The Unreal engine was produced not only as a game, but with the intention of licensing the engine out to other gaming companies for modification in creating new games. Unreal, along with Quake II, was one of the first engines produced with this intention. A few games have been created with the engine, such as Rune, Wheel of Time and some, as of today are still in development, like the highly-anticipated Duke Nukem Forever (the production time seems to be living up to the title).

Unreal also added a little more story depth to it's genre with the translator, picked up at the very beginning. It allows you to read signs written in alien writing, logs left behind by dead humans as you pass their corpses, (giving you a hint of how those who came before perished as opposed to simply leaving them there for you to find), ship logs, and even the logs of the Skaarj commanders against whom you wage war. This adds a literary element to the game somewhat like the various books you can find and read lying around in some of the Ultima games.

The basic premise of the story is very similar to Quake II. You're the survivor of a crashed ship. in Unreal, however, it was not a marine troop carrier, but a prison ship with a cargo of condemned humans. So however the crash puts you in peril, it is also your salvation. You must find a way to survive on a strange world. Discovering along the way that the same aliens who attacked the prison ship have also enslaved the indigenies who await their messiah, an offworlder who is prophecied to deliver them from the hands of slavery and oppression, but you just want to find a ship and get the fuck out of there.
Platforms: Windows 95/MacOS
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Format: CD-ROM
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: GT Interactive
Staff Notables: Tim Sweeney
Release Date: April 30, 1998
ESRB Rating: M

Unreal is a first-person shooter first released in 1998 by Epic Games. It was that company's first non-shareware release, and widely lauded as the "Quake killer" for its superior graphics engine. (It was also one of the only PC games of the time to have TV commercials; gamers with long memories may recall the 15-second ads ending with the slogan, "It's called Unreal because... it is.") The game seems to have been intended primarily as a showcase for the long-in-development engine. Unfortunately, to that end its release was rushed. The result was that initial releases of the game were very buggy, often having compatibility errors and causing random crashes; in particular, the multiplayer mode was all but useless until patched. Moreover, while the system requirements are paltry by today's standards, they were rather high at the time, which caused further frustration for many.

The game itself is rather straightforward. You awaken in your cell on a prison ship after it has crash-landed on an unknown world. You find your way out of the ship and start making your way fairly aimlessly around the planet, presumably looking for a way off it. This would be fairly simple, except that a vicious alien race known as the Skaarj have taken over this planet for purposes of resource-gathering, meaning you have to kill approximately five kajillion of them to get anywhere. Big surprise.

The graphics are good (superb for the time the game was made), especially for outside landscapes - they are, after all, what the Unreal engine was designed for. There are a few quirks that make it less realistic - for instance, fire any long-range projectile weapon (the Dispersion Pistol will do) up at the sky, and watch it until it disappears. You will see it act as though it's hit a surface - and it has. The music, done primarily by Alexander Brandon and Michiel van den Bos, is terrific. More to the point, it's appropriate and lends great atmosphere to the game - you don't get some kind of futuristic techno music when you're exploring a Nali village, you get music that lends itself to the setting.

Overall, it's a fun game to play, but there are a few problems. The first is the AI. Some people have actually claimed that the Unreal AI was the best of the time. Perhaps this is true, but it isn't saying much. The fact that enemies can always follow you doesn't make them intelligent, it makes you a homing beacon - they even know where you are when no real person would be able to find you. Secondly, at many times the game seems to consist of long stretches of easy gameplay (you run through a temple, kill a couple Skaarj and a Brute or two, boom, you're done) to incredibly-difficult gameplay (like fighting a Titan and an unlimited number of Krall in a small room). Thirdly, there is no melee weapon. This wouldn't be so irritating if your primary weapon was like the blaster in Quake II, which never ran out of energy; but instead it takes time to recharge. To compound this, many crates take two or three hits before breaking open. Fourth, the Nali are entirely too easily killed, and too "sensitive" - by which I mean, they'll treat you like a Skaarj any time you've caused them damage, even if it was an accident or a result of saving them from an enemy. It's a good thing you don't need them to complete the game, or you'd be utterly screwed.

And now, for some slightly less subjective content....


