Unreal Tournament

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This article is about the 1999 video game. For the game announced in 2014, see Unreal Tournament (upcoming video game).
Unreal Tournament
Artist(s) Shane Caudle
Series Unreal
Engine Unreal Engine 1
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Classic Mac OS, Linux, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast
Release date(s) Windows
  • NA: November 30, 1999
  • EU: December 3, 1999
Classic Mac OS
  • NA: January 17, 2000
PlayStation 2
  • NA: October 21, 2000
  • EU: April 20, 2001
  • NA: March 13, 2001
  • EU: June 29, 2001
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Unreal Tournament is a first-person shooter video game developed by Epic Games and Digital Extremes. The second installment in the Unreal series, it was first published by GT Interactive in 1999 for Microsoft Windows, and later released on the PlayStation 2 by Infogrames, and on the Dreamcast by Secret Level. Players compete in a series of matches of various types, with the general aim of out-killing opponents. The PC version supports multiplayer online or over a local area network. Free expansion packs were released, some of which were bundled with a 2000 re-release: Unreal Tournament: Game of the Year Edition.

The game is based on the same technology that powered Unreal, but the design of Unreal Tournament shifted the series' focus to competitive multiplayer action. Development took 18 months, and the game was initially intended to be an expansion for Unreal. Unreal Tournament received critical acclaim, with reviewers praising the graphics, artificial inteligence and gameplay, although the console ports were noted for having limitations. The game won several awards, and remakes have been attempted by fans. The series has continued with the releases of sequels Unreal Tournament 2003 in 2002, Unreal Tournament 2004 in 2004, and Unreal Tournament 3 in 2007.


A typical game of Domination in progress.

Unreal Tournament was designed as an arena first-person shooter, with head-to-head multiplayer deathmatches being the primary focus of the game. The game's single-player campaign is a series of arena matches played with bots, where the player competes for the title of Grand Champion.[1] The player moves up the tournament ladder in order to challenge the current champion, Xan, a mysterious being with exceptional skill.[2] Also available is a Practice mode, in which, as its name implies, the player practices a match. Match settings (such as score and time limits) can be customized. Also available are "mutators" which drastically alter gameplay aspects, such as "InstaGib", the use of which makes players compete with instant-kill weapons instead of the normal ones.[3] Weapons include Enforcers, Rocket Launchers, and Rippers, which fire ricocheting blades. Most weapons have two firing modes which have different effects: for example, Rippers can also fire non-ricocheting blades which explode on impact. A special weapon is the Redeemer, which causes a very large and powerful explosion.[4] Items such as Body Armor (which reduce damage taken), health packs (which heal players), and Damage Amplifiers are scattered across levels.[5] Levels are set in a variety of environments, including spaceships, outposts, and buildings such as castles and monasteries.[6] Many contain features such as elevators (lifts) and teleporters, and obstacles such as water and lava.[7] The PC version includes a level editor in which players can create their own levels,[8] and the PlayStation 2 version supports the use of a USB keyboard and mouse, enabling players to play in a similar manner to the PC version.[9]

For team matches, bots are used to fill the roles of the player's teammates. The player can choose the bots' skill level or have it automatically adjust to the player's performance. Bots can be further customized by changing attributes such as names, appearance, and weapon preferences.[10] Even on dedicated multiplayer servers, bots are sometimes used to pad out teams that are short on players.[11] In team matches, players can give orders to bots on their team.[12] The PC version supports multiplayer mode over the internet or a local area network.[13]

Game types[edit]

