Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Unreal

Go To
The game that started it all.

Unreal is a First-Person Shooter made by Epic Games and Digital Extremes and released in 1998. It's the first game in the Unreal series.

You are Prisoner 849, being transferred to a prison moon on a starship called the Vortex Rikers. The ship goes off-route and crashes on the uncharted planet of Na Pali. As you escape the wrecked vessel and start taking in your surroundings it soon appears that the planet is inhabited by the Nali, a peaceful race of four-armed humanoids with a distinctly agricultural way of life. Not all is well on Na Pali, though, as the cruel and technologically advanced Skaarj race is invading the planet, pillaging its resources and busily slaughtering Nali left and right.

Your actions from this moment are governed by the simple desire to survive, which isn't going to be easy when the Skaarj have declared war against everything that isn't another Skaarj. During your attempts to avoid dying horribly you'll come across helpful Nali who think of you as their messiah, alien biology both neutral and hostile, mysterious Lost Technology — and quite a lot of instruments of death to fight your personal one-man war against the entire Skaarj race. One way or another, the path to freedom will be flowing with alien blood.

Unreal stuck out from a lot of other FPS games at the time by being less of a total shootfest (think Quake) and more like an adventure game. It achieved this by focusing the gameplay on fighting for survival rather than for the kill score and by making fights more like duels than fragfests, as you fight a smaller number of tough enemies that each provide a challenge rather than crowds of weak monsters that only have numbers on their side. The levels give the player significant freedom (for the standards of the time — open-world games not being quite as widespread as they are today) and reward exploration with tidbits of backstory about the planet and the various races on it.

Of course, the main reason why everybody who saw the game was left with wide-eyed, open-mouthed astonishment were the graphics, which heavily exploited 3D acceleration and offered levels of detail and Scenery Porn previously only dreamt of. The excellent soundtrack (made in ScreamTracker by the same people who made the music for Jazz Jackrabbit 2 and later on Deus Ex) greatly helped the general atmosphere, too, and it all made for a sense of immersion no game had achieved before.

It saw a lot of critical acclaim and absolutely raving reviews, but it somewhat suffered from the release of Half-Life a few months later. Then a year later Unreal Tournament came out and did multiplayer so much better as to effectively make Unreal singleplayer-only, which hurt the latter's long-term appeal in the market.

There's an Expansion Pack for the game, called Unreal: Return to Na Pali, developed by Legend Entertainment using original content as well as levels and enemies which were left out from the main game, which starts right after the events of the original game. You are recruited by the UMS, who gives you more equipment in order to go back to Na Pali and find a crashed ship. Three weapons are added (two of which mostly redundant) as well as several monsters. The Expansion's length, while containing half of the main game's levels, is more or less the same as the main game, while the main character is slightly more fleshed-out by having them speak in Intermission cutscenes.

As Epic Games decided to focus on the Tournament side of the franchise, the rights for the inevitable sequel were given to the aforementioned Legend. While not a bad game in and of itself, Unreal II: The Awakening was hurt by being the sequel to one of the most revolutionary games ever in a market that had since become much harder to revolutionize. That, plus various gameplay changes from the original, caused it to pass mostly unnoticed by those who didn't know the series and disappoint those who did, with many reviewers giving it average to low scores.

Around 2007, Epic Games granted permission to keep the game updated to the folks at the OldUnreal community. In December 26, 2007, the first community patch, for version 227a, was released. The patch supports both original Unreal and Unreal Gold as well as improving support for Linux and Mac, updating the renderers, adding many new features for server administration and tweaking, fixing long-standing bugs and even adding its own content in the form of three new Harder Than Hard difficulty levels and four new Deathmatch maps showcasing new tools for mappers such as Staticmeshes and Particles as well as the restored QuadShot weapon as well as adding Unreal Beta content such as the Translocator. The last community patch released by OldUnreal belogs to version 227j, and was released on June 23, 2022, after nearly 10 years under development.

On December 14th, 2022, Epic Games pulled off from both Steam and Good Old Games the digital distribution of Unreal Gold, thus the game, outside of auction sites, can no longer be bought legally.

Ultimately, Unreal's greatest merit is perhaps more in what it spawned than in what it was; the engine was so advanced and efficient that many developers ended up licensing it for their own productions, and Epic decided to continue development of the Unreal Engine separately from the Unreal series itself. Since then it has evolved through five generations, powered hundreds of games from independent titles to huge triple-A ones, been adapted to genres wildly different than the one it was born to run (including RPGs, racers and simulators) and ported to every modern gaming platform under the sun (including HTML5 browsers). It eventually achieved such resounding success that Epic decided to release it for free to everyone and only profit from a small royalty, which simplified development enormously for independent studios. It's no exaggeration to say that it revolutionized gaming development on the whole.

See also

This game contains examples of the following tropes:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes which appear on both Unreal and Return to Na Pali 
  • Abnormal Ammo:
    • The Stinger uses shards of Tarydium crystals meant for mining rock.
    • The Razorjack uses rotating spiked blades that deal extra damage if hitting the head.
    • The Bio Rifle uses the most abnormal ammo of all: toxic, unstable tarydium sludge that gets shot in big explosive blobs that can act as mines or bombs if attached to a surface.
    • The Flak Cannon can launch shells like a standard grenade launcher in its secondary mode, but in its primary mode it explodes the shell within the weapon and launches its fragments out the barrel, shotgun-style.
    • The Eightball Gun, in a similar vein, can launch rockets as grenades by firing them without igniting the rocket engines. They even deal slightly more damage.
  • A.I. Breaker: One of the components of the enemies' Artificial Brilliance is that they dodge projectile attacks... except that only applies to non-hitscan weapons with projectiles that travel in a straight line. This makes flak cannon shell bombs, Eightball Gun grenades and the otherwise Awesome, but Impractical Bio Rifle very useful to take out even the higher-tier Skaarj.
  • Alien Sky: Na Pali has two suns and tends to have several different hues depending on where you look, especially near nightfall or dawn. It makes for some of the most breathtaking skies ever seen in a video game, especially for the time.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The OldUnreal patches went a long way in order to make Unreal and RTNP a more enjoyable experience:
    • Renderers were updated with cleaner code, new options, and widescreen was finally properly supported.
    • Server-side, HTTP redirect for fast asset downloading, more commands for banning and kicking unruly players.
    • New audio drivers based on OpenAL and FMOD in order to replace the deprecated Galaxy Sound System.
    • A better mouse handling option with the inclusion of mouse smoothing disabling. v227i also added support for Raw Mouse Input.
    • By far, the part of the game that was improved the most was the Level Editor. Not only it was upgraded from the obsolete UnrealEd 1.0 to UnrealEd 2.2 (the one which Unreal Tournament uses) but it saw a lot of improvements and additions from UED 3.0 and later versions that could take a lot of space to mention.
    • Starting with v227d, the Translator can show hidden Hints.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Many translator messages are these, especially the ones you find aboard the Vortex Rikers and the ISV-Kran.
  • Arm Cannon: The Terraniux Mercenaries have them. They can fire either a machine gun burst or a single rocket.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The enemies and the Botmatch mode bots had their AI designed by Steve Polge, creator of the Reaper Bot multiplayer AI mod for Quake, and it shows: they have the intelligence to dodge non-hitscan projectiles, lead their target, and know to stay on the move constantly. Relative to most of the AI in games at the time, which favored "charge at the player while shooting", they felt far more like fighting an actual human.
  • Artificial Gill: The core game has the SCUBA Gear as an inventory item available whenever there's an underwater section. They have a limited air supply that runs out pretty quickly, and you can't extend it by taking a breath and deactivating it — you'll instantly start to drown. In Return to Na Pali, you're equipped with a Marine SCUBA Gear that lasts longer and recharges by itself while you're out of the water.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The Dispersion Pistol's upgrades, which greatly increase the weapon's power — with the last one being able One-Hit Kill most enemies — at the price of progressively worsening the weapon's shortcomings. Indeed most enemies will be able to easily dodge your firepower, and you won't be hurling a lot of it at them given the achingly slow cooldown time between shots and the insane ammo consumption: at full upgrade you get twelve shots before you have to wait for the infuriatingly slow autorecharge.
    • The Minigun looks and feels pretty awesome, but it eats through your ammo reserve really quickly and it's in the uncomfortable position of being less powerful at short range than the Flak Cannon and less precise at long range and weaker per shot than the Automag. It is useful at medium range, which would be great if your enemies didn't have a tendency to move erratically; as it is, you'll either be switching away from the Minigun a lot or just default to more versatile weapons to begin with.
  • The Berserker: Skaarj Berserkers, as the name suggests. They are so aggressive that they won't break contact even at critically low health.
  • BFG: Notably averted. All the weapons you can find are reasonably powerful, but none has a clear damage-over-time-per-ammo advantage over the other. Even the six-barrelled rocket launcher isn't that absurdly powerful, in part due to its slow firing rate.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: Most armor absorbs a constant, high percentage of damage, which is subtracted from the armour's strength instead. Dying with armour is possible only if you were already near death when picking it up; in all other cases it effectively acts as extra health. The shield belt is this trope completely played straight, as it always takes damage instead of your health.
  • Boom, Headshot!: You can headshot enemies with the Razorjack and the Sniper Rifle, usually by aiming at the top center of their hitboxes, for a lot of extra damage. In the case of humanoid enemies, the head goes flying off with the killing shot.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Automag is your basic FPS pistol, and not even that futuristic or exotic-looking as the rest of your arsenal, and its burst damage pales compared to some of the later weapons. Nonetheless, 20 consecutive hitscan shots are useful against anything and everything, especially dodge-happy enemies like Skaarj, Gasbags and (to a lesser extent) Krall, and ammo for it is the most common in the game. It even outclasses the Minigun in power per shot — the Minigun's damage varies between 8 and 14 damage per bullet, while the Automag's stays at a solid and consistent 17.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The dispersion pistol has several upgrades you find throughout the game which both make it more powerful and change the color of the Energy Ball it shoots. It starts out as blue, then turns green, then yellow, then orange, and finally a pinkish/purple color. Secondary Fire remains blue no matter what.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Several times, you're forced to move above lava-filled areas, such as mines, caves and the Warlord's lair. Only stepping on the lava itself will burn you.
  • Covers Always Lie: One of the box covers and one of the strategy guide covers show Nali Castle with tons of manta rays flying around. In game there is not a single manta ray in the level.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan:
    • One of these is the main feature of the Deathmatch level DmDeathFan — fall down to the bottom of the level, and splat.
    • There's one in the "Rrajigar Mine" level that will suck you in through a broken section of handrail unless you straferun across its path.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Due to the ability of the AI to dodge nearly everything you throw at it (Skaarj especially), in many cases tapping something to death with the Automag is the most effective solution.
  • Deflector Shields: Shield Belts envelop the wearer in a golden forcefield and absorb all damage until depleted.
  • Derelict Graveyard: The world of Na Pali has a very strong gravitational pull that has a tendency to cause starships to crash land on its surface. The player has to navigate through a few crashed ships throughout the gamelist , though it's implied that the Skaarj have found a way to overcome this problem and, unlike humanity, are there voluntarily.
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • The Razorjack is frequently dismissed by its slow projectiles and risk of self-damage. And yet, once landing headshots with it is mastered, it can kill most non-boss enemies with little ammo expenditure, compounded by the blades not triggering agile enemies to dodge. Plus, each pack of ammo is worth 50 blades out of your 75 maximum, and they're not exactly rare.
    • The ASMD's Shock Combo involves firing off its secondary fire plasma ball, then shooting that with a primary fire beam. This causes a fairly large shockwave that has a wide area of effect, but the projectile is rather small and it's not easy to gauge the distance for a perfect Combo. Wise shooters pay attention to the light of the projectile relative to the what they want to vaporize.
    • The Bio Rifle's secondary can be charged up into a big blob of sludge which is too slow for accurate target leading and too heavy to be launched a decent distance away — while also having enough splash damage that it will likely hurt you as well. Given that its intended use is more to lay traps than to be shot at moving things, this makes sense. However, anything that gets hit by the big blob will be instantly vaporised into a cloud of gibs and green toxic mist.
  • Doomed Hometown: Many Nali villages were thoroughly wrecked by the invading Skaarj, to the desperation of any surviving inhabitants. In fact, the entire planet of Na Pali can count as one, since even after the events of RtNP, there are still Skaarj on the planet, and they're pissed.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • A minor example and probably a sign of its timenote , but it took until 2022's v227j for the ability to bind keys to individual weapons from the Controls menu.
    • Not counting the Hero Shooter-esque FPS/TPS hybrid Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict, this is the only Unreal game that lacks a superweapon.
    • It was the first game in the series — and, it could be argued, in gaming as a whole — to explore weird weapon dynamics like Secondary Fire, improving the Dispersion Pistol as you go, a non-hitscan early-game machinegun, shock combos, guidable discs, guns disguised as ancient Cargo Cult relics and such. Later installments in the series did away with much of that, and what was retained was retooled in a way that more closely resembles FPS weapon tropes.
  • Eldritch Location: Na Pali seems to be this to some extent. You find an inordinate amount of ships crashed there, and the planet seems to have some kind of mysterious "pull" that causes thisnote . You also go to a city built in an asteroid that's somehow just floating in the atmosphere, with no explanation for how or why it does that, and judging by the skybox it's only one of many.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: The Super Jump Boots, which you receive in the "The Source". They look just like the standard Jump Boots pickup, but they're infinite.
  • Enclosed Extraterrestrials: The Terraniux Mercenaries are completely enclosed in their environment suits with built-in Arm Cannon(s).
  • Energy Ball: The Dispersion Pistol and the Shock Rifle's secondary fire, as well as quite a few enemy attacks.
  • Equipment Upgrade: The Dispersion Pistol. Powerups can be collected that'll upgrade it several times, its projectiles changing colour and becoming more damaging at the cost of a slower rate of fire and higher ammo consumption.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Some of the wildlife wandering around Na Pali is harmless, but if you look at their scripting in the Level Editor, even they are set to "Attitude to Player: Hate". This is lampshaded by Prisoner 849 in the intermission at the end of "Velora Pass" in RTNP:
    "I'm glad I made it out of there. I'm used to being bitten, hacked, shot, stabbed or blown up, but in there I could have been crushed, sliced, diced, or skewered! Whoever built that place must have been a real sadist."
  • Flechette Storm:
    • The Stinger, which fires shards of Tarydium crystal as stake-like projectiles.
    • The Flak Cannon is a shotgun version, blowing out loads of razor-sharp shrapnel in one go.
  • Flying Seafood Special: The flying manta rays, which come in normal, cave, and giant varieties.
  • Frictionless Ice: The multiplayer map DmTundra has an area where you find the ASMD in a frozen lake.
  • Game Mod: The Quake games had already given the world its first taste of extensive modding, but making mods for them required some knowledge of how to manipulate and recompile the source code. Unreal was the first game that allowed one to open up the editor, tweak a few values, and save the result as a file that could alter — sometimes dramatically — gameplay aspects. For instance, all it takes to make the Stinger shoot rockets or flak shells is to change the projectile type, and now you have a rather more dangerous weapon at your disposal than anything available in the stock game. More radical modding was only a few steps away, especially once people started importing their own 3D models and the level editor became well understood. It only took a few months for entire CD-ROM compilations worth of mods to spring up.
