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2023-06-14 19:30:38

Unreal 20 Years Later - An LGR Retrospective

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Time to make myself feel old with a retrospective on a PC game from my youth .

This is Unreal developed by Epic Mega games and collaboration with Digital Extremes and published by G T Interactive on May 22nd , 1998 and 1998 was how long ago ?

That last fact still hasn't quite sunk in yet anyway , when it released decades ago , Unreal was an absolutely monumental title for a multitude of reasons .

But one of the easiest ones to point out was its graphical prowess .

Unreal .

Yes , this is an actual PC game screenshot and dude that really was mind boggling for February of 1997 when next gen magazine printed this .

Keep in mind that at the time of this world reveal magazine article ID software's Quake was only eight months old .

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So going from in game characters that looked like this to this was a notable improvement further or as a fan of titles like Epic Pinball and Jazz Jackrabbit , seeing developers , I was familiar with like James Schmaltz and Cliff Blazin , putting together the most advanced 3d shooter ever made .

Only a few years after developing those two Ds games that was a bit surreal or unreal if you will , when Unreal finally released Jazz Jack Rabbit two would only come out two weeks prior .

So seeing both a silky smooth two D platformer and a silky smooth 3d accelerated F P S arriving under the same banner within the same month was just like what how and even with Unreal arriving just five months after quake two's release , it still felt like a generational leap in PC gaming graphics and the box tried to make that abundantly clear .

Other first shooters often covered their package and logos and artwork providing some abstract representation of the game .

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But Unreal went balls out from the start plastering in bossed renders of his 3D models right on the cover and including a square cut out showing one of four screenshots and it was all topped off with quotes like the best looking game of all time , the future of gaming and rest in peace quake two .

The hyperbole continued around back as well with copious screenshots and descriptions cramming in every bit of self congratulating , marketing copy .

They could it seems a bit pompous in hindsight , but at the time , they truly had earned the right to brag about their tech .

So , hey , why not ?

And if you needed any more confirmation about how long ago 1998 actually was check out the list of products , it's optimized for not a single one of those API S instruction sets or multiplayer networks exist anymore .

At least not in the form they did back then .

Sad .

Inside the box , you get a bit of an unusual cardboard insert , one that's built to hold the duel case all snug .

So the cover screenshot is visible on the front of the box and mine is cover variant number two of four .

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And inside you get the game on a single CD ROM as well as a booklet that contains not the manual but even more screenshots as well as a merchandise catalog , letting you know all the cool unreal stuff that I'm one vulnerable late night away from irresponsibly buying on E and Yep , there was also a Macintosh version of the game ported by West Lake Interactive , which was set to release in June of 98 but didn't actually show up until a year later for that matter .

There was also going to be a Playstation and a Nintendo 64 version of Unreal with none other than D MA design A K A rockstar North working on porting the ladder to the 64 D D system .

But both were canceled because reasons back to the box though where you also get this little catalog for G T Interactive's offerings for spring of 1998 including existing releases like unreal and upcoming releases like Duke Newcom Forever .

This long awaited sequel is coming in winter 98 .

Huh .

Dates are subject to change .

Indeed .

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Finally , you also get an instruction manual or prisoner transportation log as it calls it with over 30 black and white pages of information covering everything from the story to the game play to the ins and outs of the options menus and troubleshooting .

And then these ads in the back are pretty great as well .

You could win a BMW for signing up to AT&T world net apparently and check out that Falcon Northwest Mach five .

I wonder if anyone still has one of those beasts lying around .

And it seems the infamous Mad Cats , Panther XL controller was officially endorsed by the creators of Unreal suffice to say I will be sticking to a mouse and keyboard for the rest of this video .

Once you've got Unreal installed in your graphics card properly configured , it's time to dive into the most anticipated PC gaming .

Yeah .

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Well , this is not an uncommon sight when it comes to the launch version of Unreal bugs and crashes are a fact of life and epic knew it going so far as to include this slip of paper in the box , calling for their hard core gaming audience to please forgive them in advance because making games is hard and unreal is full of bugs .

So please be sure to download the latest updates as soon as possible .

