Are you faced with the dilemma of how to kill some time during reading week? Don’t want to study? Well, I can sympathize. With the year winding down, I’ve found myself with more and more free time on my hands. Sure, developing a drinking game to play while doing laundry is fun, but I assure you, friends, that I have found something far better. Two hot new games are out for the PC market and trust me — you really won’t want to miss them.
From the creators of Unreal and Unreal Tournament comes the latest iteration in Epic’s first-person shoot-’em up franchise: Unreal Tournament 2004. Its predecessor, Unreal Tournament 2003, had a different developer, but since it received a luke-warm response, control of the next installment was handed back to Epic. UT2004 employs the same engine as UT2003 did but it is by no means the same game: almost half of the game’s more than 100 maps are new. Epic also decided to throw in four new weapons to keep battles blazing long into the night. On top of that, vehicles have been included, from tanks to buggies, hovercraft to aircraft, to liven up online play. There’s no shortage of content here.
As if all that weren’t enough, Epic has unveiled two new game play modes, Assault and Onslaught, giving Unreal Tournament 2004 a total of 10 unique modes. Fans of the original Unreal Tournament will probably remember Assault: one team starts in control of a base, anything from a military base to a space station, and the other team assaults it. The goal is for the assaulting team to take control of the whole fortress as quickly as possible. Then, teams switch roles and the other team attempts to do the same in less time. Onslaught features two teams battling, mainly with vehicles, in expansive outdoor maps for control of a series of checkpoints between their bases. Once one team has connected all the checkpoints, it may attack and destroy its opponent’s core. Although neither mode is truly new to the online shooter genre, they’re both still ridiculously fun thanks to all the new toys Epic has implemented. There is also a rudimentary single player mode with surprisingly intelligent bots if you want to learn the maps or if you would just like to brush up on your skills. Unreal Tournament has truly experienced a renaissance in the hands of its original developers.
If multiplayer games aren’t your forte, or if you are one of those few unfortunate souls still stuck with a 56K modem, Far Cry is right up your alley. Developed by Crytek, a previously unknown German developer, Far Cry sports an engine written from the ground up just for the game. In it, you play Jack Carver, an ex-soldier running a charter boat business in the South Pacific. He is hired by a mysterious woman to take a visit to a small island nearby, but when his boat gets blown up in the harbor and the woman is taken captive he knows something is amiss. It is your job to battle through armies of mercenaries to rescue her, uncovering more and more secrets (and surprises) as you go.
Far Cry boasts a number of strong points. The story is gripping and will draw the player into the game. The robust engine renders the tropical environment beautifully, with long lines of sight and complex particle and lighting systems. Clear water ripples and shimmers in a realistic manner and you can hear the birds and insects in the trees. Player models are extremely lifelike and have fluid animations. All sorts of vehicles are available in the game, from boats to jeeps to hang gliders. The gameplay itself focuses more on stealth and strategy than just running and gunning, truly immersing the player in the virtual world. There is a wide variety of weapons, the artificial intelligence is truly intelligent, and the physics have to be seen to be believed. It has been a long time since such a riveting single player game has been released.
Both of these games are excellent, but in entirely different ways. If you want the best multiplayer experience available, look no further than Unreal Tournament 2004. For riveting single player, Far Cry is the only choice. Be warned, though: if you decide to buy either game, make sure you have ample spare time because once you put the disc in, you won’t want to take it out.
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