Unreal Tournament 2004 – Recon (PC)
As Website Editor, I have very little free time to commit to full-blown reviews of games. I leave that to the professionals! However, I do have time for "single-serving" overviews of some of the games and demos I come across?and while far from in-depth, maybe my musings will be enough to help you decide whether it is worth spending your own time downloading and investigating. True, UT2004 is not the typical historical recreation of combat, but it IS combat nonetheless, and if you can set aside the sci-fi approach to this first person shooter, I think you will get your money’s worth. After all, it’s a FREE demo!
"Main Screen Turn On!"
Bring on "Onslaught!"
The new Unreal Tournament 2004 demo (UT2004 Website) was recently released by Epic Games (in conjunction with Digital Extremes). The somewhat chunky 200MB download has really captured my interest, and one game style in particular is what I would like to share with you today. It goes by the name "Onslaught" and the map included with the demo (ONS-Torlan) basically presents a battlefield with 5 strategic points (power nodes) which must be controlled by each respective team over the course of the match. While controlling territory sounds like something out of Day of Defeat (or other FPS games), it is actually quite different.
In this variant each of the power nodes must be captured in order, and must be protected. Each side must try to capture those nodes in enemy territory and push the other team back into their base. The main power cores of each team only become vulnerable when they have no power nodes under their control out in the field (when all are enemy controlled). This leads to situations of desperation where an entire team must sit in their base, man heavy weapons platforms, and pray their reactor is not destroyed before time runs out or before they can recapture an enemy power node.
Fans of Halo will probably be right at home playing this demo, and this game type in particular. There are plenty of vehicles to make it interesting, as well as static turrets all over the place. The control of the vehicles is similar to Halo (3rd person view), with multiple players being able to share Hellbenders and tanks (one man moves and fires the main gun, while the buddy unloads with the turret-mounted machine gun). The tank weapons are satisfying in their destructiveness, making them a blast to control! There are other airborne vehicles, such as the hovercraft-like Manta which looks like it has two box fans supporting its weight. The Raptor is a rather nice air unit, having decent primary plasma weapons, with anti-aircraft missiles available as its secondary weapon. Both air units are pretty delicate though, so watch your altitude when you are taking heavy fire from the ground or by anti-air missiles, be ready to bail out.
Let’s get right to it. Our goal as team Red team is to expand our control of power nodes as fast as possible, while also trying to stop the Blue team from expanding theirs. As the game starts, I make a break to secure my ride, a Raptor. I have a specific destination, and I need this baby to get me there!
The bulk of my team heads off to begin controlling the power nodes, and building our network of nodes. This is of course important to our overall goal, but we also need someone out there spoiling the fun for team Blue, that person is me. And really, what better way to rain on a parade than by dropping a nuke? An old favorite weapon of mine is called "The Redeemer" – a shoulder-fired nuclear missile. This beauty is just what I need!
The Redeemer is a great mass-destruction weapon?although some may cry foul of its uber-killing power. Compared to UT2003, I believe the weapon has been tweaked a bit to be slower, as well as easier to destroy in the air. However, should you choose to employ this weapon in its alt-fire mode (right-click fire) you can witness what I think is one of the true strokes of genius in this game system. You BECOME the missile, and you can guide and ride this tub down to earth as if you were Slim Pickens himself. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the look on the face of your enemy when he sees a huge rocket floating gently into his base, followed by a mushroom cloud and the ring of "MONSTER-KILL!!!"
To best use this weapon, I jump back in my Raptor with the nuke and head down to earth near the enemy’s first power node (which is under construction). While I would like to fire it from on top of the tower and watch it rain terror upon the enemy, the reality is this pig is just too easy to shoot down. Thus, I must exit my Raptor, casually lift my Redeemer, and touch one off right inside their construction zone. That should delay them a bit!
Sure enough, as team Blue finally finishes their first node, my team has moved up to control the middle node?giving us a 3-1 advantage in power nodes. This is important as the more nodes you control, the more vehicles you also control. Node number two on each side is pretty vital; as it gives you access to the heavy Goliath tank, a must-have weapon.
There is just too much action going on to describe exactly how the match progresses. At times I fly around in Raptors, grabbing the nuke, as well as trying to make the skies less hostile for my teammates. I also cruise around on the box-fan hovercraft decapitating my enemies by running them over at high rates of speed. You can do the same with the Scorpion truck which has razor blades that fan out as you drive by your enemy, making quick work of those foot soldiers. A few times I control the tank, at which time the battle really gets bloody for the opposition. And finally, I spend time on foot?using pulse weapons and anti-vehicle weapons in the best way I know how.
In the end, my team controls all the power nodes, and we begin our assault on their main base. At this point things become desperate for the opposition, as they frantically try to destroy our power node closest to their home base. The shield on their reactor drops only when my team controls all power nodes on the board. If they destroy our power node next to their base, they can prevent their own destruction for a minute or two longer. As you can imagine, this stage of the game gets fast and frantic for both sides. My team struggles to bring in tanks and heavy weapons from all over the map, while Team Blue struggles to man the weapons platforms in their own base to keep us out.
Alas, in this instance the end comes swiftly for Team Blue. There will be no heroic last stand today. With tanks converging, a host of land and airborne vehicles swarming around the Blue base,there was little hope for them. My compatriots and I made sure we bagged the enemy reactor before breaking out the frosty cold beverages. A job well done!
With the enemy reactor breached, it’s time to declare victory!
First Look: Final Thoughts
In my limited play, it seems nearly impossible for a team to recover once they have lost all nodes on the board if only because it means they can’t produce tanks, while the enemy can field two. When your back is up against the wall, you also have little time to go retrieve nukes, or fight well in the skies against multiple bogeys. Instead, you sit down in the heavy turrets, shoot anything that moves, and hope some of your buddies can make it out to that first node and retake control. From there, you have to hope you can continue to expand outward again.
Of course, this is just the demo. Once the game is live, we might see tweaks here and there for play balance. Or perhaps it is as it should be; once you are backed up into your base it should be almost impossible to turn things around. Nonetheless, I can see matches of large teams playing for control of the center power node for extended periods of time with nukes flying everywhere, tanks trying to maneuver down the tight middle crevice all the while being blasted by the airborne units. Men on foot just trying to stay out of the path of destruction?
I strongly recommend checking out this demo if you enjoy sci-fi level realism ("Unreal-ism") and a boatload of fun driving, flying and fighting in vehicles. There are so many nuances to the weapons in this game that it would take another few pages to elaborate. There are also many other types of gameplay modes you can explore in this package (deathmatch, assault, capture the flag, etc.) that it should keep you entertained until the full package finds its way to your local retailer around the middle of March, 2004. For now, I’m going back in as Team Red, leading my team to victory from the turret of my Goliath Tank!