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
Developer(s) Epic Games
Digital Extremes
Publisher(s) GT Interactive
Infogrames (PS2)
Secret Level (DC)
Designer(s) Cliff Bleszinski
Programmer(s) Steve Polge
Erik de Neve
Jack Porter
Brandon Reinhart
Composer(s) Straylight Productions
Michiel van den Bos
Series Unreal
Engine Unreal Engine 1
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, OS X, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast
Release date(s) Microsoft Windows
  • NA November 30, 1999
  • EU 1999
Mac OS
  • NA January 17, 2000
PlayStation 2[1]
  • 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 co-developed by Epic Games and Digital Extremes.[2] It was first published in 1999 by GT Interactive for Microsoft Windows. Infogrames released it for the PlayStation 2, and Sega Studios San Francisco (known as Secret Level at the time) released it for the Dreamcast home consoles. 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.


Background story[edit]

For more details on this topic, see List of Unreal characters.

During the years of the Human/Skaarj war, Earth and the United Aligned Worlds formed the New Earth Government, a single government that might be more efficient at carrying out an interplanetary war. Deep space asteroid mining became the choice means of financing the war, with raw materials easily gained from within the Terran System. Mining was hard and the pay was very poor. The working class grew more and more restless with their working conditions and a war that seemed to never cease. Each day the Skaarj invasion forces drew closer and a few battles were won. Riots began to break out, the most notable being the "Green's World Rebellion," where over three thousand miners joined in a riot that would cost billions in damage.

The Human/Skaarj war was brought to a standstill during the '7 Day Siege' when Skaarj forces surrounded the Terran system and Earth itself seemed doomed. All was made well when a crack team of NEG military specialists were able to destroy the Skri'ith Class Dreadnought 'Krujhlok', the Queen Ship of the Skaarj forces. Confused by the loss of their High Matriarch, the Skaarj withdrew. Their unity shattered by a well-placed fusion detonator. The damage was done, however. The NEG had largely ignored its internal social conditions while waging an expensive and impossible war. More and more mining "incidents" were being reported and cracking down seemed to have little effect. NEG politicians determined that the best policy was not to stifle the violence, but give it an outlet. In 2291, "consentual murder" was legalized. Under NEG law, any two people could, under organised conditions, fight to the death. The various mining conglomerates organized matches and small leagues to channel aggression. The results were immediate and successful. The leagues escalated with money and promotions offered to victors. One insightful corporation, the Liandri Mining Corporation, began to tri-cast fights and capitalizes on the primal form of entertainment. Much to the LMC's financial delight, the tri-casts became more successful than the fights themselves; their popularity growing with their brutality.

The Tournament[edit]

Logo of the Liandri Mining Corporation.

Now it is 2341, 50 years after the legalization of "consensual murder". The LMC has found the "Tournament" be significantly more popular than mining, now merely a token element of their yearly profits. The "Professional League" has been formed. Each year, the LMC hosts the "Grand Tournament," the most brutal and popular of tri-cast events, where all professional warriors fight to the death in spectacles of violence and bloodshed.

The current champion of the tournament is Xan Kriegor. None have seen his true form as he always battles in an enhanced cybernetic shell (There are no laws against cybernetic or chemical assistance). Some say that Xan is a Skaarj, others contend that he is an artificial intelligence constructed by the LMC, still others argue that he is merely a highly skilled human. Either way, the protagonist will have to fight many battles across several worlds to claim the right of challenge against Xan.


Cryptologic Technician Communications (CTO) Seaman John C. Neas and Fire Controlman 3rd Class David O. Gollner playing Unreal Tournament aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG-56), 2002.

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 essentially a series of arena matches played with bots. For team matches, bots are again used to fill the roles of the player's teammates. Even on dedicated multiplayer servers, bots are sometimes used to pad out teams that are short on players.

Unreal Tournament is known and widely praised for its bot artificial intelligence (AI), the product of programmer Steve Polge who had earlier risen to fame by designing the Reaper Bot for Quake,[3] one of the earliest examples of an effective deathmatch bot. The player can choose a bot skill level (anywhere from "Novice" to "Godlike") or set it to automatically adjust to the player's performance. Bots can be further customized by changing names, appearance, accuracy, weapon preferences, awareness, and so forth.

