Unreal was finally a reality. Press releases from GT said it all in the first line: "Unreal Is Real! No, it's not a dream, it's real." Not surprisingly, GT worked at a breakneck pace to duplicate the game and get it onto store shelves as quickly as possible. The anticipation was so high that some stores on the east coast actually sent trucks to GT Interactive's warehouse to pick up the first copies as soon as they rolled off the production line. Even though these stores had already paid for shipping, they wanted to be the first to deliver the game to consumers.
Meanwhile, the developers anxiously awaited the reaction to the game from both consumers and the press. Unlike other major games, the press had not been provided with preview versions of Unreal, so the team had no idea how it would be received. Early reports were favorable, and within days of its release, Unreal received high marks in its first reviews.
And in single-player mode, at least, so did its gameplay. The devil was truly in the details - details such as letting players unearth new secrets by using a flashlight in a dark corridor or letting them seed the ground with a special plant that would grow in real time and improve their health. In short, they could play creatively and have a real impact on their environment. The bot system designed by Steven Polge created realistic multiplayer opponents for players to practice against. The dynamic music, written by Alexander Brandon and Michiel van den Bos, broke new ground by setting the mood with deeply moving rhythms. Epic had succeeded in creating its real-time Riven.
Multiplayer, however, is another story. Early reviews in the United States took the game to task for its Internet multiplayer gameplay, an element that even Epic admits wasn't the best it could have been. Nonetheless, Rein thinks some of the criticism is overblown, considering the depth (or lack thereof) of multiplayer in other 3D action games. "I think the reviewers are being a bit hypocritical about the multiplayer," he says. "Look at the other 3D action games that initially shipped with much less multiplayer than us. They weren't slammed. But we put it out there, and we deserve whatever flak we get. We are going to fix it all."