  • Assault: This game type is played with two teams, one assaulting a "base" and the other defending it. The map is set up with objectives which the attacking team must complete (usually in sequence) such as shutting down a power generator, or entering an area. The team who first attacks then defends, and attempts to defend for the entire time they attacked. If they accomplish this, they win. If the team defending first assaults the base faster than the other team, they win. If both teams defend for the maximum amount of time the match is a tie.[14] The Dreamcast version does not feature this mode.[15]
  • Capture the Flag: Players compete to capture the other team's flag and return it to their base. Competitive teams must use a great deal of teamplay. Both teams must defend the base from incoming attackers and get into the other team's base, take their flag and return to base. This requires that the team protect their flag carrier very well from enemies in order to complete their objective.[16]
  • Deathmatch: A classic every-man-for-himself player vs. player combat. The objective is to out-kill all opposing players.[17]
  • Domination: Two teams compete to control various control points to earn points. Standard maps contain three control points. Control of these points is initially accomplished through occupation (physically occupying the space), but control of a point continues until a player from another team occupies the space. The first team to reach the point limit, or that has the most points when a time limit has expired, wins.[18]
  • Last Man Standing: Similar to Deathmatch, the player's objective is to remain alive longer than their opponents, putting an emphasis on number of deaths rather than kills. Players start with all weapons (except the Redeemer) available, fully loaded, and have a set number of lives. Power-ups, including health and ammunition packs, are unavailable. Once a player runs out of lives, they lose.[19]
  • Team Deathmatch: Up to four teams compete to out-frag the opponent teams.[17]

Four "bonus packs" were released, each adding maps, characters, or features. For example, bonus pack 1 (released on February 25, 2000[20]) adds "relics" as mutators.[21] Relics are special items that grant a significant advantage to their holder. They include (but are not limited to), the Relic of Vengeance, which creates an explosion when its holder dies, the Relic of Regeneration, which regenerates the health of the holder, and the Relic of Redemption, which makes its holder re-spawn elsewhere with full health and weapons intact when they would normally die.[22][23] Bonus Pack 4 adds a new version of Xan.[24] Unreal Tournament was re-released in fall (autumn) 2000 as Unreal Tournament Game of the Year Edition, which includes the first three bonus packs and mods such as Rocket Arena, a one-on-one combat mode.[25][26][27]


Cliff Bleszinski served as lead designer on Unreal Tournament.[28]

When Unreal was released in May 1998, it was well received by the press. However, it soon became apparent that the quality of the network code used for multiplayer matches was hampering the game's further success. In the months following Unreal's release, improving the game's multiplayer became the development team's top priority.[29] Epic Games started thinking about an official expansion pack intended to improve the network code while also featuring new maps and other gameplay elements.[28]

The team began work on the expansion in summer 1998, but the task became complicated by Epic's organizational structure. During the development of Unreal, the team members at Digital Extremes were working in Ontario, Canada, while the members at Epic were based in North Carolina, United States, requiring regular travel to Ontario. To remedy this, Epic decided to centralize the teams in Raleigh, North Carolina, and by September work on the expansion could begin. Lead programmer Steve Polge set about laying the foundations for the new game types, such as Capture the Flag and Domination, and level designers created the first round of maps for testing. The content grew quickly, and soon the team realized that it had underestimated the task. In November, after a meeting with publisher GT Interactive, Mark Rein suggested releasing the work as a standalone game instead of an expansion. The team was reticent at first, but soon accepted the idea, and in December the game became known internally as Unreal: Tournament Edition.[28]

The development team for Unreal Tournament consisted of around 16 people.[28] Most team members had worked on Unreal, though Epic hired a number of new developers to reinforce the team. Programmer Brandon Reinhart was one such hire, joining Epic in August 1998 to help with the support of Unreal and the development of Unreal Tournament. In December 1998, Reinhart discovered an Unreal mod called UBrowser, which provided a new user interface for finding multiplayer matches. After showing it to James Schmalz, the lead designer at Digital Extremes, Schmalz decided to hire the mod's author, Jack Porter. After only a few weeks Porter was already working with the team, replacing the game's existing menu system with his new interface.[28] Epic founder Tim Sweeney and Steve Polge worked on improving the networking code. Polge also wrote the original AI code and focused on player physics and general gameplay.[28][30] Erik de Neve was responsible for the LOD character rendering, and various extra optimizations.[31] In an April 1999 interview with Next Generation magazine, Mark Rein informed that Unreal Tournament would be backwards compatible with the majority of Unreal multiplayer maps. He also confirmed that the shooter would be released on two CDs, as it would ship with approximately 1GB of high-resolution 24-bit textures for S3TC-enabled cards.[32]

