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, Steven 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.

Early on development, the team used clay models scanned into the game. After the switch to 3D-modelling based tools such as Maya and 3DMax, these models were either deleted or heavily modified. The game missed internal deadlines, suffered delays, and lots of assets were made that never got used.[2]

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.

Tim Sweeney resumes all of Unreal's "firsts", developmental and technical achievements in this quote from an RPS retrospective:[2]

"James Schmalz’ gorgeous 3D models with true-color artwork animating perfectly smoothly at 30 FPS using vertex interpolation. Exiting the tiny crashed spaceship at the start and seeing a large outdoor scene with a canyon and a waterfall, in real-time 3D for the first time – built by Pancho Eekels. Building the first real-time volumetric fog system and then seeing Shane Caudle’s underground temple with its fog-filled chambers with real-time fire and water by Erik de Neve. And after a couple years of building all of this beautiful but sort-of lifeless content, seeing it all come alive with Steven Polge’s ReaperBot-inspired AI system… with the first Skaarj encounter that Cliff Bleszinski designed. It was a magical time in the early history of 3D that saw breakthroughs almost daily."
- Tim Sweeney

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[3]

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.

On May 22, 2018, due to the 20th. anniversary of the game, Unreal Gold was released for free on Steam and GOG, but only for that day.

Game content Edit

Gamemodes Edit

Main article: Unreal Single player

Aside of the campaign, which features both single player and co-op 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
Bluff EversmokingCellars at Dasa PassChizra - Nali Water GodDark ArenaDasa Mountain PassDemon CraterDemonlord's LairDepths of RrajigarGateway to Na PaliHarobed VillageISV-Kran Deck 1ISV-Kran Deck 4ISV-Kran Decks 3 and 2IlluminationMothership BasementMothership CoreMothership LabNa Pali HavenNali CastleNoork's ElbowNyLeve's FallsOutpost 3JRrajigar MineSacred PassageSerpent CanyonSkaarj GeneratorSpire VillageTemple of VandoraTerraniuxTerraniux UndergroundThe Ceremonial ChambersThe DarkeningThe SourceThe Source AntechamberThe SunspireThe TrenchVelora PassVortex Rikers
Darkmatch maps for Unreal
Deathmatch maps for Unreal
Fusion Map Pack: DM-CybrosisDM-LettingDM-LoxiDM-MojoDM-ShrapnelDM-Twilight
Division Map Pack: DmBayCDmCreekDmDespairDmEclipseDmKrazyDmLockeDmMorbfanzaDmScruularDmSplashDmVilla

Characters Edit

Characters from Unreal
Prisoner 849
Vortex Rikers: AshBenjamin NathanielBoris ClagueJ. StrangJames CavanaughJonas GershwinM. v. WelyN. VosP. v. HeelR. BijlS. Kroon
ISV-Kran crewmembers: Tatiana ZimnaMikhail LeathamSergei DubrovKira Argmanov
Skaarj forces: Chakti'NrrjShrk'TajjiDuk'ChorothGrorqHrangGrok Vhul'rathKhan Vhranna
Nali: KruunVandora
Monsters: Behemoth - Brute - Cave Manta - Devilfish - Fly - Gasbag - Giant Gasbag - Ice Skaarj - Krall - Krall Elite - Lesser Brute - Manta - Mercenary - Mercenary Elite - Pupae - Skaarj Assassin - Skaarj Berserker - Skaarj Gunner - Skaarj Infantry - Skaarj Lord - Skaarj Officer - Skaarj Scout - Skaarj Sniper - Skaarj Trooper - Skaarj Warrior - Slith - Tentacle - Titan
Bosses: Skaarj Queen - Stone Titan - Warlord
NPCs and other creatures: Baby Cow - Biterfish - Bloblet - Horsefly - Nali - Nali Bird - Nali Cow - Nali Priest - Nali Rabbit
Beta: Dragon - Squid

Weapons Edit

Dispersion Pistol Automag Stinger ASMD Eightball Gun Flak Cannon Razorjack GES BioRifle Rifle Minigun

Items Edit

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

Inventory Items can be picked up and used during the course of the single player 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.

Universal TranslatorFlareFlashlightNali Fruit SeedAmplifierAcoustic DampenerInvisibilitySCUBA GearForceFieldVoiceBoxSearchLightJump Boots

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 only when you need to use it. Every Inventory item becomes pickupable in multiplayer mode.

Bandages Health Pack Nali Healing Fruit Super Health Kevlar Suit Assault Vest Shield Belt Antitoxin Suit Asbestos Suit

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.[4] 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.

Credits Edit

Credits of Unreal
Development team
Game design: James Schmalz, Cliff Bleszinski
Level design: Cliff Bleszinski, T. Elliot Cannon, Cedric Fiorentino, Pancho Eekels, Jeremy War, Shane Caudle.
Animator: Dave Carter
Artists: James Schmalz, Mike Leatham, Artur Bialas.
Programming team
Engine: Tim Sweeney.
Game & AI: Steven Polge.
Effects: Erik de Neve.
Audio: Carlo Vogelsang.
Scripting: James Schmalz & Nick Machon.
Musicians: Alexander Brandon, Michiel van den Bos.
Sound effects: Dave Ewing.
Epic Biz: Jay Wilbur, Mark Rein, Nigel Kent, Craig Lafferty.
Producer: Jason Schreiber.
Executive Producer: Greg Williams.
Lead Tester: Joel Breton.
Product Manager: Ken Gold.
Assistant Product Manager: Phil Tucker.
Public Relations Manager: Alan Lewis.
Director of Creative Services: Leslie Mills.
Creative Director: Vic Merritt.
Artists: Michael Marrs, Jill Pomper, Lesley Zinn, Jen Scheerer.
Production Corordinator: Liz Fierro.
Box Design: Vic Merritt, Leslie Mills.
Testers: Mike Barker, Jim Tricario, Dan McJilton, Chris Carr, Fran Katsimpris, Matt Kutrik, Troy Kupisch, Calvin Grove, Mike Predergast, Jesse Smith, Clint McCaul, Corey Allen, Chris McGuirk, Reuben Brown, Dave Afdahl, Ed Piper, Geoff Myers, Andre Cerny, Dave Monro, Jamal Jennings, Cormac Russell.
Manual: Mike Forge.

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 OldUnreal patch v227 restores and finishes the weapon and showcases it in its test Deathmatch maps. The primary fire fires shotgun pellets, while the alternate fire charges the primary fire up to four times in order to increase its spread and damage. As a countermeasure, there's a recoil from shooting the weapon.
  • 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.
  • 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.[5]
  • A full install of Unreal uses around 420 MB of hard drive space.

Gallery Edit

External links and references Edit

  1. Entertainment Software Rating Board
  2. 2.0 2.1 "A retrospective of Unreal, from the people who made it" @ Rock, Paper, Shotgun
  3. History of Unreal Part 1 @ BU
  4. Mirsoft - World of game music
  5. Errata @

See also Edit

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