  • Gangsta Style: The alt-fire mode for the Automag, that fires a lot faster but with a near 100% corresponding drop in accuracy. Excellent to dish out pain to a Personal Space Invader and little else, as most shots beyond melee range will miss.
  • Gatling Good: The Minigun, obviously, though its Gatling-ness is rather unusual compared to standard rotary cannons — it has two rotating barrel assemblies that intermesh, but no separate firing mechanism behind each barrel, leading one to wonder if all the spinning isn't there more for aesthetic than practical reasons.
  • Goomba Stomp: Landing on top of a character deals them a tiny amount of damage. It is mostly notable with Nali rabbits which have hitpoints so low they can be smushed by a single step, but it's theoretically possible to kill any character this way. It's the epitome of impracticality without cheats, because most creatures won't be willing to let you stomp them to death and the damage dealt is so low even a lone Pupa takes forever to squish this way — but this hasn't stopped some crazy players from indeed pulling it off.
  • Hands-Free Handlamp: Played straight with all lighting items. Even the flares aren't activated by hand, they just drop out in front of the player.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Wargate features a steady heartbeat-like "du-dum" drone.
  • Hitscan: The Automag, the Sniper Rifle and the Minigun, as well as the Combat Assault Rifle in RTNP. The ASMD is weird in that primary fire is hitscan gameplay-wise, but the visual effect is not — so if you fire it at a faraway surface you'll see the impact shockwave instantly, followed by the projectile beam reaching it a short time later.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: You can restore health from logical things like bandages (5 health) or medkits (20 health), but the player can also occasionally find kumquat-like Nali fruit bushes that restore between 28 and 30 health. A corpse in the second level has a translator message that remarks on this.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Titans have terrible aim with their thrown boulders. This is a good thing, as a direct hit from a boulder is almost always fatal, but also a bad thing because they bounce when hitting a surface, Titans launch several in one throw, and they rarely toss only once.
  • Improvised Weapon: Many of the weapons in the game, like the Stinger, did not start life as firearms but as tools.
  • Infinite Flashlight: Downplayed. The Searchlight, a late-game item, is an extremely powerful and wide-beamed flashlight with a family-sized battery. Exactly how long it can run for is unknown, but it's a long time. To note, it can get exhausted, whereupon it's discarded just like the crappier flashlights from beforehand, but any way to play that leads to that happening is such a Violation of Common Sense that the devs didn't even bother with making a dedicated message for when it dies out.
  • Level Editor: Upon release, it used UnrealEd 1.0. Return to Na Pali and Unreal Gold upgraded to Unreal Tournament's 2.0. The OldUnreal patches upgraded it to 2.2 and added a plethora of Anti-Frustration Features.
  • More Dakka: The Minigun spits out quite a high volume of lead. The Stinger is a more subdued version, firing Tarydium shards are a modest pace with primary fire.
  • Muzzle Flashlight:
    • The Dispersion Pistol does this very well. Not only does it regenerate ammo, but each shot creates enough light that it can easily render flares obsolete in confined corridors.
    • The Eightball Gun and GES Bio Rifle also work to a lesser extent — rockets create a lot of light when they explode, and the Tarydium sludge generate a fair bit of it, added to the fact that the globs stay in place for a good three seconds so they can work as very short-term flares.
  • One Bullet Clips: Subverted by the Automag, the only gun in the game that needs to periodically stop firing to reload. It holds 20 shots and you don't have a reload keynote , so the Automag simply gets reloaded when it's out of bullets. There's a telltale "click" that signals the clip is down to five rounds or less.
    "Try to keep track of how many bullets are left in a clip. Attempting to change clips with a pissed-off Skaarj in your face is not advised."
  • Painfully Slow Projectile:
    • The Dispersion Pistol. After a few upgrades you can charge a full-power bolt that could one-shot any non-boss enemy — if they didn't have the disagreeable tendency to, you know, move.
    • The GES Bio Rifle has this by design, as it's more of a toxic sludge vacuum cleaner switched to reverse than an actual weapon. It's arguably more effective than a minelayer than as a rifle: the primary fire's arc is workable in close quarters, but just dropping green goo all over the place and waiting for hapless Skaarj to walk into the trap and get blown to bits is often more effective — especially since you don't need to worry about the Splash Damage, which can hurt you quite severely if you're not wearing a toxin suit.
    • The Razorjack fires saw discs that don't trigger auto-dodge and deal extra damage if you hit the enemy's head, but their slow speed makes it hard to use the weapon at a distance. The secondary fire allows the disc to be guided, but makes the disc even slower.
    • Gasbag fireballs and Titan rocks. The latter are especially jarring, but necessary to make the Titan beatable at all, as they're otherwise One-Hit Kill against the player.
    • Other weapons vary, but most can be dodged if your reflexes are fast enough. The Skaarj are also aware of this trope and will dodge most of your straight-flight projectiles.
    • The ASMD's secondary fire launches a projectile so slow that it can be hit with a shot from its primary fire in order to cause a shockwave.
  • Punch-Packing Pistol: Two examples:
    • The aforementioned Dispersion Pistol, which goes from a weak Ranged Emergency Weapon to a Hand Cannon as you collect upgrades for it. With the Energy Amplifier activated, it reaches BFG levels.