Now , I can think of a few companies who should still be including messages like this .

But anyway , thankfully , there are patches for just about every configuration of PC imaginable .

So once it's working .

You're greeted with the legendary Unreal Castle Fly by demo .

Oh dude .

Yes .

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Every time I start this game up and I hear that mod music playing composed by Alexander Brandon and Michel Vandenbos in combination with those glossy 3d surfaces flying by .

Brings me right back to the first time I saw this running , it was just me in my living room with my compact that brand windows 98 S E sitting there in awe at what was happening on my screen .

I kept thinking my computer can do this .

Granted , I mean , I had upgraded it with a 16 megabyte voodoo three card in order to make it happen .

So I knew it technically could .

But knowing and seeing were two different things and seeing this in the late nineties running on your computer was practically a religious epiphany to a PC gaming geek , but impressive visuals can only carry a game so far and unreal is much more than a tech demo .

So let's get to it starting with the main menu and dang had completely forgotten this is what the U I looked like originally with no mouse cursor and a chunky green type face .

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Anyway , let's begin with the single player campaign and its offerings of four difficulty levels and a variety of character models to choose from what you pick out here is pretty inconsequential to the campaign since you play a silent protagonist in a first person perspective .

But I appreciate the gesture regardless .

And now it's time to wake up .

You play an unnamed soul known only as prisoner 8 49 who awakes in a prison cell to pure chaos aboard a transport vessel called the vortex Rikers .

You quickly find a universal translator tablet line on the ground and get to work navigating the crumbling ship accompanied only by the screams of unseen crew members enduring unseen horrors .

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And wow , did this introduction make an impact back then ?

I had never played an F P S with such a focus on environmental storytelling like this before .

You're just thrust into this lonely but chaotic situation with no idea what went wrong and very little to go on except the written logs of dead crew members and the level design itself to fill in the gaps .

And this kind of storytelling in first person shooters has been done to death nowadays .

But keep in mind this was before half life had come out experiencing this in 98 was a treat in hindsight though there's a definite similarity to system shock here with its dark dilapidated space station and its focus on picking up story pieces as you go , but I wasn't aware of that game at the time .

So this was an entirely fresh experience to me .

And unlike System Shock , Unreal is a first person shooter above all else .

And it's not long before you find a weapon , some ammo and some beefy alien baddies for Target practice .

Ok .

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And while you'll be seeing these same dudes repeatedly throughout the game , the way they're introduced one by one is just awesome .

Like the first time a scar shows up .

Fantastic .

Yeah , that's another thing .

Unreal makes heavy use of darkness throughout the campaign .

No doubt to show off its dynamic lighting capabilities .

So you're frequently having to make use of flares to light your way , at least until you find any of the various flashlights later on .

But all of these lighting sources are temporary with the flares exploding after a short time and flashlights running out of battery life .

Ah , well , at least you can use a weapon and a light at the same time .

So you're not doomed to shuffle between the two .

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However , as creepy and delightfully atmospheric as these darker levels can be personally unreal , really feels like unreal to me in the outdoor environments .

Say hello to the planet of Napa .

This moment is perhaps the most memorable one in the game for me , even after all these years where you first step off the crashed ship and out into this lush alien world .

The place was not only massive but beautiful with strange creatures flying around the village off in the distance , weird rabbit things hopping by begging to be shot and the sound of a waterfall in the distance while more of that awesome tracker music plays just saying .

The word unreal brings environments like this to mind .

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They're pretty to look at yet isolating to exist within , containing just enough detail and wide open space to entice you to explore further without overwhelming you at the same time .

And this kind of lower polygon count geometry , I just find it ridiculously charming at this point .

I mean , it's like , hey , look , these platforms you can walk across , it's an elongated rectangle have fun .

A good chunk of your story remains a pretty straightforward chill experience really with no objective markers or lists of things to do .

Getting in the way of you wandering and interacting with the world .

Most of this interaction takes the form of bumping into doors , switches , machines and contraptions to make them do their thing , taking a cue from quake , there is no interaction key , you just kind of straddle an object for a second until it does what you want .

But there are some physical puzzles as well like moving a box here and there .

