Ahhh Unreal Tournament. The Quake killer. The time sinker. The first worthwhile shooter that didn’t have some over-the-top story. It was just you, a gun, and an agenda. There were no worlds to save, no personal vendetta, just the tournament–the Unreal Tournament. And 1999’s success story was followed up multiple sequels and even a console spinoff, the Unreal Championship series. To most the culmination of UT hit with Unreal Tournament 2004. Sure, 2007’s Unreal Tournament 3 was great, but it went up against the likes of Halo and Call of Duty. It’s not surprising it didn’t float.
That’s why today we set our hopes on a digital UT2004. Xbox Live Arcade is a unique beast; a game can be successful on gameplay alone. It’s a place where flashy graphics are nice, but not necessary. And more importantly, it’s digital. That means people won’t be trading the game in as soon as they get bored. They’ll put it aside for a bit and come back to it once a week or so. And that, my friends, means a persistent community.
What should change:
Local, LAN, and Live – These games are all about the multiplayer. While playing solo will give you challenge and enjoyment it’s really all about jumping online or on the couch with friends. It’s about guiding the Redeemer missile right into a sniper’s face, then hearing him whine in your headset. UT was one of the original multiplayer greats. No corners should be cut here, it has to be the full experience.
Unreal Championship 2 additions – The melee and acrobatic aspects of UC2 are a must. While they should be segregated into a mutator (a game type modifier) it’s still something that was a fresh change of pace lugging around the Flak Cannon. Heck, we’d even kill for the UC2 campaign as DLC.
Famous faces – There’s a certain amount of “We’ll take anyone” to Unreal Tournament. Its universe is so diverse that seeing characters from other games wouldn’t seem out of place. Who wouldn’t want to run around blasting Meat Boy, Duke Nukem or Captain Smiley to bits? Or what about dropping in as Marcus Fenix to bring the carnage? It’s too bad there are rules about Xbox Live avatars and violence. We had some great ideas for in-game costumes we’d use.
Non-branded community content – Mods. They’re what make a game last long after the publisher has stopped supporting it. They bring some of the freshest ideas to the game. So we submit that bringing in the community’s contributions could not only provide inexpensive content, but expand on what’s already there. Though all non-branded (read: not a licensed property) mods would be already the property of Epic Games per the EULA, a simple voucher for a free download of the game to each contributor would go a long way.
What should stay the same:
The carnage – There’s nothing like the weapons in UT. They have this essence of filling in the stereotypes (the shotgun, the rocket launcher, etc) but they have a certain extra flair that other games’ weapons lack. Then there’s the vehicles. When UT2004 came out it was clearly meant to be something that brought Halo players back to their PCs, and we have to say it worked. Sure, we’re as guilty as the rest of the world–powering up our consoles when friends came over–but back then nothing could beat a PC game. That same feeling still stands strong today.
The graphics – They may be going on eight years old, but the graphics in UT2004 still look great even today. They may not have all the crazy lighting tricks or bump/specular maps, but they’re still strong and have a certain charm to them. We wouldn’t be opposed to a straight port to Unreal Engine 3, but we don’t need a total remodel and HD makeover. If we wanted that we’d buy UT3.
Mutators – Mutators are the selling point of Unreal Tournament. They make modifications to standard gameplay without breaking the overall rules of the game. Take, for example, the Fat Boy mutator. The more kills you get the “fatter” you become, making you an easier target. Die to much and you’ll be a stick figure, making it harder for enemies to take you down. It’s that kind of ingenuity that makes Unreal unique.
Why it would succeed:
There’s really only one problem with multiplayer-focused games: they get traded in. Digital copies can’t get traded in. But how do you convince players to spend retail price on UT3? It’s simple: you don’t. You give them UT2004 at an Xbox Live Arcade price. They don’t feel it’s much of a sacrifice to pick up, and the servers stay consistent because it can’t just be traded in. Just ask EA about Battlefield 1943. Two and a half years later the servers are still booming. UT can be the same way.