Unreal (video game series)

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Genres First-person shooter
Developers Epic Games
Digital Extremes
Legend Entertainment
Publishers GT Interactive Software
Midway Games
Platforms Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox, OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Platform of origin Microsoft Windows
First release Unreal
April 30, 1998
Latest release Unreal Tournament 3
November 19, 2007

Unreal is a series of first-person shooter video games developed by Epic Games. The series is known for its exhibition of the Unreal Engine that powers the games and is available for other developers to license. As a result of Epic's focus on the engine technology, much of the creative workload such as map design has traditionally been outsourced to other studios, namely Digital Extremes. Legend Entertainment was brought in for the first game's expansion pack and its sequel, Unreal II: The Awakening. For the latest installment, however, Epic completed all design work in-house.

Publishing rights for the series have changed hands several times. GT Interactive was the original publisher, and a series of acquisitions and corporate restructurings eventually led to Infogrames and then Atari inheriting the relationship. However, during the production of Unreal Tournament 2004 there was a financial dispute between Epic and Atari, culminating in the gold master being held hostage in exchange for milestone and royalty payments. After dealing with that episode, Epic elected to take the publishing rights elsewhere for future titles and eventually settled on a deal with Midway Games.


Titles in the Unreal series
Year Engine Title Platform(s)
Win Mac Linux DC PS2 Xbox PS3 X360
1998 Unreal Engine 1 Unreal Yes Yes No No No No No No
1999 Unreal Tournament Yes Yes Yes[1] Yes Yes No No No
2002 Unreal Engine 2 Unreal Championship No No No No No Yes No No
Unreal Tournament 2003 Yes Yes Yes[2] No No No No No
2003 Unreal II: The Awakening Yes No No No No Yes No No
2004 Unreal Engine 2.5 Unreal Tournament 2004 Yes Yes Yes No No No No No
2005 Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict No No No No No Yes No No
2007 Unreal Engine 3 Unreal Tournament 3 Yes No No No No No Yes Yes
TBA Unreal Engine 4 Unreal Tournament Yes Yes Yes No No No No No


  • Totally Unreal (2001) contains Unreal, Return to Na Pali, and Unreal Tournament, along with content patches and community mods that were previously released for free download.
  • Unreal Anthology (2006) contains Unreal Gold, Unreal Tournament, Unreal II, Unreal Tournament 2004, and a bonus soundtrack CD.[3] However, missing from Unreal Tournament are the improved S3TC textures which came with the original release of the game. Also, the internet connectivity of Unreal in this collection is isolated by having a master server different from that of the original game.


Unreal Tournament was launched in direct competition to Quake III Arena, and was similarly focused on multiplayer action. UT improved upon the mod-friendly nature of its predecessor with the inclusion of support for "mutators", which allowed users to selectively insert game code modifications without the need for a total conversion. Small mods, such as ones adding weapons or power-ups, could be seamlessly combined according to the player's desires. Players could then use a simple dialog box to enable or disable the mutator.

Unreal Tournament 2003 had a name change from the expected Unreal Tournament II in order to imitate traditional sports-based video games, where annual releases are typical. As part of Epic Games' strategy of porting the Unreal engine to other platforms, UT 2003 was ported to the Xbox as Unreal Championship, with several gameplay changes intended to make the game more appealing to console audiences. Taking that idea further, Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict was created exclusively for the Xbox, and includes gameplay elements not seen in any other Unreal games, for example an emphasis on melee weapons and the encouraged use of third-person perspective.



The Unreal series's movement and jump mechanics are one of the many things that set the series far apart from the other FPS games. While most games have the simple "jump" and "duck" commands, Unreal is one of the very few games that has a "dodge" mechanic. The dodge is performed by pressing any direction key twice in rapid succession. After inputting the command, the player will do a fast jump in that direction; while the idea is simple, it has added a whole level of playing style, making it much more fast-paced and requiring one to have excellent aiming (at higher levels of play at least). Wall-dodging and double jumping were added to the series in UT2003, adding yet another twist to the entire gameplay style. The dodging mechanics were tweaked in UT3, making for more ground-based combat instead of Superman-like aerial acrobatics.


Following the Human/Skaarj Wars (the fictional battle between humans and the Skaarj in the Unreal universe), Earth's cities lay in ruins. When the New Earth Government tried to take control of these cities, they discovered many rebel groups, covertly funded by corporations such as Liandri, Izanagi, and Axon. Later, war had emerged to regain control of the ruined cities, causing conflict within the corporations.