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So you can jump on top of it to reach a higher ledge or shooting at objects to activate them or destroy part of them to create a new platform or blowing up walls and surfaces to reveal a pathway or hidden room .

They are also friendly in pcs known as the nay that will help you out if you have enough patience to keep them alive , opening up alternate routes or secret chambers of weaponry and power ups .

Of course , the less amiable aliens around do not want that to happen and will make a beeline to try and kill them before they can help you .

So , being quick and precise with your guns is a must .

Speaking of armaments , there are 10 guns in the original unreal , many of which will be quite familiar to you .

If you played the later games in the franchise , the first gun you receive and the most basic of them is the dispersion pistol , a low power energy gun that recharges over time and is most likely going to be used for shooting open objects like crates and barrels , but also has the unique ability to be upgraded several times by picking up boosters throughout the game .

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Then you have the auto mag which is a hit scan pistol that's credibly accurate but rather slow in terms of firing rate .

Yet also has a sideways gangster mode where you shoot way faster for some reason , at the expense of a loss of accuracy .

Then there's the stinger which is a rapid fire chain gun type of thing , except it shoots terri shards in either a straight line or a slow but effective spreads shot .

Then there's the G E S bio rifle which is a little bit unusual and then it shoots blobs of toxic waste in various sizes .

Next up is the A and D shock rifle is a fantastically useful weapon shooting powerful energy beams in a straight line from any distance as well as a secondary fire that shoots out a pulsating energy ball which can then be shot with the other beam to make an even larger explosion .

Then there's the mini gun which works a lot like the stinger except it uses the same M O as the auto mag and its secondary mode fires at a different rate .

Next is the oddly named eight ball launcher which is a rocket launcher with six barrels , not eight .

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Apparently it's a vestigial name from earlier in development .

But whatever man , it's awesome .

You can shoot individual rockets or you can hold down fire to queue up six of them in a horizontal pattern or use the alt fire to toss rockets in a general direction like grenades and bounce them off surfaces or hold down both buttons to send a cluster of rockets in a small group .

Just a fantastic gun , but even better in my opinion is the flat cannon .

It's somewhat like the stinger's alt fire mode except here you have heated shrapnel that bounces everywhere and shreds enemies to pieces as well as a shell launcher .

That's fantastic for doing lots of longer range damage if you're skilled enough .

After this is the razor jack , which is quite powerful but often causes more trouble than it's worth seeing as it shoots spinning blades that bounce all over the place and can easily lop off the heads of anyone in its path , including you .

And it also has a rather gangster secondary sideways firing mode .

Because you had to make that weapon cool somehow .

And then finally , there is the sniper rifle , easily one of my favorites in this and every other unreal title .

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It's a powerful armor piercing hit scan weapon that disconnects heads from torso's in spectacular fashion and is a pleasure to use in unreal massive environments when you zoom in .

Although it kind of just decreases the F O V to make zooming happen .

There's no scope overlay or anything but it works and it's fun as memorable and useful as these weapons are though I found the power ups to be pretty standard .

You pick these up and store them in your inventory to use whenever you need .

Things like the aforementioned translator , flares and lights .

You also get stuff like scuba gear , jump boots and visibility in a single use force field , but probably the most useful one is the amplifier which has nothing to do with your hi fi set up and everything to do with making your weapons more powerful when activated .

There's also the Nolly fruit seed .

One of the more creative health items I've seen most of the time .

You're just picking up med kits and such off the ground .

But every so often you'll see a seed which can be activated by planting it and waiting for it to grow .

Seriously , you'll find these out in the world too , already grown .

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But when you plant one , the longer you wait , the more health you'll get from the plant up to 30 health points , weird and inconvenient .

But that's neat .

And you will want all the seeds and health items you can get because unreal does not always take it easy on you .

Especially on higher difficulties as you would imagine .

I enjoy how almost all of the power ups and weapons you find aren't yours alone and will inevitably be used against you .

And almost all of the game's 20 something enemies are quite skilled in dodging and switching up their attacks .

So it can often be a serious challenge to get a bead on them depending on what you have at your disposal .

And what exactly is attacking .

