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Unreal

30 April 1998
Unreal - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.66 / 5.0
0.5
5.0
 
 
225 Ratings / 1 Reviews
#836 All-time
#34 for 1998
After the ship he's detained on crash lands onto a strange alien planet, Prisoner 849 fights not only for his own survival, but for the Nali, a tribal race that has been subjugated by the brutal Skaarj.
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It's unreal how your entire arsenal is useful in this game, no gun is redundant or useless. The ever-changing scenarios encourage you to swap weapons often and make use of the different options available. A lot of the foes can dodge your shots and move in unpredictable ways, while the bulk of damage is done by projectile weapons. This creates situations in which short-term planning is essential according to the type of enemy you’re facing. Some of the monsters, for example, start attacking from mid-range and attempt to get in your face as you back away. You can’t use explosive weapons when a 3-meter beast has its crotch pressed against your head, or else you would take severe damage. A good course of action is dealing enough explosive damage while the enemy is far away so that you can finish it off with a flak cannon (shotgun, basically) when it's up close. Of course, since the AI will almost always attempt to dodge your rockets/grenades, you should try forcing it into a situation in which it doesn’t have room to move away. If there’s more than one enemy, you might want to prioritize the ones which do more damage; or find ways to damage multiple at the same time. In a vacuum, this works well, creating a combat loop that is less about managing hordes or reacting to predictable patterns, and more about quickly adapting to factors outside of your immediate control to take back dominance over the playing field. Your enemies can take a lot of hits, so a fight against even one, depending on the context, can be a real struggle. The problem with Unreal’s combat is that the level design doesn’t always support its unique enemy behavior.
When the area of play is too expansive, most of the interesting mechanics are nullified, since both you and your enemies have functionally infinite space to avoid projectiles. Hitscan weapons become your most reliable solution. Monsters, however, are stuck with projectile-based attacks, so the encounter becomes tensionless, as nothing is being actively fought over.
A claustrophobic area can work, as long as it draws the players in instead of pushing them away. There are a lot of opportunities to corner the AI, but you’re equally susceptible to having your movement options restricted. Tight spaces test the player’s quick-thinking skills and smart use of the environment. You want to keep the monster at medium range while utilizing the level geometry and movement to avoid damage. Sometimes, though, you have to force yourself into uncomfortable situations to fully enjoy this type of design. It’s too easy for the player to take an overly defensive approach and not even enter the stage, standing by the entrance and engaging with the enemy from behind a safe corner. To avoid this, the designer could attract the player into the battlefield by providing a safe area inside the field itself (such as cover), or introduce the enemies only after the player is already in the middle of the stage, perhaps in a more challenging position. The key is to make players move around and strategize a short-term course of action. Locking the exits can feel cheap if the game puts emphasis on organically exploring the environment, you don’t want to take away too much agency. The other solutions work by letting the player be a protagonist of their experience while still leading them to interesting scenarios.
This game would benefit from stages structured more like smaller, less cyclical multiplayer levels. A larger area consisting of a series of interconnected tight or slightly open sections that allow for layered options of engagement with the enemy. The loop asks for creative use of the environment, so geometry is key. Different levels of verticality, narrowness and amount of cover could all be used to define battles, but zones this thought-out are rare and isolated.
Outside of combat, stages consist of the classic old rhythm of finding triggers to unlock the rest of the level, which forces exploration and clever analysis of the environment. I am terrible navigating most games that use this structure, so it may be a personal issue, but I found Unreal to be very confusing at times. For a good portion of my playthrough, I was ready to praise the game for always, somehow, leading me to the right path and guaranteeing steady progression without requiring me to bang my head against the wall. After many moments stuck, however, I realized that I only had that impression because I had happened to bang my head against the right walls by luck. The set of actions you’re required to figure out and perform get more complicated as the levels grow. By the last third, you’re swimming through sewers and running back and forth between castles, outposts and houses in order to find the one lever you haven’t pushed to activate a lift on the other side of the map. The tips that appear on the translator help, but they can’t replace clear, well-signposted design, which is mostly lacking. It’s Unreal-istic to expect the player to keep track of every door they must backtrack to in order to progress. When you flip a switch, you shouldn’t be left wondering what in god’s name it did. To avoid confusion, it’s good, for example, to make sure the player has a view of the section they’re altering when activating a trigger.
The game maintains a very strong visual cohesion while keeping levels diverse and innovative. It’s truly unreal just how varied the areas can look, considering the game is quite long (I took a few screenshots to exemplify - https://imgur.com/a/jPsmllp). The aesthetic vision incorporates ancient dungeons, sci-fi motherships and organic forest environments into a believable, consistent world. The striking art direction is a solid foundation for its universe. The concept alone is already half the world-building: peaceful natives inhabit a functioning ecosystem, living in harmony with the forces of nature, only to have their way of life destroyed and exploited by foreign, technologically oppressive invaders. The rest is detailed by clever set dressing and rare but remarkable written content. Experiencing a story through observation helps construct a believable environment. Also, it’s interesting how small you are compared to the rest of the creatures, it helps sell the idea that you are an alien in this world.
The soundtrack manages to translate a world of jungles, ancient principles and alien technology into a dense atmosphere. The more ambient tracks remind me of a modern vaporwave album, テレパシー能力者 : ロストエデンへのパス by Telepath and Nmesh, which also establishes an unreal, dream like ambience thematically focused on nature.
Unreal had everything to develop impeccable, intensely memorable combat encounters, but the rarity of stage design that understands its own enemies severely hurts its potential. It’s still a very fun experience that manages to keep itself entertaining even during the boring gameplay sections. The art direction is so cohesive and aesthetically pleasing, it’s unreal!
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MiuSchardo 2023-10-29T11:59:06Z
2023-10-29T11:59:06Z
4.0
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Catalog