The constant battles caused many casualties, reducing the already diminishing human population. One battle in particular caused the creation of the tournament, when Axon Research Corporation raided Izanagi's facility and retrieved the advanced Plasma Ion Tank being developed. This subterfuge started a huge chain of events which would make "consensual murder" legal.


In the Unreal universe, LBX-7683 is a metallic asteroid in the Erican Cluster. It is mostly known for the artificial intelligence (AI) uprising that took place in the year 2283. It was one of the few events in the history of the Unreal universe that resulted in a massive loss of human life. The first official champion of the Liandri Tournament, Xan Kriegor, lead the revolt.

The robotic miners on LBX-7683, equipped with the most advanced AI of their time and tired of their human creators, took control of the asteroid with minimal robot losses. The robots began to replicate themselves and claimed the colony as their own sovereign world.

Shortly after, the former owners of the asteroid decided to take back LBX-7683, by sending a squad of Liandri commandos. They managed to destroy the main AI generators, rendering the robots unable to replicate. After being taken over, most of the robots were put into a stasis matrix. The most powerful machine, Xan Kriegor, resisted all attempts at memory wipes, but eventually Liandri succeeds in re-writing him, for the purpose of fighting in the Tournament.

The sentient machines held in stasis were reprogrammed for Liandri's personal corporate purposes around 2291. As soon as the New Earth Government legalized "consensual murder" to help minimize violence in the aftermath of the uprising, the underground Tournament became a professional sport with support and lobbying from Liandri; it would also create a more lucrative enterprise. Eventually, Liandri created a team with the newly reprogrammed machines, "The Corrupt," led by Xan Kriegor, to represent the robots.


Unreal Engine[edit]

A comparison of Unreal Engine 1, 2, and 3's rendering capabilities using the Malcolm model from Unreal Tournament, Unreal Tournament 2004, and Unreal Tournament 3 side-by-side.

The Unreal game engine, simply called Unreal Engine, was seen as a major rival to id Software's Id Tech. Unreal came packaged with its own scripting language called UnrealScript, which allowed new mods (short for "modifications") to change or enhance gameplay. Like many other game engines, this added to the overall longevity of the product and provided an incentive for new development.

Unreal Editor[edit]

Unreal Editor, also called UnrealEd, is the level editor used to create levels for the series. It was also used for other games based on the Unreal Engine, such as Deus Ex and Lineage II, although it has changed along with the engine for later games.

All Unreal games on the PC had the level editor included for free, and some third party Unreal engine games did the same with an edited and specialized version. This extended the longevity of the games. Amateur level designers could now create their own levels for the game, providing a near endless amount of additional content for the game. In addition, the built-in scripting language called UnrealScript allowed for editors to customize game content.


Unreal Tournament games allow for a wide range of gameplay modifications that the games refer to as "mutators" or "mods" (the latter usually implying a total conversion). Mutators tend to make only small changes to gameplay, including, but not limited to, new weapons and power-ups. Mods are larger changes that may include new game types and possibly specially designed maps for the new game types. Servers can be configured to automatically distribute mod files to clients who don't have them.

Well-known mods for UT include Tactical Ops, Killing Floor, Red Orchestra: Combined Arms, Alien Swarm, The Ball, Angels Fall First: Planetstorm and ChaosUT.



Based on the success of the Unreal series, Guinness World Records awarded the series with 7 world records in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008. These records include, "First Computer-Controlled Deathmatch Opponent",[4] "First Console Game to Receive a Downloadable Patch",[5] and not surprisingly, "First Game to be Created Using the Unreal Engine".[6]


  1. ^ "Unreal Tournament - Loki". Help.ubuntu.com. Retrieved 17 May 2016. 
  2. ^ "Unreal Tournament 2003". Liflg.org. Retrieved 17 May 2016. 
  3. ^ "UAMUSICMG06 | A history of Unreal MUSIC". VGMdb.net. Retrieved 2016-11-03. 
  4. ^ "First computer-controlled deathmatch opponent". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2016-11-03. 
  5. ^ "First console game to receive a downloadable patch". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2016-11-03. 
  6. ^ "First videogame created with the Unreal Engine". Guinness World Records. 1 January 1998. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 

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