a single thing I didn't like about it.

And anyway, you can't really knock a game that lets you shoot alien bunnies.

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I agree, but then again Quake 2 never did it for me either, the best thing about Unreal IMO was the fact that it led to Unreal Tournament, which shat all over both of them (memories of playing Deck 16 on a LAN).

But then again as you said, Half Life was better than either, both in terms of single player ("HOLY SHIT, A HELICOPTER!!!1") and MP (TFC, CS et al).

Oh to be 14 again.

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Happy

Re: re Half Life

Half Life was in a league of its own and I played it back to back with Unreal around 2000 / 2001. There are more sustained action sequences in Unreal than Half Life and the storyline is delivered in less subtle ways. Half life truly grabs you straight from the introduction and never lets go !

Both had memorable atmospheres though and Unreal's music and sounds were truly fitting of the otherwordly settings. Apart from the aforementioned "tunnel" sequence, my best memories of Unreal involve the Dark Arena where one faces a titan for the first time, visiting the Skaarj infested human ship, the build up to reaching Nali Castle and finally seeing and entering the mothership a the end. As far as single player FPS are concerned, both games are benchmarks for me. Both spawned great multiplayer games. I never got into the more basic FPS like Serious Sam or more complex games like Deus Ex.

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I think Frontier: Elite 2 adheres to your definition of fully rendered...1992? And Descent was also fully rendered - 1994.

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Alien

And more importantly, whilst it gets mentioned in this column occasionally and it won the gold award a while back, unless i missed something you still haven't actually done an article on Elite?

With the ongoing development of E:D it's surely time for it, or are you waiting for that to come out before you compare and contrast?

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Descent

Descent: Was this the first one that removed the horizontal floor and vertical wall "restriction" that seemed to be a feature of the earlier games?

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Re: Descent

It was the first to make me truly dizzy and lost within the space of 5 corners!

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Descent

"I think Frontier: Elite 2 adheres to your definition of fully rendered...1992? And Descent was also fully rendered - 1994."

Ah, Elite 2 and Descent. Always too easy to forget. I've tweaked the article.

And also: here's yet another plea to email corrections@ with stuff we've got wrong. We always get those emails, but we can't read every comment.

C.

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Re: Descent

People don't point out errors in the comments because they want to see the article corrected, they do it to show off their superior knowledge :-). Particularly when it comes to historical errors of the "That wasn't the first [whatever], it was 3D Space Blargle on the Tincan 2k Micro in 1977" variety.

Especially with the tendency of journalists (not necessarily El Reg ones) to correct the original article without any acknowledgement that there was an error in the original, which means that all comments on the error subsequently look daft.

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Re: Descent @diodesign

HOW, i mean HOW can anyone who ever played Descent, ever forget it!

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Re: Descent @diodesign

Played it on the PS1 and Acorn Archimedes. It did my head in.

C.

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Happy

Re: Descent @diodesign

Oh yes, I can't forget that game. I had the Mac version, which had a special CD soundtrack. Sadly, I lost that CD and the soundtrack's forever lost. :(

Yes, the maps were dizzytastic but hell, it was truly the first game that had 360 degree 3D. I'd think it would do wonders as an Ender's Game training sim: truly good Descent players understood that there's no up or down!

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Re: Descent

Ah yes! The Tincan 2K Micro! I had one of those, I bought the Mason Jar upgrade to preserve my data.

What a sweet system!

:)

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Re: Descent @diodesign

We used to play multiplayer on the sly in our college library. There was no better feeling when you should have been studying than dropping down on top of your mate and blowing him to smithereens. There's no hiding place when you've all three axis. I probably should have been chasing skirt but I did love Descent :)

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I loved Unreal.........

...........but left it for Half Life.

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Re: I loved Unreal.........

Me too. Half life ran rings around unreal. That and TFC was modded to HL too (I loved TF on quake). Unreal just didnt play well for me.

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Re: I loved Unreal.........

I'm in the same boat. Plus the modding community for Half-life was massive, bigger than Quake II's and orders of magnitude larger than Unreal's. Half-Life's mods meant the game was a permanent fixture on my hard drive for well over a decade. Can't say that about many, if any, games these days.

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One thing I do remember from Unreal..

That corridor, where you go down a lit corridor and there is a switch at the end. You hit it, and you can hear a noise getting closer slowly every second or so. You turn around and notice the lights are turning off one at a time, getting close leaving the player in total darkness.

