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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  1. Neil B

    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.

    1. Goat Jam

      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.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        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!

      2. Homer 1

        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.

    2. Code Monkey

      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.

      1. Lloyd


        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.

        1. breakfast

          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.

    3. 142
      Thumb Up

      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!

      1. T_o_u_f_ma_n

        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.

    4. Daniel B.


      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.

    5. Scott 62

      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.

  2. James Hughes 1

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

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      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?

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge


      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?

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: Descent

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

    3. diodesign (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.


      1. Spleen

        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.

        1. Montreal Sean

          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!


      2. James Hughes 1

        Re: Descent @diodesign

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

        1. diodesign Silver badge

          Re: Descent @diodesign

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


        2. Daniel B.

          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!

          1. James Delaney

            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 :)

  3. Shaun 2

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

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

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      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.

      1. Fibbles

        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.

  4. Tsung
    Thumb Up

    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.

    1. jason 7

      Re: One thing I do remember from Unreal..


      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.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        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!

        1. James Delaney

          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.

          1. Oz

            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....

    2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      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...

  5. b166er

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

  6. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    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.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Fibbles

      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!

  7. Turtle

    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.)

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: Quake, iD, Doom.

      problem is it's become too much of an industry

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Quake, iD, Doom.

        Quake Live is pretty good ;)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        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.

        1. Eradicate all BB entrants

          @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.

        2. Samizdata

          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.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        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.

    2. Neil B
      Thumb Up

      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.

      1. asdf

        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.

  8. Andy Fletcher

    Anyone who never managed...

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

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

    1. firefly

      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.

      1. Grave

        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.

    2. cyborg
      Thumb Up

      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.

      1. James Delaney

        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!

        1. MikeyD85
          Thumb Up

          Re: Unreal Tournament & II for me

          CTF-LavaGiant is the map you're describing.

          Was awesome when you played it with the Low Gravity and Jump Match modifiers. You could sit on the wall and snipe across the whole map.

  10. Robert Ramsay

    I loved it. And Unreal Tournament too.

    Nowadays the games are so realistic you can be as crap at them as you would be in real life.

  11. Ben Rosenthal

    I found Unreal to be pretty but rather dull.

    Unreal Tournament however, I still happily load up every now and then for a blast.

    1. auburnman
      Thumb Up

      Unreal Tournament was and still is the daddy. To my eternal shame I still haven't beaten Xan Kreigor fair and square to this day. It's just a shame that the sequel(s) were basically the same game with many of the same maps, only shinier.

      1. MikeyD85

        I managed to beat him on a couple of occasions, but he was very difficult to say the least!

  12. NomNomNom

    "Some Unreal opponents followed the classic FPS pattern of immediately attempting to interpret the player"

    That was my main gripe with the game. If you talked enough the enemies wouldn't finish writing down what you had said in time to dodge your shots. Made it a bit too easy.

  13. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    still got Unreal installed on this box (although its the mod that gets it to run on the Unreal torney engine)

    And I've never once since seen better level design than "the Sunspire" level from unreal.

    A vast 3D maze with blind alleys, horrible enemies and areas outside that have 400' drops if you get blasted off the side of it.

    And I still load up for a blast every now and then

    Not bad for a 1998 game....

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: I've

      It took me hours to figure out the exit!

      You need to activate a switch, then leave the room, go down a hallway, and wait at the end for a platform to arrive.

    2. Z-Eden
      Thumb Up

      Re: I've

      I loved the buildup and ISV-Kran levels. Legging it down that huge trench it made when it crashed (and dodging titans) and then wandering round the various decks of ISV-Kran. Finally, teleporting off the ship and looking behind you to see it looming over you.

      And then there's the whole Tarydium plant and lift before hand with the rather enjoyable shootout with the mercs you encounter round the atmospheric processors and industritech areas.

      Damnit, I feel the needs for some Unreal fun. And then maybe UT. Where's me redeemer...

  14. Cyberelic


    I have a strong memory of staying at work, playing Doom until late in the night, with all the accompaying joints. Then returning home alone to find the lift shaft lights in our block doing a Doom and flickering.



    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Memories

      I spent one long weekend playing the first three Doom games back to back. It left me with a desire to strafe through doorways but otherwise I was completely unaffected :)

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Memories

      Same here, though sadly no joints in our office. Even so, I can recall flinching when the lift doors opened - in Doom, something nasty was sure to emerge.

      I'd like to add my voice to the comments that deplore plotting in FPS games. I enjoyed Doom I and II and Quake, so when Doom III* came out I expected more of the same, only better. What I got was a load of training routines, and boring plot-filler talks from NCOs. If I wanted that sort of thing I'd join the Army**.