Game types[edit]

  • Deathmatch: A classic every-man-for-himself player vs. player combat. The objective is to out-frag all opposing players.
  • Team Deathmatch: Teams compete together to out-frag the opponent team. Like Capture the Flag and Domination in this version—and unlike subsequent releases—four teams were allowed: Red, Blue, Green and Gold.
  • Capture the Flag: Classic 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.
  • Domination: Teams compete to control various control points to earn points and win the map. 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 more control points one team controls, the faster it gains points.
  • Last Man Standing: Similar to Deathmatch, the objective here is to remain alive longer than your opponents, putting an emphasis on number of deaths rather than kills. Players start with all weapons 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 and have to wait as spectators until the match ends.
  • Assault: This game type is played with two opposing teams, one assaulting a "base" and the other defending it. The map is set up with a number of objectives which the attacking team must complete (usually in sequence) such as destroying something, entering an area, triggering a button, et cetera. The team who first attacks then defends, and attempts to defend for the entire time they attacked. If they can accomplish this, they win the map. If the team defending first assaults the base faster than the other team, they win the map. If both teams defend for the maximum amount of time the map is a tie.


Unreal Tournament was played at the World Cyber Games in the years of 2001[4] and 2002[5] where the title was contended for in a deathmatch 1 vs 1 environment. This was where UT was played on an international scale, where players from all around the world went head to head to win The Tournament.[6]

Place WCG 2001[7] WCG 2002[8]
1st Germany GitzZz Germany GitzZz
2nd United States XS|Pain United Kingdom Shaggy
3rd South Korea XaN New Zealand eVeNfLoW


Project's debut[edit]

Cliff Bleszinski, one of the level designers of the game.

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 multilayer matches could use improvement. In the months following Unreal‍ '​s release, developers focused on developing the multiplayer aspect further. Epic Games started thinking about an official extension meant to improve the network code of the game and feature new maps and other gameplay elements.[9][10]

The team start working on this extension during summer 1998 but the task seems to be complicated because of Epic Games's visual structure. At the time, the team of Digital Extremes is regrouped at London in Ontario when the team of Epic is dispersed in the United States. To fix that, Epic decide to regroup it's employees in Raleigh and in September, work on the extension could begin. Steve Polge set the bases of multiple game's modes, such as capture the flag or domination, and has decided that the extension will be entirely focused on the multiplayer aspect of the game. The content of the extension grows quickly and soon, the team realize that it has under-estimated the task. In November, after a meeting with GT Interactive, Mark Rein suggest to make a standalone game instead of an extension. The team was reticent at first but they soon finally accept that idea and in December, the game was entitled Unreal: Tournament Edition.[9]

Development team[edit]

The development team of Unreal Tournament was around 16 people.[11] Most of them already worked on Unreal, but Epic hired multiple new developers to reinforce the team working on the project. Brandon Reinhart for instance, joined Epic in August 1998 to help with the development of patches for Unreal and Unreal Tournament. In December 1998, Brandon and James Schmalz discovered a mod of Unreal, named UBrowser, which had a new GUI of navigation for network games. They decided to show it to James Schmalz, the lead designer at Digital Extremes, who decided to hire Jack Porter, the mod's author. He quickly took his steps with the team and implemented his new interface into Unreal Tournament.[12]

During the game's development, the team lacked artists. Shane Caudle 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. This was shown to be rather inefficient, and so the developers were limited to a small amount of textures.[13]


31 second sample from the Main Menu theme of Unreal Tournament, written by Alexander Brandon.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The soundtrack for the game was primarily written by Alexander "Siren" Brandon, Michiel "M.C.A." van den Bos, Andrew "Necros" Sega, and Dan "Basehead" Gardopée, the same music artists who wrote the Unreal soundtrack, although only Brandon and Van Den Bos remained credited for it. The game (in contrast to Quake, which used CD audio) employed tracker music, which resulted in a considerably good sound quality with very little size trade-off.

Two additional tracks were contributed: one ("Firebr") by Tero "Teque" Kostermaa and Kai-Eerik "Nitro" Komppa, and one ("Razorback // Unreal mix") by Peter "Skaven" Hajba. These, however, remained uncredited for reasons unknown—Hajba's credits are in fact still intact in the instrument data in the file itself, and the original version of Kostermaa's song is available from his website,[14] although there are various differences. Users, such as map makers, may also add custom soundtracks to maps using UnrealEd. Game composer Frank Klepacki was impressed by Alexander Brandon's contributions to the soundtrack.[15]


Many fans have taken advantage of the chance to create mods for the game. 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.

Another popular mod, released by co-creator Digital Extremes and included with later versions of the game, is "Relics", which adds items to the game which have various effects on the player who obtains them. Relics include Vengeance (when the player holding it dies, a skull appears at the point of death and then explodes in a similar fashion to the Redeemer); Defense (which lessens the damage done by weapons); Speed (which gives the holding player a boost in speed); Redemption (which teleports the holding player to a different area when the player's health meter is at 0); Strength (which boosts the damage done by the player's weapons); and Regeneration (which regularly increases the player's health by 10 points).


The success of the original Unreal Tournament has spawned four sequels, including Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Tournament 2004 (on Unreal Engine 2.x), Unreal Tournament 3, which was originally code named UT2007, and the upcoming Unreal Tournament reboot. The yearly naming structure, based around marketing the franchise as a competitive sports title, was abandoned shortly before the launch of the third sequel.

