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Missing image
Unreal Gold U.S. box cover

Developer(s) Epic Games
Publisher(s) GT Interactive
Release date(s) May 22, 1998
Genre First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player, multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: Mature (M)
Platform(s) PC (Windows / Linux), Macintosh

Unreal is a first-person shooter computer game developed by Epic Games and published by GT Interactive on May 22, 1998. It was powered by the Unreal engine which had been in development for over three years before the game was released. Since the release of Unreal, the franchise has had one direct sequel and two different series based on the Unreal universe.

Unreal Mission Pack I: Return To Na Pali was released on May 31, 1999 and added new missions to the single player campaign of Unreal. Unreal and Unreal Mission Pack I: Return To Na Pali would later be repackaged as Unreal Gold. On August 30, 2001 Unreal was repackaged again as Totally Unreal featuring the contents of Unreal Gold and Unreal Tournament.



In the original title you take the part of a criminal aboard the prison spacecraft Vortex Rikers which has crash-landed on the lip of a canyon on the planet Na Pali killing most of those on board. The natives of this planet (the Nali) have been subjugated by a collection or alliance of alien races, primarily the Skaarj. They kill off all survivors except you. Your primary goal is to locate and destroy the alien mothership and escape the planet.

Unreal features a broad range of settings and artwork. In the course of the game the player explores the Nali iron age culture, a crashed research vessel (the ISV Kran), the dizzyingly tall Sunspire, a floating city, Nali castles and villages, Skaarj bases, and ultimately the Skaarj mother ship. Several Nali documents refer to a messiah who will deliver the Nali from the Skaarj, with the obvious implication that the player is that messiah.

Competition with Quake series

Missing image
Screenshot from Unreal

The Unreal game engine was seen as a major rival to id Software's Quake engine, and the Unreal game itself was considered to be technically superior to the Quake and Quake II titles which were out on the market at the same time. Since Unreal came packaged with its own scripting language called UnrealScript, it soon developed a large community on the Internet which was able to add new mods (short for "modifications") in order to change or enhance gameplay. This feature greatly added to the overall longevity of the product and provided an incentive for new development. A 3D design software called UnrealEd also came with the package.

About the game engine

Although the storyline and gameplay was nothing that could be considered new and exciting, the all-new Unreal engine provided tons of possibilities to third-party content producers.


While many game companies went from FM synthesis in the early 1990s and/or General MIDI straight to CD audio and otherwise prerendered audio later on, one thing that set many of the Epic games apart from others was their use of module music, which used stored PCM sound effects sequenced together to produce music. Epic has been using this technology for other games such as Jazz Jackrabbit and One Must Fall 2097 and has allowed relatively rich-sounding music to be stored in files usually smaller than one megabyte. Naturally, this technology allowed easy implementation of dynamic music for mood changes in Unreal.

Sound Effects

Unreal is also possibly the first major first person shooter to use 44.1 kHz audio for sound effects. Many sound effects took full advantage of the high frequency range capable with such a sample rate, as is evident when ammo is picked up or when the flak cannon is reloading, for example.


Although Unreal wasn't the first major release with colored lighting (see Quake II) it was the first to have a software renderer capable of just about everything the hardware renderers (Most commonly 3dfx Glide, Direct3D and OpenGL) were capable of, to include colored lighting, but not bilinear filtering.

One of the limitations of the Quake engine was that large areas caused slowdowns in the game's framerate. The Unreal engine's specialty was that it was capable of large outdoor areas without great reductions in framerate. Of course, because Unreal was a newer and more resource-intensive game than Quake and Quake II, this meant that framerates were lower overall, when run on the same computer.

Unreal's method of creating maps differs in a major way from Quake's. Instead of starting with a void and building rooms by adding primitive shapes to fill it, Unreal started with a completely solid world in which you extract areas using the same kinds of primitives. Many map designers believed that this eliminated the tedium of matching up separate walls, floors and ceilings.

Unreal series

Unreal | Unreal II: The Awakening| eXpanded MultiPlayer

Unreal Tournament | Unreal Tournament 2003 | Unreal Tournament 2004 | Unreal Tournament 2007

Unreal Championship | Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict

Unreal engine | UnrealScript | Vehicles in Unreal Tournament 2004


de:Unreal fr:Unreal nl:Unreal


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