During the game's development, the team lacked artists. The art director at Epic Games, Shane Caudle,[33] and the artists at Digital Extremes couldn't make enough new textures because of the amount of diversity in characters and maps. Epic hired independent artists, Steve Garofalo and John Mueller, to reinforce the team.[28] The game's level and content management program, UnrealEd, was written in Visual Basic and considered buggy, but nobody had time to fix it. The game engine had an object-oriented design, and the scripting language, UnrealScript, was considered to be more like Java. The modularity of the object-oriented design meant that programmers could make large changes without affecting other parts of the game. Other tools used during development included Microsoft Visual Studio and 3D Studio Max.[28] All of the weapon sound effects were created by Sonic Mayhem.[34] The soundtrack was primarily written by Alexander "Siren" Brandon and Michiel "M.C.A." van den Bos.[35][36][37] The team considered themselves to be in a race to complete Unreal Tournament before Quake 3, believing that if the latter was released first, Unreal Tournament would not receive much attention as it would focus on Quake 3.[28]

On September 16, 1999, Epic Games released a playable demo.[30] This version of the demo was only compatible with Glide-based accelerators.[38] An updated demo version, with support for OpenGL and Direct3D cards, was released on September 28, 1999.[39] Unreal Tournament went gold on November 16, 1999,[40] but the team believed sales would have been higher had it been released in October.[28] The Mac version went gold on December 15, 1999.[41] The Dreamcast version was developed by Secret Level, who had to drop Assault mode, along with many larger maps, due to the Dreamcast having insufficient memory.[15] According to Josh Adams, then VP of software development at Secret Level and lead programmer of the project,[15] the Dreamcast version of Unreal Tournament had to branch drastically from the PC version, to the point that the PC version could not really use the DC maps, aside from the dedicated servers used to run the servers at SegaNet.[42] On December 28, 1999, Brandon Reinhart announced he would release Linux libraries of Unreal Tournament through SourceForge. "I've chosen the Artistic License. I feel that it allows mod developers a lot of freedom with the open code, while not putting Epic into any weird positions with the undisclosed part of the engine," he commented.[43] The goal of the project was to improve the quality of the Linux port of the game as well as strengthen the mod authoring community and teach Epic about open source projects.[43] On August 1, 2000, Loki Software announced an exclusive agreement with Epic Games to maintain and support the Linux version of Unreal Tournament, offering new features, addressing any technical issues and achieving revision parity with the Windows version.[44]

With a budget of $2 million and 350,000 lines of C++ and UnrealScript, Unreal Tournament took 18 months to develop.[28]


Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic PC: 92/100[47]
PS2: 77/100[48]
DC: 90/100[49]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4.5/5 stars (PC)[50]
CGW 5/5 stars (PC)[52]
CVG 9/10 (PC)[51]
Edge 7/10 (PC)[45]
6/10 (Dreamcast)[46]
Eurogamer 10/10 (PC)[53]
Game Informer 9/10 (PS2)[54]
GamePro 4.5/5 stars (PC)[55]
Game Revolution A- (PC)[56]
GameSpot 9.5/10 (PC)[57]
GameSpy 94/100 (PC)[58]
77% (PS2)[59]
8/10 (Dreamcast)[60]
IGN 9.6/10 (PC)[61]
9.6/10 (Mac)[62]
8.4/10 (PS2)[63]
PC Gamer (UK) 92/100 (PC)[64]
PC Gamer (US) 90/100 (PC)[65]
Computer Games Magazine 5/5 stars (PC)[66]
The Electric Playground 10/10 (PC)[67]
PC Zone 90/100 (PC)[8]
Gamezilla 86% (PS2)[68]
87% (Dreamcast)[69]
Happy Puppy 9/10 (Mac)[70]
8/10 (Dreamcast)[71]
Inside Mac Games 9/10 (Mac)[72]
Dreamcast Magazine (UK) 87% (Dreamcast)[73]
Maximum PC 9/10 (PC)[74]
GameFan 95/100 (PC)[75]
CNET 10/10 (PC)[76]

