In less than 30 seconds, it all came flooding back, as my flak cannon suddenly struck gold.

There's nothing like aiming the secondary fire of Unreal Tournament's flak cannon, sending a glob of shrapnel in the direction of your reticle, and watching someone gib into a million pieces.

In the waning months of 1999, you were either an Unreal Tournament person or a Quake III: Arena person. Me? I preferred the ridiculous flak cannons, bio riles, and translocators of Unreal Tournament, and why I'm so tremendously happy the new Unreal Tournament is more of that.

There hasn't been a new Unreal Tournament since Epic Games fumbled Unreal Tournament 3 back in 2007. In a post-Gears of War world, it wasn't clear Unreal Tournament had a place anymore. Of course, it didn't help Unreal Tournament wasn't very good, but the business realities were clear. The series took a break for several years, but it's coming back with a free version being built in real-time with the audience and community modding at center stage.

As part of announcing Unreal Engine 4 would now be free, Epic published an early version of Unreal Tournament for people to check out. As soon as it was up, I started downloading it.

Advertisement

Even though there's not much to Unreal Tournament just yet, it's absolutely worth your time. Why? Because it feels like Unreal Tournament and there's not much like Unreal Tournament.

(Yes, Quake III: Arena is around as Quake Live, but we established Quake vs. Unreal earlier!)

What's immediately striking is how damn fast Unreal Tournament is, underscoring how much the rise of console shooters and adoption of the game pad has slowed down the genre. It's hard to tell if this new Unreal Tournament's faster or slower than previous versions, but it doesn't matter, since it's like piloting a dang rocket ship compared to anything else I've played lately. It took a few matches before I could reliably aim my gun without spinning around in circles, and that's without making use of the game's useful dodge ability by double tapping in a direction.

Advertisement

Since I was my first time back, I wanted some comfort food. You know, a server list.

Matchmaking is fantastic, but it'll never replace being able to sift through everything available. How are there already people running dedicated servers in Chicago? I love you, PC shooter fans.

Advertisement

Side note: how much fun was it to slowly watch your old, slow modems attempt to download new maps, skins, and other stuff when you logged into a server chock-full of user modifications?

There are apparently people running servers capable of hosting 64 people at once, but the concept of playing with so many people at once seems unfathomable right now. The maps I was playing on became absolute chaos when you were nearing 32 players. I mean, look at this:

Advertisement

For a minute, I spawned into the same location over and over, being killed before I was capable of figuring out what was happening around me. Unreal Tournament seems like nonsense when you're first playing, but there's a method to the madness that becomes apparent with more time. This won't stop you from dying over and over again, but hey, I was in first place for a second!

If you'd like to witness my brief moment in the sun, here's a few matches I played:

For now, I'm patiently waiting for someone to develop a new take on the best multiplayer map ever created, Facing Worlds. You know what to do, Unreal Tournament modding community.

Advertisement

(UPDATE: People are telling me a version of Facing Worlds is already in rotation...excellent.)

Home sweet home.

You can reach the author of this post at patrick.klepek@kotaku.com or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.