      * Pretty sure it was III - it might have been another number.

      ** Not to be taken literally.

    3. Vector

      Re: Memories

      Ah, but you know a game has got you when you dream it...

  15. N2 Silver badge


    Great game & still enjoy a frag in UT2004 now and again, just love the "head shot" & similar comments

    1. asdf

      Re: Unreal

      Yeah hard to get the UT3 "Road rage" ominous voice out your head as well.

  16. Darren Barratt

    You're not a real gamer unless you've had Doom related nightmares. Lost many nights to Doom sessions on the university lan back in the day.

    1. auburnman

      Or game 'flashbacks' In Real Life. Not Doom related but when Metal Gear Solid came out on PS1 I still to this day remember the day I panicked when I walked round the corner only to see I had carelessly walked into a security camera's field of view. Then I remembered I'm not Solid Snake and I'm not fighting terrorists. I'm at school and I'm going to be late for class if I keep dicking around.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Had something similar when I was completely consumed by Battlefield 2. Became so used to dodging mines that one day, whilst driving, my eye caught a mine and I started to panic before realising it was a man hole cover.

        1. Horridbloke

          I once tried to retrieve another beer from the far side of the room using the gravity gun - before remembering that I don't have a gravity gun and my name isn't Gordon Freeman.

        2. Scott 26
          Black Helicopters


          Played BF1942 at a BF-only LAN solidly through the night.... next morning, the girlfriend picks me up and we take a walk along the waterfront - a small aircraft (a Cessna, or similar) appears from behind a hill - my first/only reaction was to frantically look around for an AA gun.... GF decides it was time I got some sleep!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        When I started playing WoW (stopped now) I really hammered it for a few weeks. After getting to level 40 (the level when, at said time, you got your first mount), I remember announcing to my gf and a room of my friends that it didn't matter that somebody needed to go to the late-night garage to buy skins because I had my mount now and I could go on that :/

    2. Daniel B.

      Phobos Lab

      Dark. Scary. Even more as I was playing alone at my dad's home office, at night, in the dark. Having my dad suddenly appear behind the PC scared the shit out of me!

  17. M.D.


    I understand some of the comments about 'sterility' but, for me, the colour of the Unreal Universe brought an entirely new level of appreciation - I still recall just standing in some of the screen scenes, absorbing the detail/colour and being amazed!

    UT though, by 'eck, I became an absolute fanatic at that game, even going as far as getting it to work on Linux (where the graphics were far more 'accurate/pin-point') loved that game so much :)

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Dave 62


    DM-Prong, Voodoo 3. In its day it was awe inspiring.

    The rifle with spikes on it. The eightball loading animation.

    The green glow of goo.

    Then there was UnrealEd, then there was UnrealScript.

    Epic! You stole my youth!

  20. BobaFett

    Technically brilliant, incredibly dull.

    Whilst Unreal was technically brilliant, it just didn't excite me as a game to play. Yes, the colour palette was wide and varied but it lacked an artistic style. The designers spent more time trying to exhibit the technical feats of Tim Sweeney. I much preferred the feeling of the environments created by the guys at Id Sofware, even if Quake was all very brown. And I also preferred fighting Steve Polge's Reaper Bot for Quake deathmatch, than the opponents in Unreal. Admittedly, it's a different style of gameplay but I don't think Epic really used his talent to Unreal Tournament 2003 which was a lot more fun.

    It also disappointed me that both Quake and Unreal lacked the multitude of on-screen opponents that you could fight in Doom. Yes, they were proper 6DOF 3D, but they lacked the excitement and fun of Doom. Not to mention that neither of them had a multiplayer co-op. Had to wait for Left For Dead to get something of a similar ilk.

    And I think as other people have mentioned, the best single player story led FPS by a country mile was Half Life.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Technically brilliant, incredibly dull.

      Unreal had a slight problem drawing meshes, they were incredibly slow. It seems to have influenced the level designs, with less enemies to shoot presumably to avoid chronic slowdown.

      If they'd noticed the broken backface test in the mesh code sooner it might have been a more frantic game.

      1. jason 7

        Re: Technically brilliant, incredibly dull.

        Now that you mention it I do seem to remember that it seemed a bit 'one at a time' when it came to opponents.

        Ahh well.

      2. Suricou Raven

        Re: Technically brilliant, incredibly dull.

        By ut2k4, it was inverted: Meshes were far faster to render than world geometry, to the point where the approved map-making technique was to use world geometry for rough shape but then static meshes for all the fine detailing.

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Technically brilliant, incredibly dull.