There's a respectable variety in them as well , including scar brutes , crawl gas bags , mes sli flies mantas titans and if you're not keen on jumping spider face hugger like things well , too bad because this game is full of them .

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However , as varied as the enemy types are , by the time you reach the mid point of the campaign , it becomes increasingly apparent just how much of a bullet sponge many of them can be .

Unfortunately , it just gets downright tedious because you're fighting the same kinds of creatures in the first levels as you do on level 10 , level 17 , 26 34 so on , you get the idea and while the right set of circumstances still leads to some fun firefights here and there , the combat seriously wears out its welcome , in my opinion .

I mean , it's exciting to take on your first Stone Titan for sure .

It just acts as a mini boss battle and it's all cool and stuff .

But by the time you see your 5th , 6th , 7th , 8th 1 , all doing the same thing except now the bigger ones soak up more ammo .

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It gets old fast and I'm sad to say that so do many of the maps themselves with the sheer size of them being a blessing and a curse at times twisting all over the place and requiring tons of backtracking for no particular reason except to pad out game play , not really providing many new things to do , but rather just shaking up how you get to those same things in slightly different environments .

And don't get me wrong though .

There's something to be admired about this kind of complex level design from the nineties and I appreciate what the folks at Epic and Digital Extremes crafted using relatively few art assets .

But man , there are only so many samey looking fortresses underground cavern systems and Nostromo inspired spaceships that I can handle in a row .

And then there's the ending of the game which is rather unmemorable .

It's a generic alien queen boss battle where you have a big room and a bunch of ammo dodging a barrage of simple attacks that repeat on an endless loop .

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Once that distraction is over with , you get a cut scene of you escaping the planet hooray , except then you run out of fuel and then contemplate how you've effectively done nothing by ending up where you started alone as a prisoner aboard a space ship to be continued .

Thankfully , you didn't have to wait too long to continue with the release of Unreels one and only expansion pack returned to Nepali releasing in 1999 followed by Unreal Gold , which combined both the mission pack and the base game together with the latest patches .

This pack was a bit of a departure in that it was developed in conjunction with legend entertainment known mostly for their point and click adventure games back in the day .

And I also don't see this mentioned very often , but RT N P actually works with both Unreal and Unreal Tournament .

Can't say I recall many expansion packs doing double duty like this .

And I must admit I've never actually played this pack until now or even opened my boxed copies .

I'm pretty here .

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Let's break the seal and see what you get and that is not a whole lot really just a simple product registration card and a jewel case holding both the CD rom and an instruction booklet covering the new features on offer pretty standard stuff .

The expansion campaign picks up right where unreel left off with your character being discovered by a human warship , the US Bodega Bay .

But once they find out who you are and what you've just done , you're forced to go back to the planet and retrieve the data cores of another crashed ship and wait , what the , you have a voice now , a day after my so called rescue and I'm going back to the surface of the planet .

They've promised me a full pardon and transit back to earth in exchange for my help .

The alternative was a trip out the airlock without a suit .

Huh ?

So , yeah , it turns out you could talk all along and just decided to play the first game silent .

I guess .

Not only that , but you even get little interludes in between each level , showing your kill stats as well as an audio log of the protagonist .

Thoughts .

I'm pausing to record entry .

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I'm still shaken up after running into the scar and their filthy minions , I guess .

I thought I'd seen the last of them when I killed the scar queen on the mother ship .

There are even some short in engine cut scenes that freeze the action while some voiceover plays .

Although you can still shoot and move the camera while this is happening .

Yeah , these changes can be a bit strange and a bit ill implemented , but I don't mind them too much .

In fact , I kind of like this campaign better than the original in some ways .

Now , that's not to say it's a masterful narrative or that the original neither are true at all .

But for whatever reason , I feel that return to Napoli is better paced and remains more consistently enjoyable to play than the original campaign these days .

It helps that it's only about four or five hours long compared to the main games .

10 to 13 hour story .

So it doesn't spend too long in any one area and keeps the combat brisk without repeating as many of the same enemies in a row .

