Release Date: 2006
Unreal Tournament, everyone's favorite futuristic blood sport, is once again making its way to the PC in the form of Unreal Tournament 2007. UT2k7 is essentially the same style of game as the series has been known for but contains enough new content to differentiate itself from its predecessors. UT2k7 uses the new Unreal 3 engine to allow for incredible detail on the enviroments and the player models themselves, and the Karma physics engine has been dropped in favor of the newer Novadex physics engine, which looks a bit more natural and smooth. At E3, we got to take a look at how UT2k7 is shaping up and get a feel for where the new title will take the franchise.
Let's face it: part of the reason you are going to play an Unreal Tournament game is to simultaneously show off just how beautiful and vicious the graphics can be. UT2k7 now sports normal mapping technology, allowing for models to look of a much higher quality than the previous titles without sacrificing undue amounts of performance. The new physics engine is integrated into the vehicles themselves to a much larger extent this time around, allowing for suspension to actually react to the terrain. The Unreal 3 engine appears to really have an impressive lighting engine under the hood, ranging from the soft glow given off by nearby weapons fire to a harsh strobe light flickering on a distant wall. One of the highlights of the presentation was an in-game victory cut scene of sorts, in which Malcolm jumped through a plate-glass window five stories in the air as an expanding explosion began to consume the hallway behind him.
Last time around, fans of the original Unreal Tournament were overjoyed to hear that the Assault game mode was making a comeback. Assault doesn't make an appearance in UT2k7, but instead, there is a new mode called Conquest which is, essentially, what would happen if you took Assault and Onslaught and slammed them together. For instance, the demo took place in a large city that spanned many city blocks, and while each side had a main objective to accomplish and vehicles at their disposal (reminiscent of Onslaught), the layout of the level was much more structured and contained side objectives, similiar to those of the Assault game mode. The game's maps are now streamed, which allows for truly massive enviroments to be created without worry in regards to making a masive map file, such as a battle that could spill out from a close-quarters, indoor base out onto a open field, until finally making its way into a cityscape. This same streaming technology will be used to load levels; at the end of the current match when players are checking out the scoreboard, all players will begin to stream the next level so that immediately after the scoreboard is closed, the action starts anew.
Another new gameplay mode is Survival, similiar to a one-on-one Rocket Arena style of play. A single gameplay server could have multiple instances of the same map or even separate instances of different maps in which players engage in one-on-one combat. However, all players who are spectating can choose to watch the current match taking place in any of the instances and talk with all other spectators in the server. The multiplayer will support up to 64 players per server, though care has been taken to ensure that smaller numbers of players can still have fun on a server.
Some new vehicles will be making their way into the mix, based on the Necrid style. The standard set of vehicles and the new set will be balanced in terms of their power and versatility, but their strengths, weaknesses,a nd how they actually handle are much more creative. One of the new vehicles is based on sort of a spider design, which allows it to stand taller to peek over hills, fire, then pop back down. However, blow off its legs, and you can imagine its effectiveness begins to dwindle. The Scorpion buggy now has its blades mounted on the front of the vehicle and has a turbo boost to allow you to flee enemies or really slam into infantry. If the player jumps out of the vehicle as they are boosting, they are ejected out as the self-destruct arms, destroying the vehicle and nearly anything nearby a couple seconds later.
A new addition to the series that UT2k7 sports is a brand new scripting engine that promises for some interesting opportunitise for both modders and level designers alike. In the last title of the series, the target painter weapon allowed you to trigger one of two preset superweapons, depending on the game mode. In UT2k7, level designers could take the target painter and envision entirely new uses for it, such as triggering level-specific superweapons such as rock slides, volcano eruptions, or falling elephants.
UT2k7 will ship with approximately 40 maps spanning the new Conquest and Survival game styles, all the way down to your bread-and-butter Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag. The Survival mode doesn't have maps of its own but rather uses standard maps in the aforementioned one-on-one style of play. The Domination and Bombing Run modes didn't make the cut this time around, with the focus instead being placed on enriching the standard game types and the new Conquest mode of play. Adrenaline is still a feature in UT2k7 but is now an optional mutator, an excellent way to allow for those who didn't like the Adrenaline gameplay mechanic to simply turn it off completely.
The flexibility and power of the stock engine and UnrealScript language are slightly greater than their previous versions, though the biggest advance is in the new scripting language that runs alongside the engine. Mod authors shouldn't have too hard a time of porting their existing mods to UT2k7 other than learning the new syntax, and while model authors can easily port their models to the new engine, they won't immediately be as detailed as the stock models, due to the lack of a normal map.
Essentially, Unreal Tournament 2007 is the same title everyone knows and loves in terms of its fast-paced, visceral gameplay, only with a gigantic facelift and enough new features to really warrant itself as a true successor to the franchise name. The new Conquest mode looks to be a fairly interesting and exciting mode of play due to its objective-based and yet non-linear nature, while the new Survival mode looks to draw some of the more hardcore players who enjoy playing and watching matches of head-to-head skill. Mod authors shouldn't have too hard a time learning the ropes of the new engine and will undoubtedly appreciate the flexibility and creativity that the new scripting language allows for. Look for more information on Unreal Tournament 2007 as it nears its ship date.
Chris Breci also contributed to this preview.