Unreal Tournament received widespread critical acclaim.[47] Mainstream press reviews praised the graphics, gameplay, maps and multiplayer capabilities of the game. Computer Shopper concluded "Quake may have spawned the online deathmatch, but Unreal Tournament has taken it to the next level with its amazing graphics and fast-paced action. Online or off, this game rules!"[77] In March 2000, Unreal Tournament was second on a list of best-selling games in Computer Dealer News trade magazine, behind Quake III Arena.[78]

GameSpot praised the graphics, noting "As good as the original Unreal looked, Unreal Tournament looks even better. The character models and skins look excellent, and there are quite a few choices to make when designing your character."[57] GameSpot also praised the multiplayer gameplay, weapons and level design: "The first-person shooter genre is fiercely competitive. But Unreal Tournament rises above the rest with its solid multiplayer performance, from its good weapon balance to its great level design."[57] The game was similarly reviewed by GameSpy, who concluded: "Unreal Tournament raises the bar for first person teamplay games. The mutators, bots, teams, and sheer number of maps give the game an awesome depth and replayability. This game is stuffed with content and polished until it gleams."[58] British magazine PC Zone praised the "very intelligent" bots, but criticized the "truly terrible" music.[8] Edge complimented the practice mode, but criticized the bots' team-playing.[45] Allgame complimented the addictiveness of Assault mode, and the game's replay value.[50] Computer and Video Games praised the "excellent" single-player mode.[51] Eurogamer echoed that sentiment, and commented that the game is playable on low-end systems.[53] GamePro praised the "immense" multiplayer flexibility, and "superb" audio.[55] Game Revolution praised the interface, and described the game as "revolutionary".[56] IGN stated that Unreal Tournament received the highest ever score at the time of their review, and described the game as nearly flawless.[61] British magazine PC Gamer complimented the artificial intelligence,[64] and its American counterpart did the same to the game's "gorgeous" graphics and "incredible" editing tools.[65] Computer Games Magazine described the artificial intelligence as "outstanding", and commented that the Domination and Assault modes add interest.[66] The Electric Playground praised the "innovative" level design.[67] CNN described the artificial intelligence as "incredible", and praised the "superb" audio.[79]

The Macintosh version of Unreal Tournament was equally praised. IGN praised the "perfect" gameplay the the multiplayer options, but criticized the high system requirements and the user interface. Nevertheless, the game was described as "the must have title for your Mac."[62] Happy Puppy described the game as "king of deathmatch" due to its "incredible value" gaming and "amazing" variety.[70] Inside Mac Games praised the replay value, but criticized the high system requirements.[72] In December 1999, Unreal Tournament was inducted into the Macworld Hall of Fame.[80]

Reviewing the Dreamcast version, Gamezilla complimented the sound, but criticized the graphics and lack of a plot.[69] Happy Puppy described the game as "intensely fun", but criticized the "mediocre" sound.[71] Edge criticized the lack of Assault mode.[46] The British Dreamcast Magazine (not to be confused with the Official Dreamcast Magazine or DC-UK) heavily criticized the lack of online multiplayer, but complimented the "blasting" action.[73] GameSpy cited both slow framerate speeds and low sound quality as problems with the Dreamcast version.[60]

The PlayStation 2 release did not fare as well as the PC and Dreamcast versions.[48] GameSpy criticized the graphics of the PS2 version, saying "Graphically, the PS2 version of Unreal Tournament seems uninspired."[59] Its conclusion stated "Sluggish gameplay, somewhat washed out colors and textures".[59] IGN praised the replayability, and stated that the sound is faithful to the PC version.[63] Gamezilla criticized the PlayStation 2 version's lack of multiplayer support compared to the PC version, but complimented the bots' artificial intelligence.[68]

