At a recent Atari press event, we had the opportunity to meet with Cliff Bleszinski of Epic Games to get a first look at the upcoming Editor's Choice edition of Unreal Tournament 2004. Announced just a couple of weeks ago, the special edition will add all-new content to the existing game and will also ship with up to 11 of the best mods that have been created by the community to date.
All of the new Epic-designed content for Unreal Tournament 2004 in the Editor's Choice edition will be for use in the game's onslaught mode and will include up to eight new maps, three new vehicles, and six new characters--two Metal Guard mercenaries, two mecha skaarj, and two necris. We didn't actually get to see any of the new character models during our demonstration, but we did get to check out all three of the new vehicles--the cicada, the paladin, and the self-propelled mobile artillery.
The cicada is a speedy two-person flying craft armed with a laser. It also carries chaff grenades, and although we didn't get to see them in action, they should be pretty effective at neutralizing the dreaded AVRIL anti-vehicle weapon introduced in the original Unreal Tournament 2004. The eight-wheeled paladin was armed but not terribly quick. It seems as though its most effective use will be to transport infantry around the battlefield using the impenetrable shield that replaces any kind of alternate weapon fire. Perhaps the most intriguing of the new vehicles is the six-wheeled buggy-type self-propelled mobile artillery because, in addition to having a large rear-mounted gun, it's able to fire "spotter shells" up into the air. The spotter shell is essentially a camera that will hover above the battlefield until it's destroyed, so not only can you keep an eye on the action below, but you can easily drop bombs.
The only new onslaught map that we got a good look at was, according to Bleszinski, inspired by extreme sports games such as the SSX and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series. The map was basically a huge skate park with ramps big enough for vehicles, flaming hoops to jump through, and even some halfpipes to pull tricks on. There were no skateboards to be found (mod community take note), but we were more than a little surprised to see that as Bleszinski performed jumps, flips, and cartwheels in his chosen vehicle, statistics and scores for his last trick were flashed up on the screen.
It's not yet clear how many mods will ship with the Editor's Choice edition of Unreal Tournament 2004, but there are at least 11 currently in the running. Those confirmed for inclusion at the time of writing include Air Buccaneers, Clone Bandits, and a squad-based top-down shooter titled Alien Swarm--all of which are well worth a look if you're not familiar with them.
The Editor's Choice edition of Unreal Tournament 2004 is currently scheduled for release this fall. We'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.