    • Despite its low position and early acquisition, the Automag is a highly useful weapon and remains so throughout the game. On primary fire it's a perfect Sniper Pistol with no bullet spread and reasonable damage per shot that stacks quickly, and its hitscan attack doesn't trigger the AI's dodge behaviour. In secondary mode it loses all of its precision but fires at three times the primary's fire rate, making it harmless beyond spitting range but absolute murder within it. If that versatility wasn't enough, bullets are plentiful throughout the game and it's more powerful per shot than the Minigun.
  • Quad Damage: The Energy Amplifier, which only affects energy weapons (Dispersion Pistol and ASMD) but makes them tremendously powerful, to the point the Dispersion Pistol can beat the Stone Titan in a few shots (used to be a single shot, but it got understandably nerfed).
  • Rocket Jump: Somewhat doable with the explosive weapons, though the effect is less pronounced than in other games and rarely very useful.
  • Run, Don't Walk: Walking stops you from falling off ledges, and in fact is the way to get a Shield Belt in a Nali temple (by walking, you can "feel" around and find out that there's an invisible rail leading to the prize). On ice, walking makes you ice-skate far faster than running after a few seconds to accelerate.
  • Secondary Fire: Every weapon, except the "Sniper" Rifle, which originally had one (mentioned in the manual, no less) but got changed to a poor man's zoom very late in the game's development process. In some cases, this mode is the more effective one.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: The Flak Cannon's primary fire, provided all fragments hit, is one of the most efficient per-shot attacks in the whole game. It also doesn't count as explosive damage, so it goes right through the Damage Reduction of Brutes, Titans and boss Skaarj.
  • Shows Damage: Played with — players who are badly hurt hunch over when standing still, and it doesn't affect their abilities in any way. Of course, this is only apparent if you stop in front of a mirrored surface, or switch to the 3rd person view. Played with even more with the enemies within the game, as some are more likely to enter flinch animations (which don't affect their speed or damage once completed, but make them slightly easier to take out in the interim) when heavily wounded.
  • Sniper Pistol: The Automag has unerring, pixel-perfect accuracy in primary fire, despite being fired one-handed.
  • Soft Water: In full effect. The game also seems to have soft sludge and even soft lava: in the Sunspire, you can jump off the top of the level and land in the lava several hundred meters below without taking any Falling Damage.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: Weapons fall into two categories — those that trigger the AI's auto dodge (straight-flying projectiles), and those that don't (Hitscan, arcing projectiles and Razorjack blades). The ones that don't are far more effective against agile enemies like Skaarj, Gasbags and Krall, while the ones that do trigger it are more on the heavy-hitter side and work better against enemies not prone to acrobatics.
  • Standard FPS Guns: Played with. A couple of standard guns appear alongside some fairly esoteric weapons.
    • Handguns: Two. The Automag, which functions as a standard handgun, and the Dispersion Pistol, a Ranged Emergency Weapon with Bottomless Magazines that can be upgraded into a Hand Cannon.
    • Shotgun: The Flak Cannon.
    • Automatic Weapon: The Stinger and the Minigun, the former filling the submachine gun analogue. Return to Na Pali adds the Combat Assault Rifle.
    • Sniper Rifle: Bafflingly referred to as an "Assault Rifle" ingame. It has a scope function and can land headshots.
    • Energy Weapon: Both the Dispersion Pistol and the ASMD.
    • BFG: The Eightball Gun, which can charge up to six rockets or grenades to fire off at once. The Rocket and Grenade Launchers from the expansion pack are this divided into two separate weapons.
    • Gimmick Weapon: The GES Bio Rifle, which fires sludge in a short arc, and the Razorjack, which fires blades that ricochet off any surface and can Headshot. The ASMD's combo attack can fall under this as well.
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: Apparently in the future we've achieved interstellar travel but we've completely lost the ability to make decent batteries: the flashlights scattered around all of Na Pali last for exactly one minute, dim constantly for the last five seconds, and can't be recharged at all. Once spent, they're dead and discarded, so you're back to using flares or your Muzzle Flashlight until you find another one. The Searchlight is another story entirely, but it's unavailable for most of the game.
  • Tentacled Terror: The aptly-named Squid, a Dummied Out monster, is an octopus which rams and slaps upon its enemies. Some custom maps for the game play with the properties of the creature, such as increasing its size and HP, giving it ranged attacks, or turning it into a boss or level hazard.
  • Useless Useful Stealth: The invisibility power-up is great for sneaking past many Titans, but never seems to work on more intelligent enemies like Skaarj unless they haven't been alerted.
  • Use Item: The game features a cyclable inventory. Some items have a limited quantity of charge, others are single-use.
  • Vague Hit Points: Enemies are shot until they just suddenly die. How many Hit Points they have isn't clearly indicated; the best you get is a higher tendency for them to flinch from continuous weak attacks like rapid weapons fire when at low health.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • There's nothing stopping the player from killing the friendly Nali if they want to. Doing so is usually a bad idea, however, as they will often open secret passages and the like to help you.
    • You'll sometimes find trios of Krall huddled together playing some kind of dice game. Shooting six eightball launcher rockets or grenades into the group is a good idea, as they can all be taken out at once.
  • Video Game Vista: the game exploits this every time it can with their largest levels, as evidenced by its intro:
    • "Nyleve's Falls" has Prisoner 849 exiting from the ship to a large, vast wilderness with some rabbits and flies and huts. And corpses. Just outside of the Vortex Rikers there's also the crash site, in a cliff that allows you to see the ginormous lower levels and the big lake.
    • "The Sunspire": Just entering the level, you witness the eponymous mountain, housing the central area, surrounded by a thin ledge with a bridge acting as the entrance.
    • "Nali Castle": As if the intro of the game wasn't enough, just exiting from the cave nets you a long view of the eponymous castle.