      Quake had a multi-player coop mode, but god help you if you left friendly fire on...

      Because that quickly became a 4 player deathmatch mayhem with the poor unlucky monsters getting caught in the crossfire of a bunch of enraged maniacs suffering from testostorone poisoning..

  21. b 3

    what about the mods?!?!

    you never played the unreal mod tacops?!

    better than counter-strike, i played this to death!!

    1. Fink-Nottle

      Re: what about the mods?!?!

      Great memories of LAN parties - eating pizza and playing Capture the Chicken !!!

    2. Michael C.

      Re: what about the mods?!?!

      TacOps is a UT mod, but it was/is incredible, and blew CS out of the water.

  22. MH2

    Simply the best FPS

    My first experience with FPS was with Wolfenstein 3D. I liked it alot, but I couldn't play for than 20-30 minutes at a time without becoming nauseous and/or getting a headache due to the game engine mechanics. This remained true for all ID games. I never experienced this with the Unreal engine. The first time I played Unreal I was hooked. A buddy of mine and I would get together for multi-hour sesssions progressing from one level to the next. The open environment, allowing the player to wander Na Pali nearly without limit was ahead of it's time.

    Unlike the author, I thoroughly enjoyed the music. Sound effects were also outstanding. There was one level where you had to go down a corrider to retrieve something from a room at the end. When you returned, the lights started going out sequentially before you, darkening your return passage. This was where the flares and flashlights you collected previously came in handy. Still, the moment the Skaarj emerges from behind a hidden doorway and engages you in close combat just as you are nearing the exit and you think you're home free, is utterly unforgettable.

    The shear number of levels in the game, I think there were 36 in all, was unmatched by any other game I ever played. It took me months to complete the game, though I actually never made it past the last level (in the Skaarj mothership). I kept getting trapped in a small room with hordes of Skaarj coming at me everytime I opened the door. Even using the unlimited ammo cheat I could never kill enough of them to escape. My buddy claims to have finished the game, but that was sometime after I'd given up and moved on to such titles as Mech Warrior II and Alice.

    The entire Unreal series is simply amazing, though I never played Unreal 3, as it was never released for Linux. I still play Unreal Tournament 2004 regularly. The AI was unmatched in it's day, and I expect is still better than many even today. I only play single-player mode because most of the time network latency makes the game mostly unplayable, and single player can be modified in almost every respect to change actual gameplay. Most playable game ever.

  23. stuwj

    I got Unreal when it came bundled with a 3dfx Voodoo 3 card. It was the first time I'd played an immersive FPS and I remember being totally blown away by the scripted sequence with the gunshots and gibbing behind the closed door in Level 1 (the prison ship - Vortex Rikers?).

    Then came Half Life which was the first time a game kept me up 'til 3am, and only later did I get an old copy of Quake 2 c.2002 just to complete that "holy trinity", but I found that disappointing after finishing it at the first attempt - too easy. OK so it was an old game by then, but each to his own and all that.

    UT was fun with the Chaos Unreal mod (the auto gun turret!) but it'll always be the original Unreal for me. Fave level: ISV Kran - "main battery power - offline..."

  24. David Evans

    My real intro to online gaming

    I could never get into Quake; I came to it late and everyone I played against was just...better than me, but for some reason I got a handle on UT and actually got to be quite good, so I always had a bit of soft spot for Unreal (and its mods). So thanks Epic, for all the thousands of wasted hours over the last 15 years. Its your fault.

  25. Greg J Preece

    but it was Parallax's space-sim Descent and iD's Quake that took it to the next level: out went the sprites and in came characters and enemies all modelled in 3D - although, certainly in Quake's case, at the cost of a limited colour palette and a limited lighting model*.

    iD and its lead coder John Carmack set the bar for first-person shooters.

    And again we're going to ignore Future Shock? The game that came out before Quake, but had 3D enemy models, was the first game with mouse-look, featured driving and flying levels, had a better storyline, had better atmosphere, had huge (for the time) free-roaming levels encouraging exploration, etc, etc.

    Incredible game, that never gets appreciated, so I'm always hearing how an inferior game released later "set the bar".

  26. CBN

    Doom and Quake

    Fond memories of these:

    Doom, because I wrote the first level with intelligent traps and puzzles (Barrel.wad) and

    Quake because I wrote the first intelligent bots in "Quake C" that knew the levels. Yes - I beat Steve Polge to that one as I released Eliminator Bot in August '96, several weeks before his Reaper bot. Mine was technically superior as it used waypoints for the maps and he didn't use that idea until he started working for Epic. Sadly (?) I got a new high paying job and quit work on games, thus he got the job at Epic and I didn't. Such is life - wouldn't change it if I could, although I bet he made millions.