There have also been several efforts to remake Unreal Tournament by the community using newer engine versions, the largest in scope being Unreal Tournament Revolution, a total conversion for Unreal Tournament 2004, featuring new music by original Unreal Tournament composer Michiel van den Bos. Because of differences in the styles of the sequels, the goal of such remakes are typically to take advantage of newer engine features and graphical capabilities while remaining true to the gameplay and style of the first Unreal Tournament.

In 2000, Digital Extremes announced a game with the name Dark Sector which was planned as a spiritual successor to Unreal Tournament and "the next step in the first person action gaming experience by blending the intense action elements of Unreal Tournament with the scope and character evolution of a persistent online universe".[16] It was to feature an early clan/syndicate support,[17] team battles, ladder matches and Space flight gameplay. However, the game (in this form) never would see the light of day as the original plan was scrapped. The title would resurface in 2004 with an entirely new focus and being developed for the late sixth generation of video game consoles.


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings Mac: 96%[18]
PC: 94%[19]
Dreamcast: 88%[20]
PS2: 77%[21]
Metacritic PC: 92/100[22]
PS2: 77/100[23]
Dreamcast: 90/100[24]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4.5/5 stars[25]
CVG 9/10[26]
Eurogamer 10/10[27]
GamePro 4.5/5 stars[28]
Game Revolution A-[29]
GameSpot 9.5/10[30]
GameSpy 94/100[31]
IGN 9.6/10[32]
PC Gamer (UK) 92/100[33]
PC Gamer (US) 90/100[34]
Computer Games Magazine 5/5 stars[35]
The Electric Playground 10/10[36]
Publication Award
Computer Gaming World Game of the Year[37]
Best Level Design[37]
Hall of Fame (2004)[38]
GameSpy Game of the Year[39]
Special Achievement in Artificial Intelligence[40]
GameSpot Action Game of the Year[41]
CNET Multiplayer Game of the Year[42]
Macworld Hall of Fame (1999)[43]
Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering[44]
PC Player First Person Shooter of the Year[45]

Unreal Tournament received widespread critical acclaim.[18][19][22] 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!"[46] In March 2000, Unreal Tournament was second on a list of best-selling games in Computer Dealer News trade magazine, behind Quake III Arena.[47]

At GameRankings, the Windows version of Unreal Tournament holds an average review score of 94%.[19] GameSpot praised Unreal Tournament's 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."[30] 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."[30] The game was similarly reviewed by GameSpy, who concluded: "Unreal Tournament raises the bar for first person teamplay games. This game is stuffed with content and polished until it gleams."[31]

The Macintosh version of Unreal Tournament was equally praised. Macworld dubbed it the "Best network shooter for the Mac", and gave it a place in the Game Hall of Fame in 1999.[43] In its review, Macworld editor Christopher Breen stated: "If the violence and hardware requirements don't unsettle you, you'll find Unreal Tournament nothing but unwholesome, bloody fun."[43]

The PlayStation 2 release did not fare as well as the PC and Dreamcast versions. The PS2 version has an average review score of 77% at GameRankings.[21] GameSpy criticized the graphics of the PS2 version, saying "Graphically, the PS2 version of Unreal Tournament seems uninspired."[48] Its conclusion stated "Sluggish gameplay, somewhat washed out colors and textures".[48] In addition to this, the PS2 version only allowed multiplayer games on 11 maps (7 deathmatch and 4 capture the flag). A novel, but relatively unused, feature is the ability to connect a keyboard and mouse through the PS2's USB ports. Players could then play in a similar manner to the PC version. This also allowed for up to 3 players without the use of a PlayStation 2 Multitap.

