Unreal Tournament 2003
When it was released three years ago, the original Unreal Tournamentwas met with nearly universal acclaim. It made sense: Unreal Tournamentleaped ahead of the competition with brilliant AI, smooth networkability and exceptional design. With that in mind, expectations were quite high for the sequel.
Although UT2003’smain features include an updated graphics engine and improved artificial intelligence, the latest edition to the Unreal family has the same look and feel that earned the original titles many awards and die-hard fans, so most gamers will be right at home in this lush new environment.
The original Unreal Tournamentturned heads with a new game concept revolving around tournament-style battles against bots, replacing the threadbare single-player storyline you’re used to seeing in first-person shooters. You don’t progress through a linear storyline; instead you battle your way through a series of matches with increasingly ferocious bots.
Unreal Tournament 2003continues this tradition, adding squadbased gameplay by allowing you to draft bot-mates from a roster of free agents before entering the main tournament. The bots’ artificial intelligence has definitely been souped up: bots are smarter than ever before, running away or speeding hawkishly at the enemy depending on their ‘personality.’ Additional options allow you to customise each member’s combat focus, particularly useful when you don’t notice any variation in team behaviour from match to match. The ‘Team Tactics Roster’ is an innovative new concept and we hope it will be improved upon in future versions of the series.
After setting up a character and team profile, and sharpening your skill with a few qualification matches, you’ll be ready to try your hand at the gaming modes included in full-fledged ladder play. Sadly, the original’s popular Assault variant has been dropped, as has Last Man Standing. Most of the original weapons are back, along with new additions like the Lightning Gun and the Ion Painter.
There are also some new power-ups and player abilities for you to enjoy, such as combo-enhancing adrenaline capsules and a doublejump manoeuvre. Whether you’re fighting bots or humans, these items add a new level of unpredictability – always a good thing. Unreal Tournament 2003’ssuperb graphics engine is its best asset: models, terrain and damage effects all are state of the art. Since ladder play doesn’t follow a pre-defined storyline, the developers were able to craft 30 beautifully diverse maps featuring everything from rolling hills and low-gravity space cities to burning outposts of Hell and cavernous Egyptian mausoleums.
Unless you have a spiffy new G4 or G5 on hand, running the title at higher graphical settings will definitely bring your system to its knees. Most gamers will have to lower these a notch or three for acceptable performance, which deducts quite a bit from the title’s visual lustre.
Multiplayer setup is a cinch, letting you browse through LAN/Internet matches in whichever set game mode. Although the Mac version is missing the official Map Editor and is taxed by unusually steep system requirements, there is much here for Mac gamers to enjoy.