  • Dispersion Pistol: Ammo limit: 50 (90 with full upgrades). This is the first weapon you pick up in the game. It's a simple, self-recharging blaster, shooting low-energy pulses of plasma, or something. The secondary fire mode "builds up" a shot worth several regular ones, and has some splash damage, but in the middle of a fight waiting for it to charge is likely to get you killed.
  • AutoMag: Ammo limit: 200. Just a normal pistol, albeit one with bullets that instantaneously hit their target. You have to reload it after ever 20 shots (in fact, it's the only weapon in the game that needs to be reloaded), and the game doesn't let you do so before the clip runs out. Secondary fire is what the developers call "gangsta style" (shudder), it just makes the gun shoot faster and less accurately.
  • Stinger: Ammo limit: 200. A projectile weapon which machine-guns shards of "Tarydium" at a pretty fast rate. It's often useless against Skaarj Warrior classes (see below), though sometimes they're stupid enough to stand right in the line of fire. The secondary fire is a shotgun-like blast of five shards at once, which is really only useful at close range.
  • ASMD: Ammo limit: 50. The ASMD is essentially some kind of laser rifle. It's reasonably powerful, but for obvious reasons you need pretty good aim for it to be useful. The secondary fire mode sends a ball of projectile energy at the target. Hitting one of these energy balls with the primary fire will trigger a large and rather destructive explosion that you don't want to be anywhere near. In addition, the ASMD imparts some kinetic energy on its subject, which can sometimes be used to push enemies off cliffs and such.
  • Eightball Cannon: Ammo limit: 48. Pretty standard rocket launcher, with the exception that you can load up to six (not eight) rockets at a time before firing. The Eightball Cannon can also "lock on" to enemies. Secondary fire expels the rockets as grenades. Holding the secondary fire button down while loading and firing rockets will cause them to fire in a tight circle instead of a broad line.
  • Flak Cannon: Ammo limit: 50. Fires metal fragments (flak) at high velocity. The Flak Cannon is devastating at short range, but its potential for damage goes down significantly the farther your target is. It is all but useless for long-range attacks. The secondary mode fires the explosive Flak shell as an arcing projectile, exploding on impact.
  • Razorjack: Ammo limit: 75. A vicious Skaarj weapon that fires razor-sharp steel shurikens which will ricochet off the walls several times before disappearing. Secondary fire mode allows the player to control the movement of the blades to some degree. It is possible (though rather difficult) to decapitate an enemy with the Razorjack.
  • GES BioRifle: Ammo limit: 120. A pretty innovative (if gimmicky) weapon, it fires Tarydium waste in gelatinous blobs. If they don't hit an enemy, they'll stick to a surface for a short period of time, and then explode. Holding down secondary fire makes the blob bigger and more dangerous.
  • Assault Rifle: Ammo limit: 50. A standard sniper rifle, though it can easily be used at short range as well. Secondary fire operates the scope. It is possible to decapitate an enemy with the Assault Rifle, but I've found that even if your aim is perfect, the game won't always register it as a headshot.
  • Minigun: Ammo limit: 200. A machine gun with instantaneous damage (like the AutoMag). Irritatingly, it also uses the same ammo as the AutoMag, which means the latter will quickly become useless, considering the high rate of fire for the Minigun. Secondary fire increases the rate of fire even more, with decreased accuracy.


  • Translator: Allows you to read messages in any language. Note that this item only appears once, and failing to pick it up will make the game somewhat harder (and less fun).
  • Flares: Lights up a small portion of a room for 30 seconds, then explodes harmlessly.
  • Flashlight: Lights up the area in front of you. Batteries run out after 90 seconds.
  • Searchlight: Lights up the area in front of you; lasts for a very long time.
  • Bandages: +5 health points.
  • Med Kit: +20 health points.
  • Nali Healing Fruit: +26-31 health points if fully grown.
  • Superhealth: +100 health points up to 200 total.
  • Assault Vest: 100 armor points, provides some protection against all attacks.
  • Kevlar Suit: 100 armor points, provides significant protection against all attacks (which is curious, since Kevlar only stops bullets).
  • Toxin Suit: 50 armor points, provides minimal protection from attacks, but its main purpose is to protect you from toxic waste.
  • Shield Belt: 100 armor points, completely protects you until it is exhausted.
  • Dispersion Pistol Powerup: Upgrades the Dispersion Pistol to make it more powerful. This can be done four times.
  • Amplifier: Quadruples the damage inflicted by energy-based weapons - the ASMD and Dispersion Pistol.
  • Dampener: Silences your weapon for a short period of time.
  • SCUBA Gear: Allows you to breathe underwater for 60 seconds.
  • Jump Boots: Allows you to jump quite a bit higher than normal, but only lasts for a few jumps. Also protects you from falling damage.
  • Nali Fruit Seeds: Will grow into Nali Healing Fruit plants upon activation.
  • Voice Box: Meant to distract and confuse enemies. It doesn't work really well in single-player mode, though.
  • Invisibility: Turns you invisible for a short period of time, though you become visible briefly while firing. Essntially useless against the computer; enemies know where you are regardless of whether they can see you.
  • Force Field: Another essentially useless item; it creates a small cylindrical force field that can't be passed. Since most areas are larger than it, however, it's rarely much of a barrier.


