by Atari

In the 21st century, a team of archaeologists in South America unearthed an ancient tablet in an Incan temple. This tablet contained cryptic runes referring to a god or demon, known as the Guardian. It told of how the Guardian appeared to the people and told them of the "Time of Testing." In the past, the Guardian had appeared to various civilizations in order to challenge their finest warriors to defeat him. The penalty for losing was the death of their entire empire. The life force of the defeated empire would return to a powerful relic known as the "Ultra Vortek." If the challenger defeated the Guardian, the powers of the Vortek would be the spoils.

Civilization started deteriorating after the discovery of the tablet, crime and corruption were everywhere. Some technological breakthroughs were achieved in this time. Menial work was performed by robots for decades, but with the unforeseen side-effect of a new bio-chip, the robots gained self-awareness. The robots revolted because they realized their mistreatment, and formed groups that petitioned for equal rights and status within society. The military had also been playing with stuff they really shouldn't have, and created Specially Qualified Unique Engineered Eugenic Bio Units, also known as SQUEEB units. These abominations were able to alter their molecular structures into other shapes and forms for battlefield purposes. Many of these SQEEBS managed to escape their military bondage and banded together to form one of the top three Underground gangs.

These two new lifeforms could not get along with humans or each other. Both groups contend for the rights and status of normal humanity. Given these warring parties, civilization was bound to take an even sharper turn for the worse. The government cracked down on the violence and this drove humans into underground gangs as well.

The Guardian reappeared amidst this chaos, and posed the challenge to all the gang leaders simultaneously across the world. Each main group would get ten years to train their best warrior to fight the Guardian. Each of the selected warriors were given a piece of the broken Vortek tablet. The other pieces of the tablet must be won by defeating the opponents who hold them. When all the pieces are collected, the tablet will open the Ultra Vortek and summon the Guardian for the final confrontation. Seven warriors have been chosen, but will the victor be strong enough to defeat the Guardian and save Earth?

Ultra Vortek is a side-view 2D fighting game in the massively popular tradition of Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat. Notice how the absence of Kasumi Ninja in that list? I would probably sooner mention Way of the Exploding Fist or International Karate! Ultra Vortek belongs squarely with SF2 and MK in terms of playability and style. It is best said that UV has SF2 controls and MK style digitized fighter graphics.

However, it would be unfair to leave the comparison at that, since the UV graphics are better than MK by a long shot. The backdrops are extremely impressive, with animation everywhere. Mortal Kombat introduced the world to the unusually bloody "Annihilation moves," and Ultra Vortek takes this one step further with some truly nasty ways of finishing opponents off. Each character possesses two unique finishing moves, combined with a special finishing move unique to each backdrop. The manual only describes a few of the special moves, and the rest need to be found out during normal gameplay, and what gameplay it is! At first there might seem to be a faint lag in the controls, but this disappears when you get used to the tempo of the game. After repeated playing, the UV controls start to fit like a (bloody) glove! Sorry, I got carried away with all the gore flying around!

The in-game sound effects are crisp, the music is compelling but not distracting, and the announcer's voice is as dark and evil as I have ever heard! You must first beat all six opponents, and each opponent must be defeated twice in order to proceed to the next. You have to drain your opponent of all energy in order to triumph, and it is possible to both die at once, in which case you must fight the bout over again. After beating all six characters, you have to face their rather perturbed spirits for an additional three rounds before facing the Guardian himself.

This game packs lots of little considerations, from the selectable music in each stage (press option + A,B, or C while paused) to the lack of annoying lags between bouts, one feature I am very grateful for! This game simply invites playing, and never lets up. Each character has weaknesses and strengths; some are fast and furious, while others are methodical and hard-hitting. Find the fighter that suits your style and you're set! Of course you can play against the computer if you want to practice without your buddies around and the levels are:

    Training: Your opponents are quite comatose and willing to line up with your hits.

    Normal: This is still very easy peasy, claiming you beat the game at this level is the same as admitting wussdom.

    Hard: Separates the adults from the kiddies. This level is suddenly much harder than Normal. You suddenly become painfully aware of the multitudes of ways to suffer fatalities.

    Killer: Slightly harder than "Hard" but with more matches to fight when you play against the Shadows.

I have been able to defeat the Guardian in "Killer" mode with Lucius, which was a pretty tough thing to do, but this game gets its real kick from the two-player mode. In head-to-head fighting games, this is the feature that makes the game the most fun. Computer opponents can be predicable, but the human variety is often prone to very annoying "lucky punches," and even more annoying "lucky wins."

The more I play UV, the higher my appreciation for the game. Bravo Beyond Games for giving me a great method of stress release!

Title Ultra Vortek
Publisher Atari
System Atari Jaguar
Graphics 10
Sound 9
Gameplay 10
Overall 10
Reviewer Frans Keylard

Go to previous page