In 2004, Unreal Tournament was inducted into the Computer Gaming World Hall of Fame.[81]

Unreal Tournament received Eurogamer's first ever perfect score, and was named by the site one of the best games of 1999.[82] Launch editor John Bye chose the shooter as the game of the past decade (1999–2009) and said, "Unreal Tournament is one of the few games in the early days of Eurogamer that I kept going back to months after I'd finished reviewing it, a game that I played to unwind after a long day playing other games. Whether it was trying to break the one-minute barrier in the speed running mayhem of Assault mode, battling back and forth amongst the alleyways of Domination, or dropping shrapnel shells at people's feet with the wonderfully chunky flak cannon in a fast and furious free-for-all deathmatch, Unreal Tournament was an endless source of entertainment."[83]

In 2011, G4tv dubbed CTF-Face (Facing Worlds) and DM-Deck 16 one of the "Most Influential FPS Multiplayer Maps Ever".[84] In 2013, PC Gamer labeled the Flak Cannon the greatest gun in PC gaming.[85] In April 2014, Complex magazine placed Unreal Tournament as number three on its list of "The 50 Best First Person Shooters Of All Time".[86] In October 2014, Moviepilot placed it as number two on its list of "The 7 Most Influential Video Games Ever".[87] In November 2014, Kotaku named Facing Worlds the best multiplayer map.[88] TechRadar's Kane Fulton picked Unreal Tournament as his favorite PC game.[89] In January 2016, Red Bull labeled Facing Worlds one of the 10 greatest FPS multiplayer levels of all time.[90] In July 2016, bit-tech listed it at number 20 on its list of "The 50 Best PC Games of All Time".[91]


List of awards and nominations
Year Publication Category Result Ref.
1999 Computer Gaming World Game of the Year Won [92][93]
Best Level Design Won
GameSpy Game of the Year Won [94]
Special Achievement in Artificial Intelligence Won [95]
GameSpot Action Game of the Year Won [96]
Game of the Year (Readers' Choice) Won [97]
Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Computer Action Game of the Year Nominated [98]
Computer Game of the Year Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering Won
Game of the Year Nominated
Computer Strategy Game of the Year Nominated
Daily Radar Best PC Game of the Year Won [99]
CNET Multiplayer Game of the Year Won [100]
Macworld Best Network Shooter for the Mac Won [80]
GameStar Multiplayer Game of the Year Won [101]
PC Player Best First Person Shooter of the Year Won [102]

Player community[edit]

USS San Jacinto (CG-56) crewmembers playing the game, 2002

Like its predecessor, Unreal Tournament is designed to be easily programmable and highly modularized.[103] Through its integrated scripting environment UnrealScript and level editor UnrealEd, developers are able to modify easily most parts of the game to both manipulate default game behavior and to supplement the game with their own mods.[104][105][106] These range from slight changes on some aspects of gameplay (such as map voting) to total conversions. One modification, ChaosUT, became popular enough that it was included with the 'Game of the Year' edition of the game, while Tactical Ops: Assault on Terror was released as a stand-alone retail product.[107] Unreal Tournament was played at the World Cyber Games in 2001[108] and 2002.[109]


The success of the original Unreal Tournament spawned four sequels, including Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Tournament 2004,[110][111] Unreal Tournament 3,[112] and the upcoming Unreal Tournament reboot.[113] The yearly naming structure, based around marketing the franchise as a competitive sports title, was abandoned shortly before the launch of the third sequel.[114] Digital Extremes announced Dark Sector in 2000, which was planned as a spiritual successor to Unreal Tournament.[115]


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  • Jamie Madigan (1999). Unreal Tournament Official Strategy Guide. Mineapolis: GW Press. ISBN 978-1-56893-946-9. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]