Unreal Tournament 2004 is a classic first person shooter that holds up surprisingly well 15 years later.
Gameplay is fast paced and intense thanks to fun movement mechanics and level design. Every weapon is unique and fun to use. For me, the biggest highlight is the campaign. While most multiplayer shooters treat single-player as an afterthought, UT2004 creates a fun gladiator-style competition for you to take part in. You build your team, pay them a salary, assign them different roles based on their abilities, and try to win the championship. Along the way you can challenge other teams in order to take one of their members and have them join your team if you win. Other teams do the same to you, so you can actually lose team members and be forced to play against them later in the campaign. It makes the game feel more dynamic and alive thanks to each team’s roster constantly changing. There are a huge variety of game modes that all feel fairly unique and require different strategies. Outside of the campaign, multiplayer is great as well as the assorted mods available to play.
Graphically, the game is obviously dated, but still looks good for its age. While the textures are lower resolution than modern day graphics, the animations and effects do a lot of work to distract from that. The graphics never get bad enough that it takes you out of the game, thanks to how fast paced most of the action is. The character and team design is the strongest visual aspect of the game, with every group of characters feeling unique, while also differentiating between the individuals within the team. Teams are instantly recognizable, adding a lot of flair and character to what would otherwise be a mindless shooter.
The sound design is great, with most weapons having satisfying sound effects that fit their visual design well. The character banter is fun and helps add some liveliness to the game. Voice acting is hit or miss, but tends to mesh with the character design and the overall aesthetic of the game.
UT2004 is an all around great game with no major flaws. Strongly recommended to any first person shooter fan.