    Tropes which appear only on Unreal 
  • Absurdly Short Level: "Illumination" takes place after Prisoner 849 blows up the Skaarj Generator. It's comprised of a set-piece which leaves the area almost empty, after which the only thing to do is to proceed to the next level.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: How you get off the Vortex Rikers prison deck. If you look closely, you can just about make out a Skaarj watching you through the fog from the other end of the tunnel, but he vanishes as an explosion rocks the corridor. The Air-Vent Passageway also turns up a couple more times in various levels throughout the series, such as inside the ISV-Kran. In the Expansion Pack there are some in the UMS Prometheus and the Tarydium refining complex.
  • All Up to You: Inverted; your only goal is to survive.
    "Your first priority is to keep your already-battered body in one piece. Failure to achieve this will render any secondary objectives somewhat irrelevant."
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: Averted by the initial version, for good or bad. Most of the weapons had unusual design and very original sounds, and even the few that looked pretty normal in comparison — such as the automag — definitely didn't sound like field cannons. A few, however, could really have done with a more convincing sound — like the minigun, which sounded for all the world like a blender. One of the patches eventually changed all the weapon sounds, making them louder and somewhat more standardized and downplaying the trope.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Levels set inside the Vortex Rikers, ISV-Kran, and Terraniux — done subtly though, as you rarely see the whole ship up close in any one level to gauge their true size, and they look suitably huge from outside. More blatant in the case of the Skaarj mothership, where the final core area consists of wide-open empty void.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Your character has managed to defeat the baddies and escape, but is now drifting aimlessly in space in an out-of-fuel pod.
  • Blackout Basement:
    • The Sunspire has shades of this. The Bathing and Sleeping Chambers only have scarce and very dim dark blue Tarydium wall lamps for lighting, while some other areas like the Kitchens are completely in the dark.note 
    • The Darkening, a level where you revisit the Skaarj Mothership after you destroy the generator, is entirely pitch dark. Good thing you got that Searchlight that was almost thrown at your face beforehand, eh?
  • Blatant Item Placement: In general the game tries to keep this believable, with equipment found on dead bodies, in armouries, put in boxes by confused Nali, etc. It gets noticeable in the rushed final levels however, where you get the (almost) infinite flashlight right before you cut the Skaarj Mothership's power and knock out all the lights, and a pair of infinite jump boots just as you encounter the Final Boss.
  • Collapsing Lair: As the Player Character's pod flies out of the Skaarj mothership, they're followed by explosions.
  • Crapsack World: Na Pali after being overrun by the Skaarj, as they effectively enact a brutal dictatorship over the peaceful Nali. Even after Prisoner 849 destroys the Skaarj Queen, the race itself remains quite active and dangerous.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • The second single-player level, "NyLeve's Falls", is filled with references to the mapper behind itnote , from the name itself (his wife's name backwards) to the Vortex Rikers's registration number (NC114-85EKLS) to the names of various characters mentioned in logs belonging to many of his friends.
    • The ninth level, also made by the same guy, is called "Harobed Village".
    • In the level "Bluff Eversmoking", there's a cemetery with many tombstones. One of them, tagged "Myscha", is the name of its levelmaker, Myscha the Sled Dog.
  • Downer Ending: The level "Bluff Eversmoking". You spend almost the entirety of it reading diary entries of Kira, another ISV-Kran survivor, as well as those of several other humans who've attempted a rescue and some Skaarj who are attempting to recapture her after she broke out of imprisonment. It's subtly implied you might finally find an ally in her. Unfortunately, by the time you manage to find her hiding spot, she's dead.
  • Easter Egg: There are translator entries for the unlikeliest areas:
    • Rrajigar mine:
      • Using "Fly" and getting to the top of the beginning area, right above the entrance to the forcefield controls, the translator reads "What the hell are you doing up here?".
      • Taking a swim in the lava pit below the passage where you get a Stinger via Nali reads "You are SO dead!".
    • Depths of Rrajigar:
      • After the cart ride, you get onto a platform where a Brute is about to meet you. Use "Fly" and get to the pipe in front of the Brute to get a message that reads "Canada is really cold. I like Dos Equis beer. My cats are fuzzy.".
      • Taking a swim at the Lava pit in the bridge trap area gives you a message saying "Come on in, the Lava's fine!".
      • Get to the pillars area. After a set of stairs you can find a light pole. Do a Shock Jump with an Amplifier (you can find one below the computer bridge, blowing up the floor behind it) or use the "Fly" code to get a message that reads "Craig is Grand Master Doofus.".
    • Nali Castle:
      • Freeing a Nali prisoner and taking extreme care of it will lead you to an area where a spaceship blows him up. Get to the Nali Cow house and do a rocket jump to the top of it. Walk through the wooden pillar and a "What the hell are you doing up here?" message will appear on the Translator.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Outpost 3J, a Skaarj resupply and research base operating underneath a Nali sanctuary. Judging by the interior bearing no resemblance to the ship's external shape, and the length of the tunnel that Prisoner 849's escape pod flies through to get out in the closing cutscene, there's also one of these under the Skaarj Mothership (the various teleporters presumably take you in and out of it). Well, either that or the Skaarj have TARDIS technology.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: If the randomly exploding equipment, corpses strewn everywhere and general broken-ness of the vessel weren't already good indicators of how screwed the Vortex Rikers is, the onboard computer's voice acting up in all sorts of odd ways contributes to drive the point home.
  • Enemy Civil War:
    • The Skaarj and the Mercenaries aren't of the same race and don't get along, judging by the Skaarj scout standing over a dead Mercenary and trying to find a way into the Terraniux when you reach the ship. It's mentioned in passing in a few logs, as well.
    • The Mercenary prisoners in the Skaarj mothership. One assumes that the Skaarj were looking to eliminate the Mercs along with everyone else who crashed on Na Pali to protect the secret of their presence on the planet.
    • There's also "Cellars at Dasa", where a bunch of Krall (who normally have teamwork as their hat) jump out and start fighting a Titan.
    • A Skaarj scientist finds out the downside of supercharging test subjects with tarydium in the Mothership Lab. Said test subjects are completely psychotic and will attack everyone on sight.
  • Floating Continent: Multiple floating islands, one of which ("Na Pali Haven") you actually get to visit.