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And I really quite enjoy the new combat assault rifle it comes with , which is a lot like the mini gun except it shoots more accurately and it's fire mode , burst fires rounds that explode on impact .

And I definitely found some use with the new rocket launcher , which acts as more of a traditional single shot R P G and has a secondary mode for shooting guided rockets and the grenade launcher .

I don't know I can take it or leave it .

I don't see much need considering you have the eight ball which kind of shoots grenades of a sort anyway .

But it is kind of handy that it's alt fire launches grenades that can be remote , detonated at any time .

But yeah , that combat rifle is the one I use the most here , especially handy against the new enemies .

Like the pack hunters , fast moving little dinosaur punks that chomp away at your knees .

Then there are the spinners and man , if you didn't like the jumping pupa enemies in the original , these giant arachnids are not going to make you feel any better .

And without spoiling much .

There's also a chance you'll get to kill some humans for once who are absolutely a force to be reckoned with .

And again , I found the combat rifle most useful here .

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Anyway , once you reach the finale of this pack , the ending is even more abrupt than the main game , there's no giant boss battle .

You just kind of wander into a small chamber and take a spacecraft off the planet where you unceremoniously defeat your enemies through a cut scene .

The end , no final thoughts from our badly voiced protagonist , just the credits .

Ok .

On second thought , maybe return to Napoli is a bit underwhelming by the end .

But still , I really enjoyed it while I was playing it .

There are some truly awesome levels in there with some creative environmental puzzles , many of which were cut from the main game and then added back through this pack alongside some new ones made by legend .

But whether you're playing the main game or the mission pack , I very much recommend the story mode for Unreal even today , especially the first half of the original campaign .

It is still one of my absolute favorite shooter experiences of the late nineties , but as enjoyable as the story mode is one cannot forget , multiplayer .

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Unreal , not only is the entire campaign player and co op , but there are a crap load of maps modes and gameplay items that were available exclusively in multiplayer .

And yes people are still playing to this day with dedicated servers online at any given time provided you have the right patch installed .

Speaking of which I very much recommend the old Unreal patches which are fan made updates to the game made with the permission of Epic .

Once official support ended , please provide all sorts of updates for more modern hardware , including support for newer versions of direct X and open G L as well as additional graphical tweaks and bug fixes over what Epic provided .

But yeah , anyway , multiplayer , it's pretty excellent .

Whether you're playing one of the more usual modes like Death match or King of the Hill or the more unique ones here like dark match or cloak match .

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All the weapons and power ups for the main game are here as well as some extra stuff for deceiving your opponents with things like the sound dampener for your guns and the voice box for making distracting noises .

But the biggest claim to fame for this mode are probably the A I bots that it came with , of which Unreal was a trend setter in this regard .

Now , there were earlier shooters to have bots in multiplayer , but they were either modded in by fans or they were so basic that no one could confuse them for human players .

But unreal .

Good grief , Steve Pge's bot tech was fantastic even knowing the manner in which it uses preset way points to make it work , you can still easily play the multiplayer offline .

Mode against nothing but bots and have plenty of fun .

And of course , this experience would only get better and more expanded from here with the eventual release of Unreal Tournament in 1999 .

But that will have to wait for another day .

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And I haven't even talked about Unreal Aed yet , which was the fantastic editing suite that it came with on the CD from day one .

This was the same program used by the developers to make the game and including it was an absolute dream come true to 13 year old me with lofty game designer ambitions and naturally this built in mod ability led to a barrage of modifications , mutters map packs and fan made editions over the years .

Not to mention the proliferation of the Unreal engine itself , which continues to dominate in the games industry in various forms to this day and bringing it all around to the day .

If you have the urge to revisit Unreal or even play it for the first time , it's incredibly easy to do so .

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Now seeing as the game is on digital storefronts like steam and G O D dot com and hey , if you appreciated this video and feel like supporting the channel through buying the game , feel free to use my G G affiliate link below this video either way though , I hope that you enjoyed taking a look back with me at Unreal An F P S Classic that does not deserve to be forgotten .

And if you dug what you just saw then awesome .

This went a lot longer than I planned .

But whatever this game is rad .

So if you're still here , then thank you very much for watching L G R .


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