Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Digital Extremes, Epic Games
Release Date: 9/27/2002
With Unreal Tournament 2003 hitting the shelves the king of all futuristic arena combat is back. In case you missed the original Unreal Tournament, UT2003 is a game that places you and a multitude of friends, enemies, and guns. Lots of guns. The game is very fast paced, even slightly faster paced than the original UT. While this may be a turn-off at first, UT2003 is exactly the game the fans of UT have been waiting for.
Unreal Tournament had the most frenetic gameplay, the coolest guns, and the most eye-popping graphics around. UT2003 improves on all of that while still keeping true to the original content. Many characters and weapons are back as well as reincarnations of popular levels from the original. Most of the mutators are back as well, adding a little bit of mayhem to an already chaotic game.
The original UT didn’t have much in the way of storyline, and neither does UT2003. There is no deep plot element or twists but as most UT fans will tell you that doesn’t make the slightest difference. However, in UT2003 there is a bit of a reason to it all as the game is now set in a futuristic sports setting rather than prisoners fighting for glory. The opening movie is a spinoff of WWE, with the gladiators coming up in fireworks displays, announcers babbling on, and frenzied fans that just want to touch their heroes.
The gameplay generally is carried over from the original but is modified in many ways. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag still remain the same. Added to the mix is new version of Domination and the all new Bombing Run. Domination has now been changed so that all maps only have two points to hold instead of the 3+ in the original UT’s Domination mode. The new Bombing Run mode plays like a psycho version of football. Each team spawns at their goal and the “ball” spawns in the middle. The objective is to pick up the ball and shoot it through the other teams goal. The difficulty lies in the fact that you cannot shoot anything but the ball while holding it, but you can pass it to someone if you really feel the need to smear someone. On a disappointing note the Assault mode from the original was cut from UT2003, which will disappoint some of it’s fans looking for it.
Another new gameplay element is adrenaline. Every kill, flag capture, and goal you make adds to your adrenaline meter. When this meter is filled you can input a certain button combination to get short-term regeneration, invisibility, agility, or berserk. Besides adrenaline there are also double jumps and super dodges, you can jump once again at the apex of a jump to gain more height or do matrix-esque dodges to avoid enemy fire.
Also new to the UT series (And most games in general) is the “Rag-Doll” effect. Slain combatants will slump over, slide, and crumple when they die depending on how hard they were hit and where they are standing. If you shoot someone in the arm and they die from it they will spin around and fall, totally dependent on gravity and where you shoot them. In this way, you can play every day for years and never see someone die the same way twice. This effect really shines when you shoot a enemy near a ledge, if more of their weight is over the edge they will realistically fall over the edge.
The main game plays similar to the original, in which you have to play through various trees to unlock the final area. However, what is different is the fact you have your own team. In true sports fashion, you draft your own team from a list of candidates all with their own stats and weapon preferences. You even name your team and pick their symbol, which will be displayed in game at many points such as above your flag and in your base. While playing through, you may be asked to trade players, which generally are a good idea since you can get rid of players on your team with lower stats and replace them will someone that will better balance your team. Before every match, the loading screen displays each team’s average stats in each category and each team’s combatants. In game though, even if your team is severely outclassed or superior it seems to have little bearing on who wins.
The bots in the game seem to be contradictive in the fact that they are both better and worse than the original UT’s bots at the same time. While they follow orders much better, they don’t seem to carry them out all the time. For example, if you order all of the bots to guard your flag you can be guaranteed that one of them will suddenly become a vigilante and go off on his/her own. However, this doesn’t happen too often and really shouldn’t worry those who are looking for a decent single-player experience.
The multiplayer aspect is probably what everyone will buy this game for, and it doesn’t disappoint. Multiplayer holds the same chaotic, brutal, fast paced gameplay that made so become addicted to the original. UT2003 still holds the active player ranking that made the original UT a very competitive game as well as it’s own game browser. Since the game has barely been on shelves for a couple months there aren’t very many player-created addons yet, but if the original UT is any guide expect a flood of them soon enough.
The weaponry in UT2003 is varied and diverse. Every player starts off with the Assault Rifle and the Shield Hammer. The Assault Rifle fires very fast but is very weak, resembling the Enforcer from the original. The cool part is it comes equipped with pump-action grenades to lob around corners and generally help those who are forced to use the gun. The Shield Hammer can either be used to generate a frontal shield to protect you from most harm or you can charge up the pistons and discharge them at point-blank to an enemy with devastating effect. Some of the original UT’s guns are back but are all redone, such as the Rocket Launcher, Bio-Rifle, Shock Rifle, Flak Cannon, Minigun, and Redeemer. The Rocket Launcher fires rockets either one at a time or up to three, and can even set them to become heat-seeking. The Bio-Rifle shoots a toxic green goo, which can either be fired in pulses or in a large green gob that will kill anything within a ten foot radius. The Shock Rifle’s primary fire shoots a fast-moving laser, while its alternate fire shoots a slow-moving blue orb. Both do fair damage, but if you shoot the orb with the laser you get one heck of a explosion called a Shock Combo. The Flak Cannon is something that resembles a shotgun on crack, with primary fire launching large shards of heated shrapnel and the alternate fire launching a large ball that explodes into shrapnel on impact. The Minigun is exactly what you would expect, with primary fire spraying bullets like there’s no tomorrow and secondary slowing the guns rate of fire to become a bit more accurate. The almighty but rare Redeemer takes the cake in the competition of sheer bang for your buck though, with can easily obliterate half of an arena’s combatants in a single wave of death. New to the UT series is the Link Gun, the Ion Cannon, and the Lightning Gun. The Link Gun’s primary fire shoots green bursts of plasma, while the secondary fire shoots it in a stream. The cool thing though is if you are playing in a teamplay setting and another player is using the Link Gun you can use the secondary fire to boost his guns power, giving him the power of about three link guns. The Ion Cannon seems harmless at first, shooting a small red stream of ions that do absolutely no damage to anything. However, hold it on them long enough and orbiting satellites will fire on the person who’s getting “painted” with the ions, killing them and anyone near them instantly. The sniper gun of the game is the Lightning Gun, which shoots an awesome bolt of lightning capable of beheading your foe.
UT2003 boasts some of the best graphics to date. The textures, characters, weapons, and effects are extremely crisp and well done. Levels are extremely diverse in the way they look, ranging from earthy forests and canyons to huge skyscrapers and dimly lit interiors. The textures used in the game are never repetitive and each level has quality, detailed geometry. The smoke from flying rockets, the bolts of electricity from the lightning gun, and the sheer elegant beauty of a shock rifle shot all are of the sweetest eye-candy. On a sour note you will need a fairly good computer to get any form of framerate at all, as the minimum system requirements are higher than many games out today. If you meet them though, your eyes will never want to leave the screen.
Sound in the game is also high caliber, with many sounds carried over and remade from the original. The rocket launcher still has its ratchet loading noise as well as the steamy hiss upon firing. The flak cannon and shock rifle sounds seem to pack more of a punch, and the Bio-rifle just sounds much more gooey. The music in game sets the mood perfectly for each level, never sounding out of place or unwelcome. Each character has their own voice as well, ranging from the humanlike to the robotic, male to female, normal to exotic. The announcer returns from UT with his characteristic voice, lending more to the arena/sports feel of the game.
Overall, UT2003 is an awesome heir to UT’s throne. UT2003 keeps the frantic, savage gameplay and adds to it in almost every way. If you like Unreal Tournament or even first-person shooters in general, this is your game. With a good single player, great multiplayer, and awesome features, UT2003 is among the best of what PC gaming has to offer.