Great game.

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Happy

Re: One thing I do remember from Unreal..

@Tsung

Oh yes one of the best early moments in any game. Really freaked me the first time that happened.

This was a great time for gaming. I remember strolling down to my local Game store to pick up a copy. The guy behind the desk asked me if I had a good enough system to run it. I had a Gateway with a Pentium 200MMX CPU, Creative AWE64 sound card, Matrox Mystique graphics card and a Matrox M3D 3D add on card.

Then straight to WHSmiths to buy a PC magazine for the obligatory patches on the cover CD. Thank god for ADSL three years later.

It looked and played great. I think I preferred it to Quake 2 because it was a nice change from green/brown.

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Re: One thing I do remember from Unreal..

It was usually the question "does it support glide?" I think I had an ATI rage 3d (with extra 2Mb RAM) and a voodoo 2 in 98. I know I had dual ISDN (BT home something or other) and used redhotant ISP which could bond both channels for 128k goodness!

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Re: One thing I do remember from Unreal..

The bit I remember is right at the start, when your'e crawling through the ship and get into an air vent. You spot a figure up ahead but it scarpers just as you see it. Then later you get to a door and hear people on the other side trying to open it.

Then they die horribly.

I think it gave me a few uncomfortable nights that one...

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Re: One thing I do remember from Unreal..

ATI and Glide and 3dfx and Voodoo. Heady days. I went the Voodoo route entirely because 3dfx Voodoo sounded much cooler to my teenage self.

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Pint

Re: One thing I do remember from Unreal..

3fdx and Voodoo - a trip down memory lane. I had an ATI 2D/3D card, with a pair of Voodoo2 12Mb 3D only cards. It was the first device to feature SLI. Now we think nothing of it....

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Those were the days, Carmack was and shall always remain a god to me...or should I say Makron? :)

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Unreal’s action was classic 1990s FPS, but its plot was more than a mere justification for the combat that follows: it was a tale told through the medium of play.

And there, for me, was where things started to go wrong with FPS. It's an entirely personal view point but when I play an FPS I don't really want a story. I just want to be able run around like an asshat laying waste to whatever I see without serious regard to ammo levels or health packs. I can't remember Unreal too well but the other thing I really dislike with a lot of FPS is being forced to follow a particular route through a map by debris blocking corridors behind me. I also don't really want to have to become too skilled. I'm not a soldier and I don't claim to be I just sometimes (less often as I get older) like to run around firing weapons at computer generated baddies.

Unreal did look good and it set a trend that clearly a lot of people enjoyed. I'll happily accept that it was great and worth of accolades. Sadly it and it's descendants left me behind somewhere.

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Personally I prefer my single-player shooters to be atmospheric and have a decent story, though I don't mind the occasional mindless frag-fest.

Sounds like Left 4 Dead 2 might be right up your street. What zombies lack in intelligence they make up for in numbers.

*Incoming Horde*

Oh fsck!

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Quake, iD, Doom.

One needs to have a long memory in order to remember the last time iD released a good game... (Although I have to admit that Rage is sitting in my Steam library, still unplayed. But the odds of it being a truly good game are pretty long.)

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Re: Quake, iD, Doom.

problem is it's become too much of an industry

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JDX
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Re: Quake, iD, Doom.

Quake Live is pretty good ;)

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Re: Quake, iD, Doom.

Quake was a good mindless game of random stuff and lots of guns. Quake 2 and 4 were my fav which deeply impressed me to the point that I can still play both in sequence without bothering about the graphics, the story carries the game.

I have the original doom which has an opening reason (in the manual) and then leaves you in mindless carnage. I like story lines so I looked forward to doom3. I was left exeptionally disappointed. While it starts well and tries to include some story it seemed like a poor effort after playing quake4. I enjoyed the story parts in it but it seemed very lazy as though it was an after thought.

When I play a single player game I like reason. This irritated me with the half life games. The first was awesome and I can ignore the graphics and still enjoy it. Opposing force somehow had a load of new aliens but added to the story well showing Gman's interference and the black ops not working with the soldiers but eliminating them. Blue shift was lazy yet still added to the story just showing the new perspective. HL2 almost completely changed the whole story but in a plausible and effective way. Then things started to go down hill. Episode 1 wasnt too bad but was so short that it was limited in what it could achieve. Episode 2 was rubbish and only rehashed questions to tease players to want episode 3 and very poorly offer a hint of a link with portal. Newfangled graphics or not I have replayed all the half life games apart from ep2.

I tried to play unreal once but couldnt get it to run well enough at the time to play it. I might be tempted to see if I can get a copy now and try it after this review.

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@Turtle Re: Quake, iD, Doom.

If you don't have a fibre connection then it will take longer to download Rage than complete it. You could double the play time by driving in circles for a couple of hours.

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Re: Quake, iD, Doom.

Rage is perfectly good. It's matured out of its early instability and stands as a fine, if old-fashioned shooter with plenty going for it. The driving is passably fun.

Yes that's right internet, there's a huge wide continuum between "awesome" and "crock of shit". Most things fall into that space.

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Trollface

Re: Quake, iD, Doom.

> "crock of shit"

On you mean Big Rigs Over the Road Racing or Superman 64. Easily the two worst games since this era.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quake, iD, Doom.

It can be much harder to get creativity flowing when a game takes 12 months with a team of 20 people.

That's the modern reality of games, they are huge software projects. Expectations of graphics and the engines is so high that nobody can really afford to focus purely on the gameplay and have basic graphics.

Of course Minecraft and many mobile games are exceptions to that.

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Terminator

Re: Quake, iD, Doom.

Ahhhhhh geez, the "medical" scene in Quake 4 is and will always been a major favorite of mine. Just figuring out what is going on and the feeling of helplessness was wonderful. The the reveal during the briefing. Then the kicking ass afterwards.

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Anyone who never managed...

The strafe jump from the Rocket Platform to the Railgun Platform on Q3DM6 can lick my balls.

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Unreal Tournament & II for me

When I picked up Unreal Tournament I was sold. Back then I still played on PC so it didn't take me long to grab maps and mods and stuff and it was always plain out fun. Also because the graphics looked awesome but without overdoing it. Heck, we even played UT on fridays at work. Coolness :)

I fully agree with some of the other posts regarding the static looks of Unreal. Not Unreal per se because that looked awesome to me, but I was still a rookie back then. But I picked up Unreal Tournament on the PS3 a few years back and had the same feelings about it in comparison with the first UT I got on the PC. Gameplay is good, some interactive maps are also nicely executed, but it looks so static and "computerized" that it didn't compare at all to the first UT for me. UT had levels where you could see the rust and dents on some of the arena's, and it also featured some awesome levels too. Like that submarine level where you basically walked across a platform which could be overlooked from all sides. Rocket launcher madness ;-) Yet nothing of that anymore. I hardly spend as much time on UT PS3 than I did on that very first UT game on my PC.

And well, Unreal II was nothing like the first but I enjoyed it. Sad ending though.

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Re: Unreal Tournament & II for me

I liked the UT games, but there's a reason why they never took off in pro-gaming.

The problem with the UT series was both the movement and netcode was inferior to Quake. UT had to resort to double jumps, dodging and adrenaline combos to achieve what could be easily done in Quake with normal movement. The prediction engine was also a little suspect, I recall many times the thing registering a miss when I was certain I had the shot.

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Re: Unreal Tournament & II for me

different approach to gameplay

quake - long distance combat and movement, movement rubbery (thanks to a "game feature" called momentum) - when strafing left then you change to strafing right you still strafe left for a bit then rubber band pulls you to right. "feature" strafe running = bug exploit

unreal - fast close range combat and movement, very fast turns and instant movement changes. needs much better reflexes and twitch skills :) "dodge" movement built in from the start as a design choice.

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Re: Unreal Tournament & II for me

I preferred UT as well. Much preferred it to Quake 3. Very much enjoyed playing the level set on the rooftops in FFA and there was a CTF server I found 7 years or so ago that was playing a level with a massive rock feature splitting the map in half with various little routes through it. Does make me wonder if there are any servers out there still running as I feel a little nostalgic for it now.

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Happy

Re: Unreal Tournament & II for me

I think I know that CTF map.

We used to play UT multiplayer during lunchtimes day after day at one of my old workplaces. We had technical support vs production departments. It was brilliant. The sales guys just didn't get it. :)

Was that CTF map really, really big with little forts at either side? It used to get skipped a lot but I liked it. We had around 4000 maps loaded up so no game was the same. I remember when I installed the MatrixMoves mod and freaked everyone out by running along the walls, double jumping, pausing in mid-air and other such nonsense. It was great.

Happy days!

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