Starting with a title that almost implies yearly updates, Unreal Tournament 2003 makes it clear that Epic and Infogrames are serious about expanding the Unreal franchise. The game is built on the same engine as Unreal II, and it's in part due to this shared technology that it's taken just over a year to complete Unreal Tournament 2003. Still, this accelerated development cycle means that things will still be changing up to the last minute. Our look at the game at E3 revealed a few recent changes, notably that there aren't any vehicles and players don't spawn with all the weapons.
Unreal Tournament 2003 sports much-improved graphics, new maps, and lots of new character models, but what fans of Unreal Tournament might notice most are the new weapons and abilities. The weapons have been retuned to be less "spammy" in terms of causing lots of area-effect damage. The flak gun has a lot fewer flak bits bouncing around randomly, and it's now possible to shoot a flak canister in midair to make it explode prematurely. The rocket launcher now loads only up to three rockets at a time, and the alternate fire is a faster, single-shot fire rate. There are also some interesting tweaks to the special weapons. The translocator is limited to five shots, which slowly recharge, and it has a secondary remote camera ability. The quality of the camera image depends on distance, so it seems to be mostly useful for checking around corners for enemies. There's also a new super weapon for outdoor maps, the tag rifle. If you look up into the sky, you can see a satellite laser platform, and all it takes to bring down a deadly blast is to paint a target with the tag rifle.
Also new to the game are the special abilities, which are available when you fill the adrenaline meter. You can pick up small amounts of adrenaline from fallen enemies or pick-ups on the map, but you get much more for special kills, like headshots or when you get multiple kills in quick succession. But even without adrenaline, there are new movement options to get you out of tough situations. There's now a double jump, where if you hit jump again at the apex of a normal jump you get extra height, so you can reach new parts of the levels. There's also the ability to push off walls in midair with the dodge action.
Another natural extension of the game's multiplayer option is the introduction of new standard multiplayer modes. One of the completely new modes is bombing run, where teams try to grab a ball that respawns in the middle of the map and then put it through hoops. When a player picks up the ball, it takes the place of a weapon, so when you shoot, you're actually throwing the ball. Throw the ball through the hoops for points or jump through them while carrying it for more. There are also revisions to the Unreal Tournament game modes. Domination, the mode where teams capture and hold key locations for points, has been simplified so that there are only two capture points and you have to hold them both for 10 seconds to score.
Certainly, while it was fun to give the game a try on the network set up on the E3 show floor, we're looking forward to playing the game when it's out in the wild. One element we haven't seen much of yet is the single-player component, which has been greatly expanded so that players are controlling a team of bots through a series of league games. The developers say Unreal Tournament 2003 is "pretty much done." It's on target to be completed in late June, though that means it may ship in July.