Unreal ScreenshotThe first Unreal, while still a good game, is not necessarily one of the best. Released in 1999, it is based on the Unreal Engine. The single player experience is massive, with beautiful outdoor areas, spectacular castles, and interesting tech bases. The single player gameplay leaves a bit to be desired, however.

One of the best parts about Unreal was the fact that you could play multiplayer botmatches. This turned into a full online spectacle, where players battled each other on virtual fighting grounds. It led to the release of one of the most popular multiplayer-only games of all time.

Unreal Tournament ScreenshotAfter the original Unreal was released, Epic Games, creator of the Unreal series, quickly realized that the botmatches and online play were the most popular part of the game. This culminated into the release of Unreal Tournament, a strickly multiplayer game akin to Quake III. It was a huge hit, and was even given the award Game of the Year.

The original Unreal weapons were redesigned, and the equivalent of a handheld nuclear missile launcher was even added. Many brand new levels of play, and new game modes, such as Domination and Capture the Flag, were added.

UT2K3 ScreenshotEpic added to the Unreal legacy with the release of Unreal Tournament 2003 in 2002. Weapons were changed, all new levels were included, a new mode of gameplay was introduced, and the announcer was replaced with one that sounds like an NFL reject. All in all, opinions differ widely in how good the game really is. It is based on the Unreal engine yet again, only this time it has been vastly improved over the original used in Unreal and Unreal Tournament. There is no doubt that the game looks pretty, but how well it plays is up to much debate.
Unreal 2 ScreenshotUnreal 2 was released in 2003 to great expectations, and many believed it did not fulfill them at all. Sure, the graphics were cutting edge, but great graphics do not necessarily make a great game. The gameplay was rather slow paced, people complained of too many cut scenes, and the mission briefings were abnormally long. For most, the game was too short. While not quite another Daikatana, Unreal 2 was too overhyped.
UT2K4 ScreenshotOnce again, Epic has released yet another Unreal-engine based multiplayer game, this time calling it Unreal Tournament 2004. Is Epic turning this into some kind of a sport or something? Sure, it looks pretty, but I've heard otherwise about the gameplay. Seems to me that they're just holding on to their cash cow and milking it for all it's worth, what with the more or less flop of Unreal 2 and all.
I started playing through the original Unreal again several months ago, but couldn't make myself keep playing it. It's not bad, it's just that the game doesn't have much replay value. Unreal Tournament is still a great game, and I still play some botmatches once in awhile to keep from getting too rusty. Single-player modifications for Unreal Tournament have surfaced that I never even knew about, and one of the most awesome is Operation Na Pali. Unreal Tournament 2003 is most likely too much for my computer, in terms of processor ability, but more so in hard drive space. The game takes up three CDs, and that much space I cannot spare for a game. Unreal 2? More of the previous, and based on what I've heard about it, I'm not sure I would want to play it even if my computer could handle it. Unreal Tournament 2004? Give me a break.

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