The Nali being ascended from non-actionNPC in Unreal to playable in Tournament by way of the Bonus Pack 1, as they have already shown a dark past considering many of their own settings such as the Dark Arena and Velora Temple. They even gave their cows a way to fight back the Skaarj.
The description of Curse][ in the console versions said that the lack of funds halted any excavation work, and that, by stricking a deal with Liandri, the Corporation would fund the remainder of the excavation in exchange for the setting to be used in several Tournament battles. Fast forward to the 2003 and 2004 versions, and there are indeed several new areas in the map.
The console version states that "Xan has never lost a match". Now consider that Unreal Tournament 2004 specifically stated that Xan lost his winning streak at the hands of Malcolm. This means that this game represents Malcolm's ascension to the champions' pantheon, so it doesn't matter who you choose to win the Tournament, Malcolm will still be the champion. Him being the default playable character was just foreshadowing his role in the next games!
Iron Guard being the default team of the Tutorials (although the player fought against Harlin and Rylisa) foreshadowed Brock's and Lauren's roles in the 'verse as well.
The format of the Tournament itself is pretty convoluted, as descriptions for the AI bots mention losers brackets (Arys, Nikki), when this isn't an knockout-based tournament, and regional finals (the demo mentions the Denarian playoffs). Just how could this tournament be explained, aside of "the player is just winning the matches"?