    There are far too many classes of enemies in Unreal to list them all here without boring you all to death. Therefore I'll limit myself to descriptions of the several broad types of enemies in the game.

  • Native Animals: HP: 45-600. Most animals on Na Pali are fairly harmless. There are a few, though, that are intent on making a meal out of you. These range from the Horsefly and Devilfish, low-hitpoint creatures which can only attack you if you let them get close enough; to the Gasbags, huge round flying beings that can belch fireballs. For most native creatures, the AutoMag or Minigun (depending on how tough the thing is) is the easiest method of dispatchment.
  • Brutes: HP: 210-500. As the name implies, these Skaarj-controlled beasts are quite large and dangerously strong, so it's best to keep at a distance when attacking. In addition to their melee attacks, Brutes fire low-yield rockets from their "pistols", making your life just that much more difficult.
  • Skaarj Warriors: HP: 180-320. Though they possess fewer hitpoints than some Brutes, Skaarj Warriors are much more dangerous. They are extremely fast, and possess razor-sharp claws with which to shred you to pieces. In addition, they can fire an unidentified type of energy projectile from their hands, and can usually avoid projectile attacks with ease. You can sometimes use the Stinger against them, but your best bets are the Minigun, Flak Cannon, or ASMD.
  • Skaarj Troopers: HP: 140-220. These Skaarj weren't good enough to be Warriors, apparently, so they make up for it by giving them weapons - the same ones you have. Various Troopers may be armed with everything from a Dispersion Pistol to Eightball Cannons. (There's even one armed with an AutoMag, a decidedly human weapon.) In addition, they carry energy shields which, when active, significantly reduce the amount of damage they take. There's no particular weapon to kill these guys with; just avoid their attacks and make yours count - don't fire on them while their shields are up, it's a waste of ammo.
  • Slith: HP: 210. Amphibious relatives of the Skaarj, these aliens spit toxic sludge and can hack you to bits with their claws. Use the Stinger or the ASMD against them; or if you're feeling adventurous, get up close and use the Flak Cannon.
  • Pupae: HP: 65. These annoying little buggers are baby Skaarj. They go down easy if you can hit them, but their small size and constant jumping make that difficult. Use the Dispersion Pistol or AutoMag against them.
  • Krall: HP: 180-240. Alien mercenaries hired by the Skaarj to watch the Nali. They carry staff weapons which fire low-damage energy bolts. They also have reasonably powerful melee attacks. Occasionally, a Krall will appear to be dead, but really just lose function of its legs; be careful these half-invalids don't take you by surprise.
  • Mercenary: HP: 180-240. Apparently the developers couldn't think of a fourth name for an alien species, so these guys are just "Mercenaries". They fight with rocket launchers and machine guns, and can activate an "invulnerability shield". The Elite class can fire their weapons while invulnerable (which begs the question of why they ever turn it off). Use the Eightball Cannon, Minigun or ASMD against them.
  • Titans: HP: 1200-1500. These behemoths stand over 50 feet tall and shake the very ground with their movement. They have three attacks: a melee swipe which you can only survive once or twice; a "ground slam" which bounces you up in the air, disorienting you and throwing off your aim; and throwing boulders, which will almost always kill you on impact (even with full armor and health). Start with the most powerful weapons (Eightball Cannon and Flak Cannon) and work your way down.
  • Warlord: HP: 1500. This winged Skaarj wields a rocket launcher, which he'll club you with if you get too close. Projectile weapons, especially slow-moving rockets and low-range biosludge, are all but useless against his dodging skills. Use the ASMD, Minigun and Assault Rifle to bring him down.
  • Skaarj Queen: HP: 1000. She may have fewer hit points than the Warlords or Titans, but don't think she'll be any easier to beat. She fires several types of projectiles out of her body, has a powerful melee attack, can teleport at will, and creates Pupae. If you have an Amplifier and a fully-upgraded Dispersion Pistol, use that first at close range. Other than that, use your highest-end weapons to bring her down as quickly as possible.
    Unreal Game Manual
    Unreal Official Strategy Guide by Craig Wessel
    Hours upon hours of gaming when I should have been doing homework
  • Unreal is a first-person shooter videogame developed by Epic Games and published by GT Interactive, released 22 may 1998. It is the first to use the Unreal engine, which was completed in three years. An expansion pack for the game, called "Return to Na-Pali", was released 31 may 1999, which added other levels to the single player campaign. Years later, in 2001, Unreal and the expansion pack were put together in a cheap package called "Unreal Gold", followed by the "Totally Unreal" package which also included Unreal Tournament.