  • Force-Field Door: Quite common. They stop working on the prison ship Vortex Rikers when the ship crashes, enabling your escape.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The translator messages often make reference to future levels, even ones some distance down the line.
    • The Sunspire you visit about halfway through the game is a massively tall structure clearly visible in many other levels' skyboxes.
    • You get to collect ammo for the Automag at the Vortex Rikers before getting the weapon proper at "NyLeve's Falls".
    • You get to collect ammo for the Stinger at NyLeve's Falls before you get access to the weapon proper in "Rrajigar Mine".
    • If you look closely enough, you can get ASMD Cores before getting access to the ASMD itself at "Depths of Rrajigar" or "Chizra — Nali Water God".
  • Grimy Water: The Terraniux levels have several areas full of green toxic-looking water.
  • Hailfire Peaks: The Sunspire combines It's All Upstairs From Here with a side order of Blackout Basement.
  • In Case of X, Break Glass: At the end of the Vortex Rikers level, there's a glass box with two medpacks inside of it, with the "Break Glass" text above it. There's another instance where this is required, break the glass in order to open the hatch to the level's exit.
  • Injured Player Character Stage: The very first level. You start the game critically injured at 7-9 health after the crash landing of the Vortex Rikers, and much of the way forward is signposted by healing items. Luckily, you'll be able to find enough medkits and bandages to comfortably get back to 100 Hit Points, and even some armor if you know where to look, before you see any combat.
  • Late to the Tragedy: Happens repeatedly. Though you sometimes hear other survivors being killed, the closest thing you see to another living human is a body being thrown across a corridor by a Brute. Or possibly the captain of the Vortex Rikers, who spasms and dies as you approach.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The "Demon Crater" level where you fight against a Warlord for the first time is a lava-flooded cavern.
  • Locked Out of the Fight: In the first level you come across a locked door behind which some people are getting massacred by a lone Skaarj. You only get to access the room after the carnage is over — which is probably for the better, as you have no weapons yet.
  • Mook-Themed Level: The Terraniux levels, where the most common enemies Prisoner 849 may find are Mercenaries and Elite Mercenaries.
  • Monster Closet: The game generally averts this trope, placing enemies in sensible positions, but still plays it straight once near the start by opening up a room containing a previously-unseen enemy of a superior level to anything you've fought up to that moment. This happens as you're walking back in a corridor you already passed through once without being bothered — after the lights switch off one by one. The combo of the new, fast monster and the progressive darkening scared the living daylights out a lot of players in the years.
  • Nerf: In the earlier versions, when you paired the Dispersion Pistol (no matter its upgrade level) with an Energy Amplifier, the resulting bolt was a one-shot kill against everything — including the stone titan, whose inability to move fast made for ridiculously easy fights. And the end-game boss. The developers eventually figured out this was undesirable, and a patch vastly reduced the amplified Pistol's power.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In the Rrajigar Mines. When you press the two buttons to bring down the force field, suddenly the music stops, and some bars pop out, blocking the exit. And then the lights turn off one by one, and the player is left in the darkness. The lights suddenly flick back to life, blood red, and a Skaarj Scout rushes at you.
  • Novelization: Unreal: Prophet's Power and Unreal: Hard Crash serve as the prologue to the game.
  • Onesie Armor: The Kevlar Suit (covers from the chest to the crotch) and Assault Vest (covers only the chest, includes shoulder pads). There's also the Antitoxin and Asbestos Suits, which in addition to being classified as armors, they include environmental protection as well (against acid and fire/ice damage), and they cover the entire body. Those are the only sets of armor present in the game.
  • Pendulum of Death: In the torture chambers of the Nali Castle, you find one of these, though with no victims strapped to the slab.
  • Prison Ship: You start out on a crashed prison transport vessel named Vortex Rikers, that was on the way to a prison moon.
  • Remixed Level: "The Darkening" is both "Mothership Lab" and "Mothership Core" mixed in a single map and happening during a complete power outage. The map takes place after Prisoner 849 destroys the Skaarj Generator.
  • Scenery Porn: The game that started it all. The first level fools you into thinking it's just another shooter in enclosed spaces with prettier graphics (for the time). The second level... doesn't. If you played the game without first reading reviews of it, the surprise was mindblowing. Lush vegetation, colourful moving skies, animals hopping and flying about, and the sheer size of all the scenery was something completely unseen for the day, along with some perfectly fitting music to set the mood. It remained exclusive to Unreal for a while, too, as everybody else's engines weren't geared for open spaces and would choke on the sheer number of polygons.
  • Space Elevator: An anti-gravitational, cable-less elevator carries people to the floating islands from the Sunspire. It's presumably high stratosphere rather than space, but then again it's not perfectly clear how orbits work in Na Pali.
  • Star Scraper: The Sunspire is an incredibly tall building, so tall it's visible in the sky in other levels. Its purpose is to serve as a station for the Space Elevator that brings people up to the floating islands.
  • Stock Scream:
    • In the first level, many screams sound like you've heard them numerous times. The air vent filled with green fog is especially flooded with them.
    • Later, the game became a true source of stock screams when one of them was recycled in Unreal II: The Awakening, and several more in (of all things!) the 2018 BBC series of Les MisÚrables.
  • Storming the Castle: The last levels of the original game requires you to do a raid on the Skaarj Mothership and terminate the Skaar Queen.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: You find an almost-Infinite Flashlight right before you blow the Skaarj Mothership's generator to pieces, plunging the whole place in pitch darkness. Also, a pair of jump boots with unlimited charges? Surely that'd alter gameplay too mu— ah, there's the door for the final boss arena.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: By sheer insanity no less. In Temple of Vandora, if you shortly before entering the amphitheathre turn back and backtrack to the area, where stairs lead up to the stage, blocked off by stone bars hint , the Titan will already be present. Get its attention (easiest done by shooting it) and the enterance to the theatre closes off, not opening even if you manage to defeat the Titan from this position, denying you the exit.
  • Updated Re-release: Unreal Gold, which is the same game in the Unreal Tournament revision of Unreal Engine 1 and bundled with Return to Na Pali.