  27. Zot

    I remember the opening levels.

    The demo level was really well made, with cinematic staging and fx. Then it went downhill and gave a somewhat sparse and strangely lonely experience. Technically, I remember the amazingly fast software renderer and the spherical volumetric fog areas that created a great atmosphere.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah yes

    I never played the original, but I have fond memories of UT. That was the last online game I spent enough time on to get good at. One CTF map in particular had a sniper's roost that could see clear to the other side of the map. I got cussed at a lot on that map.

    Not that I could hear the cussing over the "Head shot, Head shot, Head shot, GODLIKE, Head shot, Head shot..."

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: Ah yes

      That would be Facing Worlds, where you could snipe straight into the enemy spawn area.

      spawn-snipe. spawn-snipe. Spawn-snipe.

      I wrote a UT2k4 mutator that replaces the sniper rifle with the 'petrifier rifle' - those it hits don't just die, but their corpse is frozen as a statue in mid-death. Makes some nice statue gardens around spawn. It's gameplay purpose is to provide a visual indicator of areas under sniper fire.

  29. Aaiieeee

    I got Unreal with the UT GOTY bundle. I was exploring the entry prison area and heard a blood curdling scream from down a corridor (about 2 minutes into the game). I quit the game and immediately un-installed it; didn't reinstall it for about 5 years.

    I think the tense multi-monster onslaught of Doom was best and has never been replicated in other games for me. The sheer panic of backing out of a room filled with monsters all coming at you, the noises they made were terrifying, especially the floating one-eyed red ones

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UDK - Unreal Development Kit

    All of this eventually led to the UDK... What do people think of it as a game development platform versus Unity 3D or CryEngine or others.....?. Any game designers on here...?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Duke did it for me.

    Unreal, great graphics, and I was truly blown away when I saw it.

    For me, even though the graphics were naff compared to Unreal, and Quake II, I really liked Duke Nukem 3D, probably for the idiotic 1980s action hero humour that both Unreal and Quake lacked.

    I guess that says it all about me :)

  32. reggie

    But Quake III

    had the most fluid player movement mechanics of any game I've ever played.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UT was my last FPS

    and Carmagedon my last simulator. Descent was fun - boring after some time though.

  34. 0_Flybert_0

    P2P > Server/Client ... MP > MMP

    Quake and Unreal were indeed breakthrough .. however there were no games in 1997 nor in Summer 1998 that had Multiplay other than Peer to Peer .. and one was lucky to get 8 players in stable .. no real team play possible .. usually small and uninspiring mission areas for frame rate considerations ..

    Then came (Starsiege) Tribes in Nov. 1998 .. the first FPS that included proper Server/Client code ( Red Baron 3D was first a couple of weeks before .. both titles were Dynamix products ) ..

    having MMP with team play possible changed everything .. Unreal .. at that point .. had to become Unreal Tournament or the franchise would have died

    When Tribes was made .. the game industry's consensus was that a release that was MultiPlay only could not succeed .. and within a few short years all the biggest shooters were Server Client MMP .. and still are .. Single Player there for a few hours fun and training to fight in MMP .. as I view things

  35. Samizdata
    Thumb Up

    I had played a lot of games at that time, but I remember, as I peeked up from behind a barrel for a quick peek, that I was actually seeing the real reflection of a Skarrj walking on a shiny floor and dying once because I found it so fascinating. Not so exciting now, but back then, that was a prett amazing thing.

  36. Wing_Chun_Master

    Unreal wasn't too great to me and I found quake alot darker and more gripping.

    Unreal tournament me will always be the greatest multiplayer FPS ever created.

    Sadly the later incarnations just didn.t match up in playability and current games like COD just don't have the accuracy or fast pace either. Now most multiplayer FPS games are just a respawn fest for fast paced play.


    1. Wil Palen

      Yes that was awesome!


      Some time ago I've been playing Xonotic which I find quite similar in feel to UT. But I sorely miss the rich selection in commands and taunts UT had. Remember "My house!", "anyone else want some?", "And stay down!", "see ya", "Medic!" ??

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a big gamer

    I occasionally would find myself staring at the bots from a high wall to watch what they tended to do or go.

    One day a skeleton faced thing crept up behind me and just poked it's deathly face round right in front on my view, I almost fell off the chair cursing.

    It occurred to me later who programmed that? seriously who did that I want to shake his hand, once I calm down enough to regain control of mine.

  38. Michael Habel Silver badge

    If Unreal was great it was only cause 3Dfx Glide made it GREAT!