    The following sections contain spoilers: read at your own risk.


    The player takes on the role of a prisoner on the "Vortex Rikers", a space ship used to take criminals to penal colonies on various planets. For some unknown reason the ship crashes on a relatively unexplored planet called "Na-Pali", and almost everyone on the ship dies in the accident. The few who survived are killed by some mysterious predators, but the prisoner manages to get out of the ship, meeting an exotic world populated by strange creatures. Using a Universal Translator he manages to read the logs left by various other prisoners and guards who escaped from the ship only to die not much farther. The local inhabitants of the planet, a pacific race of four-armed aliens called the "Nali", have been enslaved by another race, the salamander-like "Skaarj", which came from another star system.
    While looking for a way to escape from the planet, the prisoner is occasionally helped by the Nali, and learns something about their somewhat primitive culture and that of the technologically advanced Skaarj. Crossing through remote lands, villages, temples, castles, and great technological structures, the prisoner learns about some Nali prophecies which tell of a "messiah" who will came from the sky to defeat the demons that came from the stars.

    Return to Na Pali

    After having successfully escaped from the planet aboard a Skaarj vessel, the prisoner is intercepted by a Marine space ship called "UMS Bodega Bay". The Marines decide to send him back to the planet to retrieve an important object from another crashed ship, in exchange for his freedom.
    After discovering that the Marines actually want to kill him to leave no trace of their illegal operations, the prisoner defeats the Warlord of the Skaarj inside a Nali castle, and finds a shuttle which allows him to escape from the planet once again. He manages to avoid being shot down by the Bodega Bay and flees towards an unknown destination.

    Technical notes

    Graphic engine

    Unreal was the first game to use advanced effects by utilizing a software renderer (effects are rendered using the CPU rather than a 3D accelerator video card). Because of the stress put on the CPU, the renderer requires a powerful system. The game supports 3D acceleration, using Direct3D, OpenGL, and 3dfx Glide.
    The Unreal engine has been licensed to other game developers. Some games which are based on Unreal technology are Deus Ex, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas, Wheel of Time and Clive Barker's Undying. A Duke Nukem Forever trailer produced in 2001 was based on Unreal technology.

    Sound and music

    Unreal uses a built-in sound renderer called Galaxy audio subsystem.
    Unlike many other games produced in that period, Unreal used tracker music (formats: MOD, S3M, XM, IT). This kind of music allowed to have a larger compartment of instruments with relatively little cost in disk space (generally less than 1 MB for each song).
    Tracker music also allowed to use dynamic segments which changed according to certain situations (for example the music could change between a quiet moment and a frenzy battle). The soundtrack was mostly composed by Alexander Brandon and Michiel van den Bos.

    Third party patches

    The source code for Unreal has been released by Epic Games and some fans of the series have developed add-ons and patches, which correct bugs left in the retail version of the game. People at have developed an Unreal 227 patch which fixes some bugs and adds some new features, such as Direct3D 8 and 9 rendering capabilities, and improved OpenGL drivers. As of April 2011, the latest stable version is 227g, but make sure to check for periodic updates.

    Beta version

    In 2006 a beta version of the game was leaked and posted on the Beyond Unreal forums. It was later clarified that the version was dated 1997, when the developers stated that the game would be distributed starting Christmas 1997. A video trailer was released which showed how the game looked at the time.

    The beta contained 35 maps. Some of them were either deleted later, substantially modified, or included in the official expansion pack "Return to Na Pali" after being reworked.


    External links

    * Beyond Unreal community
    * Unreal single player news
    * Old Unreal
    * Hyper Unreal services
    * Old Unreal Patches

    *Overview of the beta version


    Un*re"al (?), a.

    Not real; unsubstantial; fanciful; ideal.


    © Webster 1913.

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