    Tropes which appear only on Return to Na Pali 
  • Bittersweet Ending: The expansion pack continues the plot and gives your character a proper "positive" ending, but when you think about it, the overall situation remains bleak: the Skaarj are still alive and kicking, and though they have failed to defeat you there's a whole planet full of peaceful Nali still waiting to be exploited. Later Unreal games also reveal that the Skaarj went on to a vicious war with humanity that ended up with them on Earth's doorstep.
  • Blatant Item Placement: The UMS weapons are inside of air-dropped crates, some of which have been terrifying the local Nali villages, as they've been known to crash into houses or unfortunate Nali.
  • Boxed Crook: The time around, Prisoner 849 is rescued from floating in space only to be sent back down to Na Pali to recover a memory core from the UMS Prometheus. The Prisoner is threatened with being flushed out the airlock if they refuse and is promised a full pardon on completion of the mission, a deal the UMS reneges on.
  • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: The "Foundry Tarydium Plant" level features one with plenty of opportunities to get sliced by sharp machinery.
  • Creator Cameo: The map "Neve's Crossing" from Return to Na Pali might be named after Epic's programmer Erik de Neve.
    • At the beginning of "Edge Of Na Pali" you can find a drowned man at the lake who goes by the name W. Marshall. Warren Marshall is one of Epic Games's employees. Also, near the end you can find a dead soldier under the name M. Worch. Matthias Worch is one of the Legend Entertainment developers.
  • Easter Egg: There are translator entries for the unlikeliest areas:
    • Glathriel Village (Part 2):
      • Just after starting the level, search around the initial for a brick and push it. A set of stairs open way to a secret chamber, and approaching it will net the following message: "Will you die for this?".
    • Escape from Na Pali:
      • Getting to the bottom of the lava pit after defeating the Warlord and landing in the right place nets you with three messages from the impaled Nali: "Why me?", "No secrets for you!" and "What is the point of me hanging around on this spike? What does it prove? I'm in a lot of pain here and I fail to see the humor in any of this.".
  • Face Death with Dignity: Near the end of "Escape from Na Pali", one of the logs that can be read comes from a Nali who was sure about his death, saying that "We shall be victorious in the next life, but for now, everything must come to an end...".
  • Fantastic Livestock: The Nali people use large, docile Armless Bipeds that resemble dinosaurs. You can find them penned up in a few Nali settlements found throughout the game.
  • Frictionless Ice: The level "Gala's Peak" features this in a bridge, though you can keep from accidentally falling off a ledge by crouching.
  • Intermission: After almost every level, Prisoner 849 gives their recount of the past mission as well as any guesses about what's yet to come on their quest to escape the planet.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: Interlude II is almost five minutes in length, but you only get to hear it for about one minute in the opening cutscene, just before it starts picking up.
  • Misguided Missile: The player pulls this on the UMS Bodega Bay in the closing cutscene of RTNP.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Some of the levels, like the Foundry Tarydium Plant, look decidedly unsafe, with exposed Tarydium sludge, blazing molten Tarydium extract, and a hallway featuring a conveyor belt with cutting machinery and no way around it. Near the latter, you can find a monitor with this little gem:
    "It has been 0 days since our last accident."
  • Remixed Level: The player goes twice to Nagomi Passage, before entering Velora Temple and afterwards. In the second instance, the entrance to the Foundry Tarydium Plant is unlocked.
  • Self-Insert Fic: During the first levels, the player can find logs belonging to people that happen to share names and surnames with developers from both Legend Entertainment and Epic Games.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: There are two levels set in a snow covered landscape ("Watcher of the Skies" and "Gala's Peak"), in which the snow interferes with your friction, making it harder to navigate. Unless you walk or crouch, it's very easy to go careening off a cliff.
  • Space Elevator: The Sunspire elevator can be spotted on the Spire Valley level, this time on the bottom of a lake with a log beside it, suggesting the two dead humans by it tried to use it during a storm.