Despite the generally hectic pace of this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, we managed to get a second look at Unreal Tournament 2003. (If you haven't already, be sure to check our previous impressions of this team-based shooter sequel.) This second look let us get a bit more into the game's weapons and its pacing--and though we're somewhat disappointed with the developer's decision to not include vehicles in the retail release of the game (though they may be added later), we can safely say that the rest of the game seems to play out nicely.
As you've probably read before on GameSpot, Unreal Tournament's weapons have been tweaked, overhauled, or completely replaced in the sequel. For instance, consider Unreal Tournament's flak cannon weapon--which made skilled players virtually unstoppable at close ranges and midranges, thanks to its large blast radius--and the powerful explosive qualities of the weapon's alternate fire (an exploding ball of flak). UT 2003's flak cannon, as we noted in our earlier E3 impressions, has a slightly smaller blast radius, and the alternate-fire shot can actually be detonated prematurely if fired straight into the air. The alternate-fire shot still explodes into damaging shrapnel in UT 2003, but the flak will ricochet only once, rather than bouncing about multiple times at close quarters. However, rather than bursting all over the place, the flak cannon's alternate-fire flak will actually bounce along the direction of the original shot, which lets smart players set up traps for their opponents with well-placed shots around corners.
The modified flak cannon isn't the only interesting addition to UT 2003's arsenal. The original game's impact hammer (also known as the piston) has been completely replaced with a new high-tech melee weapon. It can be used just like the impact hammer to pummel enemies up close and also charge up to deliver a powerful blow, but the alternate-fire attack generates a powerful shield which, when fully charged, can reflect an enemy's fired shots back at the attacker and can also break players' falls when they fall from great heights. In addition, UT 2003 has the all-new ion cannon which, as we described in our previous E3 impressions, can "paint" an area and then call in a powerful satellite strike in the designated spot. In the final version of the game, the weapon can actually melt flesh completely off any characters who happen to get caught in the blast radius, leaving behind nothing but a skeleton. Unfortunately, this and other effects--such as bump mapping and final versions of the game's lighting system and water effects--weren't in the build of the game on display, but the game already features some impressive animated shadow effects, as well as some very nice-looking polygonal reflections on shiny surfaces.
The new weapons won't be the only new things you can play with in UT 2003. In addition to Unreal Tournament's dodging (which, just like in the original game, can be performed by quickly tapping a movement key twice), UT 2003 will have a new double jump, which players can perform by quickly tapping their jump key again at the height of their leap. Players will also be able to find and use camera fixtures on certain maps that survey small areas of the map, just like in Duke Nukem 3D, and will also be able to use their translocators creatively with the cameras to run and gun normally through the levels. However, they will need to periodically monitor important areas by translocating themselves back to the camera.
UT 2003 looks as promising as ever, despite its lack of vehicles. It should be out later this summer.