Updated: January 27, 2012
Fun over realism is the official game motto, which reminds me, it's been three years since I last wrote about this first person shooter title. As one of the most complete and popular free tactical shooters out there, it sure deserves praise and attention. It is well packaged as a product, relatively bug-free, with a simple installation, decent graphics, low requirements, a solid and growing fanbase, and most importantly, a balanced gameplay that offers something to everyone.
At the end of 2010, I included the game as one of the best free games of the year. So you have seen your share. But I will pretend there is no Urban Terror review on Dedoimedo, no awards, nor teasers, and give you a new, fresh article, based on yet another year of shooting for pleasure. Let's see what it can do.
The game comes completely bundled inside a single 750MB archive, which contains both Windows, Linux and Mac binaries. Although the downloads for Windows and the rest are separate, the contents are identical and you can simply copy the extracted folder between machines, just make sure you run the correct file that matches the operating system. But it's quite elegant, self-contained, plug and play if you will.
The gameplay is fun. Although you have ladders and tournaments as with pretty much any game out there, you can be rather casual about it. Urban Terror lets you play at your own pace, your own challenge level, without having to consult a hall of fame rankings poster and getting your nerves frayed over every little cheater or glitch or network lag. Urban Terror is a fairly lightweight game, with great performance even on machines many years, old, including still the original box I used for the first review. Most of the time, you will not notice any latency, and your FPS will spin around the 90 mark.
Urban Terror self-dubs itself as the Hollywood style tactical shooter. There's some realism, but most of what children armed with digital guns worldwide consider realistic is put aside for the sake of enjoyment. Even so, there are rather unique elements that blend crazy stunts with accurate physics you don't see elsewhere, including many other Quake-based games. Urban Terror lets you power slide on your knees like a champ, climb over obstacles and use walls as jump ramps. You will tire from too much sprinting or bunnyhopping and your stamina as well as your notorious jump ability will be affected by how much weapons and armor you carry. Ragdoll physics characteristics of players are decent, although not spectacular. Even so, you will not feel too much detached from the human experience of killing your fellow citizens with gun, knife or nade.
Healing is also possible. You sort of bandage your injuries and those of your fellows, although only dedicated medics with full backpacks can really staunch the big bullet wounds. The game also does not discriminate between genders, allowing an equal share of male to female avatars. But since there are no women online, fact, most of the characters will be male.
One of the strength of Urban Terror is the portability of its core engine. So you should not be surprised if you find yourself playing the game with maps imported from the World of Padman, maybe even Warsow. Some of the maps also introduce warp-like jumps through the fabric of time, letting you teleport into other sections and surprising your enemies as well as yourself, some come with pools you can dive and swim in and drown with funny gurgling noises, and some even have reduced gravity and Superman-like pads, which let you fly around like mad. Arm yourself with a PSG-1 rifle, go parabolic and have utmost fun. Recently, I noticed fewer of the super-cool maps, as there used to be several servers running mostly a very colorful, non-standard set of maps, but those seem to be gone. Still, if you dig around, you will find yourself a lovely share.
The maps have a balanced blend between indoors corridor-like mazes and open maps. Most of the maps are circular, which reduces the chance of noob ambushes and camping. Likewise, to prevent respawn abuse, some of the maps have AI-controlled Vulcan guns protecting the bases. A combination of underground and underwater passages, dark tunnels, jump pads, as well as exposed terrain allows for a great freedom of thought and tactics.
The weapons are many, divided into three major categories - big guns, including snipers and the Negev machine gun, submachine guns, and pistols. Each character can carry one of these, plus some nades, and you can also choose between a helmet and a full flak vest against a silencer and increased mobility. I normally play in the nude, hence no flak vest for me.
All of the weapons have different ballistic characteristics. For example, AK-103 has a loud, bass rumble, a slower rate of fire and bigger recoil, but it has a deadly punch. M4 feels light and precise. LR-300 sort of combines the best of both worlds. If you're in a mood for some crazy shooting, you might choose a shotgun or even a grenade launcher. A lack of tripod for snipers and the right-click zoom for most non-scoped weapons feels like a loss, but this might yet be added in the future versions perhaps.
The game seems to be steadily growing in popularity. My chief indicator is the number of available servers in the master server listing, which currently revolves around 1,300-1,400 servers. True, many of those are private, but even so, this is more than twice the number of what used to be around three years back. Let's hope it continues this way.
Finally, if you're interested, do take a look at my entire Linux game listing. And there's this handy guide that shows how to troubleshoot common Urban Terror issues, including startup problems and getting the master list from the server.
Urban Terror is sure one of my favorite games. It does not get boring, which is a rare thing these days. Most of the new titles, like for instance Modern Warfare, come with stunning graphics and even more stunning effects, but offer zero excitement, zero realism, zero emotional attachment of any kind, and you sure do not feel the need to ever play them again. On the other hand, Urban Terror may not be the prettiest or the grittiest or anything of that sort, but it has a cozy, familiar, friendly feel about it that draw you back into its fold.
Urban Terror has an almost perfect match of all the necessary ingredients. You don't get only pretty pixels or the raw brutal shooting rules straight from the Soviet-Afghan war manual. The emphasis is on having fun. So yes, some elements are over-simplified, but this only adds more charm. Playing on one of the Padman maps and rocketing across the sky like a missile can only imbue you with childish joy that counterbalances the shooting part of the game. You feel no hatred or animosity toward your fellow players, there's no bitter rivalry, no need to up anyone, no need to get angry. You play, you have fun, you relax, and you love the artistic detail that comes with the big, colorful world of the Quake sphere. All in all, Urban Terror is a winner.
Well, all that remains is for you to download it and have some fun of your own out there!