The Slacker's Guide - The Classics, Now at Yard Sale Prices: Unreal Tournament 2004

December 29th, 2006

Somewhere on the flight back from Providence to Washington, D.C., amidst turbulence sufficient enough to stop them from handing out soda and peanuts, I looked over to my left at the kid reading a copy of a Playstation 3 magazine. And thinking beyond the fact that I kind of wanted a cup of water, which even the "flap or die" discount airlines try to give you before you land, I asked him if he'd gotten a PlayStation 3 for the holidays.

He mentioned that he had and my brain reeled against the inside of my skull.

More than $600. If I had kids, no matter how much I loved them, this would be an astronomical Christmas gift and the most sensible thing I could do for them would be to buy them shovels and Greyhound tickets to Denver. They could figure out the rest once they got there.

Painting a target area for an air strike in multiplayer mode.

Still, there's the question of hype for the most modern and current thing as well as how much we're willing to spend on it. 2007 is just around the corner and with this comes the anticipation of the next Unreal Tournament release. And understandably so. Almost every time out, Epic Games has done something new and incredible with this fabled series. When the game first hit the market in the 90s, we saw graphics and game play that had never been seen in a first person shooter and a level of detail that sent gamers running for the newest graphics cards.

For the 2003 and 2004 releases, the company pushed what could be done with a physics engine via the inclusion of rag doll elements. Images that had blown us away years before gained additional polygons and better light sources as well as multiple light sources. In short, a great image became that much more lifelike.

When in doubt, snipe at something.

This is to say nothing of the ideas that went into the games. The Unreal Tournament series, possibly beating out the Quake series, demonstrated what imagination in terms of character and weapon design, level design and vehicle conclusion could do. If you ever dreamed of something or wanted it in a cool first person shooter video game such as monsters, aliens, robots, battle mechs, space ships, hovercrafts, all-terrain vehicles with retractable razor blades to behead enemies with, portable nuclear weaponry and targeting system to paint an air strike target with, odds are Epic had already included it or it was en route for the next version.

Even if games sometimes get the cold shoulder on the Mac, this wasn't the case with Unreal Tournament. Programming guru Ryan Gordon never skimped on anything in terms of fixes and updates; what made its way to the mainstream PC market also found its way to the Mac and Linux versions if he had anything to say about it, even if the patches wound up being a few hundred megabytes. Additional care of the franchise was also administered by MacSoft, which made sure the releases were as close to simultaneous as possible between the Mac and PC versions.

The mini gun may not have the strongest rounds, but there's nothing quite like it for pinning down an area in competitive game play.

Unreal Tournament has evolved over the years thanks to the mod community, which has created games of almost every genre for it. Titles like Red Orchestra Frag Ops and Tactical Ops have made the game more realistic and given it different settings (check out the downloads section on for a list of recently updated mod and conversion programs.

Finally, there's the price. Where marquee title games are running $59.99 before taxes, players can find copies of Unreal Tournament 2004 for as low as $20.50 via a directed search on eBay. For a bit more than you'd spend on a pizza and some sodas, you can have a great, well-supported game currently written as a Universal Binary that can run natively on both the PowerPC and Intel architectures that can still go head to head with anything that's out there in terms of sheer fun and enjoyment.

Unreal Tournament retails for $39.99 on Bold Games' web store and requires a 933 MHz G4, G5 or Intel processor, Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later, 256 megabytes of RAM, a video card with 32 megabytes of VRAM, a DVD-ROM drive and 6 gigabytes of disk space to install into.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see something new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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