Unreal Tournament 2003
There Are things you are not meant to do in games like Unreal Tournament. Standing still is one of them. In fact, with numerous armed individuals actively searching for you, even slowly ambling along is discouraged. It's a shame because for first-time visitors, Unreal Tournament 2003 is a place you will want to take your time exploring. You can take in the nightmarish vistas of DM-Inferno or DOM-Ruination, examine the intricate detail of the faux ancient Egyptian temples of CTF-Face3, maybe even take tea and scones by the ruined fortress of CTF-Magma and its commanding view of a lake of spouting magma...
Unfortunately standing still in mute and admiring awe is what you'll be doing a lot of at first. You won't even be able to help yourself a lot of the time. Being hounded by two bots packing rocket launchers, you'll round a comer and come face to face with the head of a dragon that has met its end crashing through the wall. You'll stop abruptly, your search for precious health vials seeming insignificant as you examine the detail lavished on the creature by the game's designers, the light shimmering off its carapace as you edge around its bulk. Then when your pursuers finally track you down and launch their fatal barrage, you'll coo with delight as the view switches to focus on your corpse, a cloud of red mist accompanying the fond farewell your flailing torso has bid to your buckling legs. Who cares about winning when losing looks so good?
Not wishing to overstate things too much then, let's just say that Unreal Tournament 2003 is a beautiful game, even, surprisingly, on something as lowly as a GeForce 2. With a GeForce 4 screwed inside your box, with all the graphical bells ringing and whistles a-tootin', the graphics across the many varied maps are nothing short of dazzling. We shouldn't be too surprised. Whenever a new shooter appears, whether powered by Quake or Unreal technology, the bar for graphical splendour is always raised and UT2003 is no different in that respect.
Next down the list of new enhancements is the rag doll' physics, which make the act of killing your deathmatch opponents all the more entertaining. Bodies come apart of course, but it's the way in which they and their constituent parts fly through the air that gift UT2003 with a sense of humour the original lacked. Kill an opponent for instance and before the corpse dematerialises, you can shoot it over the edge of the ledge and watch it tumble into infinity, the weight of each part of the body affecting its momentum. It's tricky to explain, but if you were to jump out of the nearest window you might get a sense of what I mean.
Same Old Same Old
For all the quadrilinear willywaving the engine can effortlessly thrash out however, the game's undeniable beauty is only skin deep. Scratch the surface, say with a Schultz-Metzger T23-A 23mm rotary cannon,and though the gleaming wall will momentarily be scarred, the structure underneath will remain intact. Those hoping to shoot out control panels and create a fire that will spread out of control (or even just to break a few light bulbs) will be a mite displeased, and it's easy to suspect that underneath the graphics of Unreal Tournament 2003, the aged body of the old Unreal Tournament remains. Even the voices of the bots and the over-enthusiastic commentator are as annoying and repetitive as they were before.
More a matter of taste are the weapons, which for the most part have evolved from the original UT. The useless pistol of old is replaced by an Assault Rifle with under-slung grenade launcher. The Sniper Rifle is substituted with the Lightning Gun, which means others will know where the snipers are thanks to the bloody great bolts of lightning flying around. The two other new boys are the Shieldgun and the Ion Painter - the latter a laser targeting device that allows you to rain down fiery death from orbit. Taken together. UTs new arsenal is a finely balanced one, each weapon with a strength offset by an obvious weakness, whether it be the damage it causes, ammo, its rate of fire or the ease with which it can be found.
Certainly one area in which the game has degenerated is in the choice of game modes. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture The Flag are all present, correct and fine and dandy, but it's rather upsetting that my personal favourite, Assault - where one team attacked and the other defended - has been taken out. To compensate for its omission there is Bombing Run and a reworked and renamed Double Domination mode, the former tasking each team with finding a ball and getting it in the opponents goal. For all intents and purposes it's CTF, but with only one flag, and without putting too fine a point on it, it's bum. Double Domination maps on the other hand offer two control points which must both be held for ten seconds in order to score a point, and despite the fact that winning can be achieved simply by camping out one control point while half your team do likewise on the other side of the map, it's good wholesome fun.