    Glide was doing shi- long before OpenGL and DirectX only managed to catch up after the fall of 3Dfx, and nVidia bought them out. SLI that sounds like the Vodoo2 invented that thank you. The first intrgrated 2D/3D Card That would have been the Rush. Sadly 3Dfx let the OEMs run roughshod over the standard design back then, So there were no universal Drivers for it. Thus it eventually became harder, and harder to find anything that supported it.

    But, that was an awesome time going from Tomb Raider Graphics to Unreal with its fully 3D world was breathtakingly beautiful. Such a shame that nothing much has changed since. Yeah sure the Graphics have had a few bumps up over the years. but, NOTHING even remotely like going from pseudo 3D of Doom to the real 3D of Unreal.

  39. Michael C.

    Unreal was so far beyond anything at the time, the lush environments, the state-of-the-art AI, the scripted elements that didn't feel scripted, the fantastic story-line, the incredible soundtrack. Not to mention that it's the last game I've ever played that has been value for money. It was a long game, and a truly difficult game, I don't know how many months it took me to complete.

    I've played Unreal since it was released. I've played it online since a few months afterwards. The best Unreal MOD was by far Infiltration Standoff, which I run a server for today from a spare PC, great community and truly pure FPS gameplay. Coop mode was so much fun and Deathmatch was the groundwork for the utter brilliance that is Unreal Tournament. Yeah the net code was junk, but the official patches that followed from Epic went a long way to addressing that.

    UT also led to great MODs such as the flagship realism MOD Tactical Ops: Assault on Terror, which was released before Counter-Strike was out of beta and was head and shoulders above it in gameplay (imo!) and graphics.

    Also UT99 CTF instagib is probably the best FPS gameplay out there, even today. This is my favourite instagib video:

    1. James Delaney

      Aaaah instagib.

  40. cyborg

    Favourite weapon

    The shock gun was a great example of how alternate fire modes could provide some new gameplay experiences. I don't remember when I first found I could detonate the alterante fire energy orb with the primary fire beam but when I did I used it all the time. It might have been in UT actually but there was nothign quite as satisfying as being able to send off a core, dodge and hit it to avoid enemy fire and gib the ever-loving out of your opponent - even if I did miss most of the time.

    1. BorkedAgain
      Thumb Up

      Re: Favourite weapon

      Flak cannon for me. Alt-fire to lob a lovely, 'splodey surprise against the wall beside a hapless opponent... Ah, those bouncy lumps...

      1. Z-Eden

        Re: Favourite weapon

        And if someone fired a shell at you there would be that instant where you'd see the smiley face before it explodes in your face.

        Icon for obvious reasons...

  41. TheWeenie

    This takes me back! One of my favourite games. I remember when I got hy grubby hands on a 3DFx Voodoo card and ran this up for the first time. The opening sequence was smooth as silk and jaw-dropping to look at. Good cal El Reg.

    I kind of fell out of love with games with the domination of Call Of Duty...but bought Dishonored as it looked pretty cool - turns out that uses the Unreal engine too. I mentioned this to one of our apprentices and they asked me what an Unreal engine was. Man I felt old.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No mention of GLQuake?

    Being able to go from Quake to GLQuake with an update and a 3DFX card was quite a sight to behold. As soon as I saw it on a friends computer I rushed out to buy a 3DFX card.

  43. Jason Ozolins
    Thumb Up

    I was impressed with how seriously Epic took the networking issues...

    Remembered reading this at the time: here's a nifty archive of old Tim Sweeney posts where he mentions that to get the network code right, he eventually included an "ISP from hell" simulator in the Unreal network code, so that he could get a really good handle on the effects of latency, bandwidth and packet loss problems:

    Pity that the later Unreal patches broke the A3D surround sound support, and replaced the original, characterful weapon sounds for the flak and goop guns with ones that sounded to me like generic "pew-pew" space gun sounds. One day I'd like to put together a machine with the right combo of patches, soundcard, and restored sounds to play that game through once... I can't remember why I never finished it! =:^/

  44. tux

    There can be only one..

    And for me, at least, is Unreal. It's my all time favourite; even now I listen sometime the music from game - God Bless Alexander Brandon & co. Of course have its weaknesses - but the game as a whole is that matters. And to read captain's log :-)

    The right word is "immersion" - the same immersion effect that UT has over me as multiplayer, fast-paced, frag-them-all game. And for that effect there it's a perfect dosage between story, music, visuals and sounds.

    I liked Quake also - dark atmosphere, great sounds - but did not have the same effect. And, if you cannot immerse, you begin to found flaws.

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