Anthony Chau's review of the Dreamcast version said: "I have to claim that Unreal Tournament is the overall best first person shooter on the Dreamcast.".[49]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Unreal Tournament Release Information for PlayStation 2". GameFAQs. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  2. ^ "Unreal Tournament". Digital Extremes. Retrieved June 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ Unreal Tournament website - UT History
  4. ^ "WCG History - WCG 2001". World Cyber Games, Inc. Retrieved July 1, 2012. 
  5. ^ "WCG History - WCG 2002". World Cyber Games, Inc. Retrieved July 1, 2012. 
  6. ^ "WCG Grand Final Tournament - Group Full League". World Cyber Games, Inc. Retrieved July 1, 2012. 
  7. ^ "WCG Grand Final Tournament 2001 Medalist". World Cyber Games, Inc. Retrieved July 1, 2012. 
  8. ^ "WCG Grand Final Tournament 2002 Medalist". World Cyber Games, Inc. Retrieved July 1, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b (Grossman 2003, Early Development, p. 91-92).
  10. ^ Template:Web link.
  11. ^ (Grossman 2003, Where We Go from Here, p. 102).
  12. ^ (Grossman 2003, A Game Takes Shape, p. 92-94).
  13. ^ (Grossman 2003, What Went Wrong, p. 100-102).
  14. ^ http://teque.planet-d.net/mp3/Teque%20-%20Kharismatron.mp3
  15. ^ Frank Klepacki (2008-11-08). "Interview of Frank Klepacki". Retrieved 15 June 2009. [dead link]
  16. ^ The Darker Sector – www.darkersector.com – We Live, eat, and excrete Dark Sector
  17. ^ neuer Spieler: Die 10 besten Spiele, die es nie gab!
  18. ^ a b "Unreal Tournament Reviews (Mac)". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  19. ^ a b c "Unreal Tournament Reviews (PC)". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  20. ^ "Unreal Tournament Reviews (DC)". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  21. ^ a b "Unreal Tournament Reviews (PS2)". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  22. ^ a b "Unreal Tournament (PC: 1999) Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  23. ^ "Unreal Tournament (PS2: 2000) Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  24. ^ "Unreal Tournament (Dreamcast: 2001) Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  25. ^ Couper, Chris. "Unreal Tournament Review". AllGame. All Media Network. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2015. 
  26. ^ C., Alec (15 August 2001). "Unreal Tournament Review". Computer and Video Games. Future plc. Archived from the original on 2 December 2006. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  27. ^ "Unreal Tournament PC Review". Eurogamer. 1999-12-04. Retrieved 2008-05-04.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  28. ^ Werner, Nash (1 January 2000). "Unreal Tournament Review". GamePro. International Data Group. Archived from the original on 6 September 2004. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  29. ^ "Unreal Tournament review for the PC". Game Revolution. 1999-12-01. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  30. ^ a b c "PC Unreal Tournament Review". GameSpot. 1999-12-09. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  31. ^ a b Fargo (1999-12-01). "Unreal Tournament review for the PC. The Next Logical Step in First-Person Action Gaming". GameSpy. Archived from the original on 4 June 2004. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  32. ^ IGN Staff (1999-12-06). "Unreal Tournament Review. Epic brings the first-person multiplayer game as close to perfection as it's likely to get". IGN. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  33. ^ Pierce, Matthew (October 1999). "Unreal Tournament Review. Single-or multi-player? Epic finally solve the age-old question and discover that there's really no difference at all". PC Gamer UK. Future plc. Archived from the original on 2 December 2000. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  34. ^ Egger, Dan (14 August 2000). "Unreal Tournament Review — Sick of the same old first-person shooter? Then welcome to the future of the genre!". PC Gamer US. Future plc. Archived from the original on 26 May 2002. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  35. ^ Perkins, Dave (10 December 1999). "Unreal Tournament Review". Computer Games Magazine. theGlobe.com. Archived from the original on 17 June 2003. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  36. ^ Ham, Tom. "Unreal Tournament will exceed all your expectations". The Electric Playground. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  37. ^ a b CWG (March 2000). "Computer Gaming World — Issue #188" (PDF). Computer Gaming World. Ziff Davis. Retrieved 18 October 2015. 
  38. ^ CWG (October 2004). "Computer Gaming World — Issue #243" (PDF). Computer Gaming World. Ziff Davis. Retrieved 18 October 2015. 
  39. ^ The GameSpy Staff (1999). "The GameSpy 1999 Game of the Year: Unreal Tournament". GameSpy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2002. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  40. ^ The GameSpy Staff (1999). "The GameSpy Best of 1999: Special Awards". GameSpy. Archived from the original on 17 October 2002. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  41. ^ GameSpot (1999). "GameSpot - Action Game of the Year". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 10 August 2002. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  42. ^ CNET. "CNET Gamecenter - Multiplayer Game of the Year". CNET. Archived from the original on 2 March 2000. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  43. ^ a b c Breen, Christopher (May 2000). "Unreal Tournament Review — Best Network Shooter for the Mac". Macworld. Mac Publishing. Archived from the original on 15 August 2000. Retrieved 18 October 2015. 
  44. ^ AIAS. "Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Awards". Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  45. ^ PC Player (January 2000). "PC Player — Issue 01/2000" (PDF) (in German). PC Player (German magazine). Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  46. ^ Vega, Peter (April 2000). "Unreal Tournament: A Blast That Will Last". Computer Shopper. p. 139. 
  47. ^ "Off the Shelf Best Selling Titles.". Computer Dealer News. March 10, 2000. p. 43. 
  48. ^ a b "Unreal Tournament Review (PS2)". PlanetPS2 (GameSpy). IGN. November 22, 2000. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  49. ^ "Unreal Tournament Review (Dreamcast)". PlanetDreamcast (IGN). IGN. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 

External links[edit]