Hopes were high that Unreal Tournament would or could successfully jump from the PC to the PS2. Enough things were lost in translation to make buyers beware, but even if you’ve never played the PC incarnation, there may still be better options out there.
For one, this iteration of UT lacks any online action, bot customization, or level editing. Those were hallmarks of the original game, but they’re certainly possible on consoles as well, as aptly demonstrated in shooters such as TimeSplitters and Perfect Dark. Maybe Epic didn’t think anyone would notice or care. They were wrong.
The bulk of the original maps and modes survive the trip to the PS2, but with minor things being scaled back here and there. One annoying feature is that many things have to be unlocked, railroading players into completing the actual tournament instead of just jumping into a game with all the options already available. The tournament serves largely as an extended tutorial, so if you’re already familiar with the genre and/or the maps in the game, it feels like a waste of time.
By the time you do unlock the selectable characters and bots, modes, and maps, you’ll probably be sick of the game. It doesn’t move all that well, skimps on bots (15 per game in the original; 4 here) and while other versions of UT have selectable game speed and character creation modes, this effort lacks both. I couldn’t even name my character. Honestly, the screen where you pick your avatar was more akin to a fighting game like Tekken than any FPS I’ve ever seen.
The levels are from a game that’s several years old, and the interiors-only design philosophy shows in more glaring relief the wide-openness of the levels in a game like Tribes. They even share many similar game types, including deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and domination (capture and hold in Tribes). They’re adequately executed, but I’ve seen them done better elsewhere among the PS2’s library.
What you’ve got here is a game that built a cult following years ago, but nixed the biggest draws – customizability and online components – this time around. The four-player splitscreen idea has already become obsolete for this genre. The one thing they did almost get right was including USB mouse support, but the buttons can’t be remapped or anything. Still, a mouse was, is, and probably for a long time will be the way to control a shooter like this.
The same weapons are here from before, many of which have become genre staples: the rocket launcher, flak cannon, shock rifle, pulse gun, sniper rifle, pistol, and so on. They all give off decent effects, both visually and aurally, but finding something to shoot them at can be tricky with the limited bot and number of player options. LAN games are available via the iLink port, but that’s now been removed from the PS2 hardware, and how many people are willing to put in the effort to play that way a game that isn’t that hot to start with?
In the end, PS2’s Unreal Tournament serves as a nice intro to the series, but it doesn’t hold up to some other shooters on the console for depth, speed, options, or customization, and certainly pales in comparison to its PC heritage. This particular version of UT seems more like a beta than a well-aged port. Nothing’s updated, nothing’s new. The core gameplay is passable, but it’s not what it was back in the 90’s, that’s for sure. It’s not that it’s bad, per se. It’s just not that good.