Unreal Tournament Ultra-Kill

Where did the first-person shooter in-game announcer come from?

Did you ever think about why your favorite first-person shooters have an in-game announcer? The one that is screaming on the top of its virtual lungs when you’re out there, fragging everyone in sight? Double Kill! Triple Kill! Mega Kill! I’m sure you’re familiar with those and much more, but did you ever wonder where it all started?

Well, take it from an old-timer when it comes to gaming and first-person shooters; you’re not the only one. Interestingly enough, I came across a thread on Reddit that asked, “Why do these games have an in-game announcer” which got me thinking about where it all started. I was almost certain about that, but since there’s no solid info on the internet I can go off of, I can only go by my own fading memory as to where it all started.

Where did the first-person shooter in-game announcer come from?

When DOOM was ruling the first-person shooter genre, multiple companies were trying to incorporate things that would help their game stand out. One of these companies is Epic Games, the developer of the Unreal Game engine, the Unreal single-player game, and Unreal Tournament, the game that would start something that’s still being continued today. Back then, it was a contest between Epic Games and ID Software, known by many as the house of DOOM and Quake.

While DOOM and Quake were the top games, Epic Games has worked on Unreal as their first answer to those games. While Unreal was an interesting game, it never managed to pull in the gamers as ID Software games did. So while ID Software continued with its success and went on to work on DOOM II and Quake II, Epic Games, along with Digital Extremes, took a different route. Instead of a single-player game that told a story, they created a multiplayer game that not only had story elements but would change the first-person shooter on its head with Unreal Tournament. Taking elements from the Unreal gaming series, Unreal Tournament was the first hero shooter as it featured several characters, complete with a backstory and reasons for competing in this Unreal Tournament. 

It had amazing, and at the time, unseen game levels, including one I’m sure veterans will remember, Deck 16. A map that has been recreated so many times by multiple map creators in various games, including ID Software’s own Quake III Arena, their answer to Unreal Tournament. And while Unreal Tournament went on to much acclaim and captured the hearts of first-person shooter lovers everywhere, it also created the in-game announcer. At the time, Epic Games just figured it was something cool and interesting that would add some spice to the game. Little did they know they would go on to create something that would be emulated in countless games.

Whenever a player was on a hot streak in Unreal Tournament, you’d knew about it. This loud announcer would be all in your face, screaming about your exploits. Headshot! Killing Spree! Monster Kill! Multi-kill! Unstoppable! Well, you get the idea. It was new, interesting, and when you were really kicking some ass, you loved to hear these quotes. It’s something that you hear even in today’s games, more recently in the currently in development Halo Infinite. Sure, the quotes are different, but the idea came from the same place; Unreal Tournament. Even games that didn’t originally feature the in-game announcer ended up including it, thanks to the help of the modding community.

Interestingly enough, it’s not just first-person shooters that have adopted the in-game announcer. A few years back, Valve Software even got into the fun by adding a voice pack for DOTA 2, featuring none other than Gabe Newell. 

Whatever happened to Unreal Tournament?

Despite all the success of Unreal Tournament and the following sequels, it did little to capture the attention of the new generation of gamers, just as Quake failed to do. At the heart of those games, they were just arena shooters, and newer games such as Halo, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, and Epic Games own Fortnite managed to do things that Unreal Tournament didn’t. While many of the games I mentioned do owe a lot of their DNA to Unreal Tournament, they managed to evolve while Epic Games slowly gave up on Unreal Tournament. Once Fortnite entered the picture, Unreal Tournament’s fate was sealed.

In 2014, Epic Games announced they were bringing Unreal Tournament back, a reboot of sorts. While the company was still developed to Fortnite, for various reasons, they realized that there was a mass of games that still loved Unreal Tournament. I’d go as far as to say that Epic Games owed much of its success to Unreal Tournament, which led to the birth of Gears of War as well. However, this reboot would be a joint effort between Epic Games and the Unreal Tournament company. A small team from Epic Games would work with the community, including veteran players and modders from the Unreal Tournament community, and would start off using assets from Unreal Tournament 3.

The goal was to share the code for the game and allow anyone who wanted to help to access the code. Eventually, the game would evolve and include a marketplace, which would be ported to macOS and Linux, while the main development would be on Windows. At last, Unreal Tournament would make a comeback and return the game to the top of the competitive first-person shooter ladder thanks to the joint efforts. Or at least, that was the plan. Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way, as Epic Games had shelved the reboot back in 2017, and the small team that had started working on the reboot had been shuffled into supporting Fortnite. 

Those who want to give the now canceled Unreal Tournament 4 reboot can do so, as the game is still playable, by downloading it from the Epic Games launcher. Maybe one day Epic Games will think about reviving the once great game that is Unreal Tournament, but until that day ever comes, at least its in-game announcer will live on in the present and future games to come.