An all-time classic.
When Unreal Tournament was released in 1999, it was arguably the most varied, entertaining shooter out there. Besides the standard DeathMatch and Capture the Flag, there was Last Man Standing, Domination, InstaGib, and Assault. Furthering the value of UT were the Mutators, a number of little mini-mods built into the game that allowed you to play in low gravity, with only X weapon, or disable superweapons or powerups. Also nice was the variety of weapons: in addition to the expected pistols, machine guns, shotguns, and rocket launchers, there were some rather unique guns, including the BioRifle (create a temporary organic minefield, or just booger a player to death), the Ripper (fire richocheting or expoding circular saw blades), and the Impact Hammer (difficult to use melee weapon, but with very satisfying results). And best of all, every weapon had a secondary fire mode; although some merely consisted of a slightly faster fire rate, some allowed you to, for example, fire shrapnel grenades or create devastating combo attacks.
The graphics were okay, although this is one place where UT's main competitor, Quake III, holds an advantage. The character and pickup models are often blocky, and displaying in 32-bit colour would cause display errors in the main GUI (although the unofficial v451 patch does fix this problem). The explosions were pretty neat, though, and the best-looking maps were still quite nice, but if UT has one weakness, it's here.
The music in this game was fantastic. It's well-matched to the given maps, and the majority of it is some kind of sci-fi techno-metal, specifically designed to get a player pumped for a match, which it does a very good job at. The weapon sound effects are good, as well, and it's also nice to hear your teammates tell you things like "I've got the flag!" or "I'm under heavy attack!", so you have a rough idea of what's going on, even when you're across the map. On the other hand, the audio taunts can grate quickly, since they serve to remind you of how obnoxious online players can be. The announcer is also a nice touch, telling you when you win or lose, score a headshot, go on a killing spree, or when you rack up several kills in a short amount of time.
Probably my favourite thing about Unreal Tournament is the fact that while it is at its heart an online shooter, you don't need to be online to get your money's worth. The adjustable bot skill levels (ranging from Novice to Godlike) gives the average player plenty of room to build up their skills, with the higher-level bots being capable of giving even seasoned veterans and strong teams a run for their money. Along with the aforementioned Mutators and variety in weapons, this means the amount of offline replay value is tremendous. There's also a single-player ladder, which can be played through on any difficulty, consisting of over 30 matches, half of them DM. If it seems like I'm adding this as an afterthought, believe me, it's not like it's just tacked on there; it's just that there's so much else you can do in the game, the ladder could easily have not even been there.
A quick word also must be said about the expandability. While it really hit its stride with the UT2003-04 games, the Mutators option, in addition to giving the player options out of the box, opened the game up to a wealth of mods, which the community quickly supplied, continuing in the vein of other multi-player shooters of the past. Custom maps also cropped up all over the place, some of which were ultimately released in official packs. The user-created content, like that of games such as Doom, Quake, and Half-Life, helped extend the life of the game dramatically.
The bottom line is, I still play UT today, nearly five years after its release. No other game has had me do that--not Doom or Quake, not Starcraft, not Half-Life. If you ever loved first-person shooters, but can't afford UT 2004, this is definitely worth buying, even today. It's just that good.