Undoubtedly it will be the multiplayer game that draws most people in. However, let us not forget it was because of its more varied and challenging single-player game that the original UT managed to nose ahead of the mighty Quake III in the rankings and again, the developers have made sure those wishing to play with themselves aren't overlooked. This time around however, in order to climb up the singleplayer ladder, players must qualify through a series of Deathmatch maps before they can unlock the other team-focused game modes. Win the Deathmatch competition and you get to pick a team to play in the Team Deathmatch game. Reach the penultimate level of that and the next becomes available until CTF, Bombing Run and Double Domination are all accessible. Just to make things a little more interesting, you must pick your team from a pool of Al bots, each offering skills in four separate areas; Accuracy, Aggression. Agility and Team Tactics. As you progress, higher-skilled bots make themselves available and before each game you can set orders for each member of your team. Championship Manager this isn't, of course, but it goes some way to offset the soulless pretence that the game is anywhere near as entertaining offline as it is on.
Whatever the shortcomings of Unreal Tournament, it remains an unalterable fact that within a few short months, there will a ton of new maps, weapons and mods on the way, if not already in circulation. As a base upon which to rebuild Unreal's multiplayer game, UT2003 offers a solid foundation for mod authors and mapmakers to begin construction. No doubt some enterprising individuals will soon slot in a new Assault mode, and you can bet that the maps you miss from the original game will already have been built by the time you read this. As it stands, UT2003 is a stunning piece of work. Graphically it's an unrivalled masterpiece and in relation to the Al, maps, weapons and skins, there is plenty to dabble with until the trickle of new third-party additions turn into a flood. If you've got a high-end PC and new graphics card, UT2003 is the perfect showcase for your hardware. Just don't spend too much time hanging around admiring the scenery.
Are Ut2003's Computer-Controlled Enemies The Best In The Business?
Unreal Tournament's bots are still unrivalled, and we're happy to report UT2003's trigger-happy automatons are even more realistic than before. Not necessarily more skilled with a weapon, although we found ourselves having to notch them down a skill level from what we were used to before - just to make them more human in terms of the way they dodge fire or search the map for weapons and ammunition. We're not at the Holy Grail just yet - the bots do tend to take the centre line rather than hug the walls - but they are visibly more fallible in the way they scan the landscape for targets. Unfortunately what gives them away are their inane taunts.
Pills, Thrills, And Double-Jumps
As well as armour to collect and health vials to pick up, UT2003 introduces adrenaline pills. Raise your adrenaline to the magic ton and by deftly tapping in key combinations you can pull off special moves or gain invisibility for a short time. Four quick stabs of the forward button, for instance, gives you a prolonged speed boost, while four taps on your back key will slowly regenerate health points. Another great skill is Berserk, which increases your rate of fire. It's a great system that rewards skill as opposed to just having people camp out spawn points for special items.
Double-tapping a movement key also allows you to quickly dodge incoming fire, or double-jump up to seemingly inaccessible parts of the map. Lower-skilled bots rarely make use of such abilities, so it's a great way to practise your skills.
Don't Be fooled: this incarnation of the great online shooter may have been thoroughly outgunned by the more recent UT 2004, but this by no means makes the earlier game redundant. Not only is Unreal Tournament 2003 still a fantastic shooter in its own right, with a perfectly viable offline mode for the Internetually challenged, but -importantly - it gives you access to a vast catalogue of mods, mutators and total conversions that are not compatible with UT 2004.
Some of these, such as Red Orchestra, FragOps and Infection, are worth the price of entry alone. And with a full year's head start on UT 2004 (not to mention the incentive of Epic's Make Something Unreal competition), the mods and conversions will just keep coming.
Admittedly, if you've already got the beautifully comprehensive UT2004 this is a difficult purchase to justify; but if you're a fan of online shooters with even a passing interest in the mod scene, you simply must own this game.
Download Unreal Tournament 2003
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode