Thursday, February 12, 2009

Urban Terror Review

Urban Terror (UT) is a free multiplayer first person shooter. Starting its life as a Quake III: Arena mod back in the year 2000, it is still going strong. Now a stand alone game, UT has a legion of dedicated fans, admiration in the modding community, and recognition in competitive gaming leagues. The game is unique in that people can jump from roof to roof, power slide down stairs, take brutal amounts of damage, and yet it all feels... believable. That said, UT has gotten very little recent mainstream press. Does UT deserve your attention, or is it a fugitive from gaming's past?

UT does the team based shooter genre well. The reds are locked in war with the blues. Matches revolve around these two teams killing each other, stealing each others flag, and occasionally blowing stuff up with C4. This is nothing new. The addition of a stamina bar, trick jumps, and intuitive controls makes for good gaming. Players define their gear load outs, choosing from a variety of pistols, rifles, machine guns and grenades. Body armor, medical kits, and other accessories are also available and seriously impact game play. Gear load outs also effect stamina use, meaning a machine gunner with full body armor is not very nimble. Wounds bleed until bandaged, adding a new consideration to game pacing. It would be nice to see more end of match statistics, such as MVP and most head shots at the end of a round.

Things sound good in UT. Bullets ricochet convincingly and impact flesh with a sound best described as satisfying. Weapons are acoustically believable. Nothing beats the effect of being yourself shot, starting to limp, and hearing your own labored breathe as you beat a retreat. Even the sound of tape when using the medical kit fits in. The general rule of thumb for sound effects is that they feel natural and unobtrusive. I have the feeling that any abrasive sounds where weeded out years ago.

This is a game you come back to. Once you learn to wall jump and power slide, you're compelled to try and master the art. UT is a hugely competitive game. With a large and growing community dating back to the year 2000, there's a respectable number of skilled players. This means you can always find a challenge. As an actively developed game, UT is always looking forward to improvement. A productive community of level designers also provides new maps.

From the get go, UT is easy to get into. The majority of servers offer instant re-spawn modes, so even those new to the genre avoid frustration. Smoke and high explosive grenades are used often, but almost never in detriment to the fun factor. Most maps have sniper strong points, and the bright colors of character models make camping a difficult proposition. Maps offering unfair advantages exist, but usually do not attract server populations. Ignoring the underpowered shotgun, weapons are well balanced, with appropriate rate of fire / damage ratios. Doing borderline parkour while engaging in gun play is serious fun.

UT has only one real shortcoming. Visually it is noticeably outdated. A product of the prolific Quake III engine, it has largely been ignored by today's masses of graphics obsessed gamers. And that is tragic, because this game deserves more attention. Those who don't mind the lack of sexy lighting effects, insane polygon counts, and rag dolls will be richly rewarded. UT does have blood splatter on walls, effective smoke grenades, and solid character models. Characters are well animated, considering the insane variety of player moves.

UT is a game that has aged well. For those gamers who can look past dated graphics, you'll find the joy of free running while smearing your enemy's blood across the wall is palpable. The nuanced, popular, urban maps are a nice change of pace. Finding a match is easy in the extreme, with a huge amount of servers hosted internationally. And the usually rouges gallery of hackers and campers is surprisingly absent. The player community is helpful, and its all free. You owe it to yourself to give this game a shot.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. And yes it is an amazing community based game.