LOVE_ME_FOREVER_FOREVER Unreal 2024-02-25T12:55:36Z
Windows • XNA
2024-02-25T12:55:36Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Nitro______ Unreal 2024-02-03T22:14:46Z
2024-02-03T22:14:46Z
9.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
kendricco Unreal 2024-01-26T21:34:32Z
2024-01-26T21:34:32Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
jiux Unreal 2024-01-25T11:20:14Z
2024-01-25T11:20:14Z
2
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
OolDSnake Unreal 2024-01-16T04:11:52Z
2024-01-16T04:11:52Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
steam
hevykofe Unreal 2024-01-12T23:02:45Z
2024-01-12T23:02:45Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
LocoJake Unreal 2024-01-03T18:16:08Z
2024-01-03T18:16:08Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Skeletor_Lord Unreal 2024-01-03T09:03:59Z
2024-01-03T09:03:59Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
1998 First-Person Puzzler Alien
CaptainPlasma Unreal 2023-12-30T20:30:29Z
Windows
2023-12-30T20:30:29Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Fet Unreal 2023-12-28T04:00:46Z
Windows
2023-12-28T04:00:46Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
ukmi Unreal 2023-12-27T21:43:21Z
2023-12-27T21:43:21Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
ranzac Unreal 2023-12-20T03:00:08Z
2023-12-20T03:00:08Z
7.4
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Content rating
ESRB: M
Player modes
1-16 players
Media
1x CD-ROM
Multiplayer modes
Cooperative , Deathmatch / FFA, Team play
Multiplayer options
LAN, Online
Franchises

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  • Previous comments (4) Loading...
  • mattbc 2020-10-19 23:35:35.590866+00
    very underrated; overshadowed by Unreal Tournament, but the ambiance was incredible, as was the soundtrack (from the artists behind Deus Ex)
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  • Lamneth 2021-06-08 10:26:32.824725+00
    really want to check this out
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  • 0megalen 2021-07-03 15:59:21.58845+00
    the soundtrack fucks
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  • Heretyk 2021-11-07 22:55:44.680694+00
    The visuals are peak late 90's nostalgia
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  • Sharked98 2023-04-30 16:43:38.290446+00
    Happy 25th!
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  • dentist_oven 2023-06-30 13:01:09.827358+00
    sick visuals and soundtrack
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  • anton_zn 2023-08-02 12:27:08.376994+00
    I agree that the game is certainly a technical marvel for it's time, I adore its graphics and some sounds effects, but the single player gameplay is sometimes annoying, sometimes I don't understand where I should go further. So as an FPS game it's 6.5/10, but considering its marvellous graphics it's 8/10.
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  • charredwind 2023-08-28 02:23:42.308508+00
    god this game owns. one of the only 90s fps games that i can fully recommend. even half-life has some clunk but this is just perfect
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    • renegadexavier06 2023-09-03 05:18:56.949614+00
      All the COD ratings made me thought you had no taste. I was wrong.
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