Unreal is the first installment of the Unreal series, and was the first 3D venture by Epic Games and Digital Extremes. The game was approved by GT Interactive in 1996 and released on May 22, 1998 to the world, however by several accounts work on the engine actually started sometime around 1994. It was also the first game to use the Unreal Engine.

Unreal provided a single player experience along with a multiplayer mode that allowed for up to 16 players. It was rated 'M' for Mature by the ESRB for intense violence.[1]


"Your prison ship has crash-landed on the fastest, sleekest, most dangerous 3D world ever created. Look around, crystal clear water shimmers, shadows dance and shift, alien architecture fades into the horizon. Discover the secret of this mysterious planet and find out what caused a peaceful race to be enslaved by vicious merciless aggressors."
Box art description

Development historyEdit

Work on Unreal began in 1994 when James Schmalz, founder of Digital Extremes, showed Cliff Bleszinski a side project he had been working on. At the time, Schmalz was creating all of his own content, and programming the game all by himself. The game had not yet been fully realized, and Schmalz was creating all of his levels on paper.

A short time later, Schmalz showed what he had been working on to Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic MegaGames (later renamed to Epic Games). Tim was impressed and began working on a level editor for Schmalz to use to build his engine. As time went on, many people became involved in the process. Some of the key people of the remote employees were Mark Rein which was brought in to do PR, Steve Polge that was hired to work on the AI and Shane Caudle who was called to make some of the game's maps. For a time, many of the people working for Epic were doing so remotely.

The game was initially planned for an April 1997 release. A beta was released that year, allowing player to get a feel of the gameplay. The beta was seen at GDC (Video Game Developer Conference) '97. Those who saw the demo expected the game to be complete by this time; however, the AI was unfinished, the levels, lacking variant textures, looked repeating, the sound effects were bad, and the game was overall too long to complete in a fair time. This resulted in the development team, up to that point using a "Virtual Team" scheme, all centered in Digital Extremes Waterloo offices, returning to their homes a year later, after completing the game. Roughly one year later, the game was released and its level of detail put video game publishers on notice: a new age of gaming had arrived.

A demo was alluded to many times by various people at Epic Games throughout the life of Unreal, however the only demos that were ever released came bundled with various hardware. Many people saw this as a negative to Unreal as there was no real way to try the game before you bought it.

Press release Edit


GT Interactive, Epic Megagames And Digital Extremes Ship The Year's Most Eagerly Anticipated PC Game

Spectacular 3D Environments, Revolutionary Artificial Intelligence, Intuitive Level Editor and Vast Internet Play Usher in New Generation of Gaming. NEW YORK, NY, May 22, 1998 - It is called `Unreal,' but it is indeed a triumphant reality to gamers around the world, as GT Interactive Software Corp. (NASDAQ: GTIS) ships 1998's most eagerly anticipated 3D action video game for the PC, Unreal.

"One of the most highly awaited games of all time, Unreal is poised to set a new benchmark in the 3D action/adventure category," says Holly Newman, vice president of Marketing for GT Interactive. "We are excited to bring to players - both novices and gamers alike - an experience that combines cutting-edge technology with innovative game play, and we believe Unreal has the ability to further broaden the audience for interactive entertainment."

Heralded by Next-Generation magazine as "the best looking game of all time," and PC Gamer magazine as "the future of gaming," Unreal offers heart-pounding, single-player action; intense multi-play for up to 16 gamers; as well as the Unreal Level Editor - one of the industry's most advanced, easy-to-use level editor programs. The level editor allows even novice players to create their own Unreal levels or customize virtually any aspect of the game itself in "half" the time of other editors.

"Unreal is the combined vision of the talented and dedicated teams at Epic MegaGames and Digital Extremes, who shared the dream of creating the most captivating action/adventure game ever," says Mark Rein, vice president of Epic MegaGames, Inc. "We're confident that gamers around the world will believe that their wait was well worth it when they sit down to play."

Designed for the Windows 95/Windows 98/Windows NT platforms, Unreal transports one or more players to a beautiful yet deadly planet which, as a result of a mysterious ore, has become the "Bermuda Triangle" of space, entwining alien races from across the galaxy in a battle for survival. Unreal's visuals set a new standard for realism - water is transparent, flames randomly flicker, moving clouds cast shadows -- while dynamic lighting and music changes complement the on-screen action.

GT Interactive's Unreal offers an exciting array of features, including:

Spectacular dynamic lighting -- enhancing Unreal's immersive 3-D environments; Optimized for Intel's MMX technology, Power VR and 3Dfx 3D accelerator chip sets - resulting in unbelievably fast game play with high-resolution graphics; Portal technology - literally bringing a new dimension to game play by allowing levels to defy 3D Euclidean space; Enhanced enemy artificial intelligence - resulting in intelligent, cunning and deadly life forms; Internet play with true client server environments -- offering multi-player matches on the Internet that are easy to set up and play. Ability to host own Unreal multi-play tournament and "hotlink" between user-created levels; Many highly-detailed polygonal enemies -- each with more than 300 frames of animation; Bilinear texture smoothing -- making environments appear more realistic, resulting in a far more intense game play experience; Vast true 3-D environments -- including spacecrafts, ancient ruins, mines and castles, each with their own unique challenges and secrets; Deadly arsenal of high-power weapons; Multiple intriguing puzzles; Dynamic cinematic quality soundtrack and special audio affects, adding to Unreal's eerie atmosphere and realism, including, Dolby Surround Sound and Aureal's A3D sound system. Unreal will ship with a fully functional beta version of Epic's Unreal Level Editor - an advanced 3D authoring tool which provides a sophisticated, yet easy-to-learn, method of creating 3D environments and objects by which players may create their own Unreal worlds. According to Computer & Net Player magazine, "if this doesn't bring level editing to the masses, nothing will." A feature-enhanced, fully supported and documented version of the Unreal Level Editor with additional 3D content and a tutorial is currently under development and will be released separately later this year.

GT Interactive is supporting the launch of Unreal with an in-depth marketing campaign. Comprised of extensive print advertising, online promotions, direct mail, in-store promotions and innovative merchandising, including novels and strategy guides, GT Interactive's Unreal marketing campaign will run through the holiday season.
Unreal is currently available at retail outlets nationwide at a suggested retail price of $54.95."

Unreal Press Release[2]

Release datesEdit

A full version of Unreal was released with certain S3 Video Cards to show off Unreal's S3TC capabilities. This version came with several S3TC showcase levels that can be found online.

A free trial of Unreal was released with certain Creative products to show off Unreal's EAX capabilities.

Game content Edit

Gamemodes Edit

Main article: Unreal Single player

Aside of its campaign, which features both solo and coop modes, Unreal features four multiplayer modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Darkmatch. With the exception of the latter, the rest of the multiplayer gametypes use the Deathmatch maps.

Single player maps for Unreal
Vortex RikersNyLeve's FallsRrajigar MineDepths of RrajigarSacred PassageChizra - Nali Water GodThe Ceremonial ChambersDark ArenaHarobed VillageTerraniux UndergroundTerraniuxNoork's ElbowTemple of VandoraThe TrenchISV-Kran Deck 4ISV-Kran Decks 3 and 2ISV-Kran Deck 1Spire VillageThe SunspireGateway to Na PaliNa Pali HavenOutpost 3JVelora PassBluff EversmokingDasa Mountain PassCellars at Dasa PassSerpent CanyonNali CastleDemonlord's LairDemon CraterMothership BasementMothership LabMothership CoreSkaarj GeneratorIlluminationThe DarkeningThe Source AntechamberThe Source
Darkmatch maps for Unreal
Deathmatch maps for Unreal
Bonus Packs: DmBayCDmCreekDM-CybrosisDmDespairDmEclipseDmKrazyDM-LettingDmLockeDM-LoxiDM-MojoDmMorbfanzaDmScruularDM-ShrapnelDmSplashDM-TwilightDmVilla

Human characters Edit

Monsters and creatures Edit

Weapons Edit

Items Edit

These are divided in two categories: Inventory Items and Pickup Items.

Inventory Items can be picked up and then used during the course of the singleplayer game and a few are available in multiplayer levels. Use the bracket keys [ ] on your keyboard to select an item visible in your inventory icon bar (default controls). The currently selected item is bounded by a white box. Use the Enter key to activate an item. Activated items are highlighted in red. Press Enter a second time to deactivate an item.

Pickup Items are activated or put into use as soon as you pick them up. For this reason, it is often wise to leave a Pickup Item on the ground and come back to pick it up when you need to use it. Every Inventory item becomes pickupable in multiplayer mode.

Soundtrack Edit

Main article: Music#Unreal

Unreal features music in UMX file format, based on tracker music. Alexander Brandon from Straylight Productions and Michiel van den Bos were in charge of the music, with additional contributions made by Andrew "Necros" Sega and Dan "Basehead" Gardopée.[3] Additionally there are some music tracks which were included in the game but were not used in the original game alone. Some of these unused tracks were, however, used in Unreal Mission Pack: Return to Na Pali.

Reception Edit

Unreal was given very good reviews and was generally accepted very well by gamers. However, shortly after the game's release, it became apparent that the multiplayer network code was not up to scratch for the 56k modem connections in wide use at the time. Due to this, the Epic MegaGames message board filled up with hundreds of posts of complaints about the poor quality of the Unreal netcode and the general need for a patch. This led to Epic's message boards being nicknamed the "Epic FlameBoards". In response, Epic released dozens of patches to the game, later including Direct3D and OpenGL support to the Software Rendering and Glide support.

Essential files Edit

Main article: Essential files#Unreal

Main article: Bonus content#Unreal

Here you will find all the links to the downloads of the essential files for your Unreal installation.

Trivia Edit

  • There is an unfinished weapon in the game, the Quadshot, named from it being a quad-barreled shotgun, which is never seen in the game. Its mesh, sounds, and script, however, can be seen in the Editor. It was overpowered and redundant with the Flak Cannon, hence its removal. Some mods (one popular example being Seven Bullets) have working weapons using this mesh.
  • The song "Isotoxin" is featured as the opening song of another game, called "In Pursuit of Greed".
  • A dragon, gargoyle, chameleon, squid, and some other creatures were shown in tech demos and displayed on pictures and ads, but none of them were ever used in the final, finished game. Some weren't seen in the game because the places which they were in were cut to avoid making a game too long to complete, others were either replaced (like the Krall, who took the place of a centaur-like creature) or removed altogether (like the Dragon), because they disturbed the quality of the game, the team behind which had the goal to make the game live to its full potential.
  • The manual lists the Rifle's alternate fire as a three-shot burst, when it is, in fact, a zoom function. This is a leftover from the Unreal betas. It was later corrected in the Prima site.
  • Many maps were cut from the final version. Some of them are: Soledad, Morose, Nexus, Nexus End, FHub6, Cryox, and The Gateway. The Deathmatch maps DmMorbfanza, Sky14, DmSplash and the Kill the Cow gametype were also cut at the last moments, while DKNightOp was instead moved to the Darkmatch gametype.[4]
  • A full install of Unreal uses around 420 MB of hard drive space.
  • According to Cedric 'Inoxx' Fiorentino, technical limitations of the engine were the reason of why the Skaarj Generator exploding sequence had to be divided into two different levels (Skaarj Generator and Illumination).[5]
"I think I frightened a lot of people with the Pupae in the Skaarj Mothership (you know those awful 4 legged spiders). I have to confess that I got scared several time in my own level.

One of the biggest advantage of the single player mode, is that you can have a progression. That's one of the main element when you design an adventure. It also allow you push the limit of the engine. For example in Unreal, you walk in this big Mothership, then you reach the Skaarj Generator and you destroy it. Then you go back to the Mothership which is unpowered. All the lights are gone, all the magnetic fields that locked the prisoners are off, all the lifts are broken.

This is not possible to do in a single Unreal level, especially the lighting part. You would have to use dynamic lights for the whole level and it would be terribly slow. So what I did is several copies of the level, one with lights, the other without light and you walk from one level to the other without noticing.
Cédric 'Inoxx' Fiorentino

External links and references Edit

  1. Entertainment Software Rating Board
  2. History of Unreal Part 1 @ BU
  3. Mirsoft - World of game music
  4. Errata @
  5. Cedric Fiorentino interview @ Unreal Universe

See also Edit

Unreal (series)
Unreal series: UnrealReturn to Na PaliUnreal II
Tournament series: Unreal TournamentUT2003UT2004UT3UT4
Championship series: Unreal Championship - Unreal Championship 2

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