We recently got to try out the latest version of Unreal Tournament 2004 at an Nvidia press event this week. It's been a little more than a month since we last saw the game, but the developer has made noticeable changes in the game, particularly in the onslaught mode.
As you may recall from our last update, the onslaught mode adds vehicles and a new objective-based team game to Unreal Tournament 2004. The first thing we noticed was what appeared to be new vehicle effects. The manta hovercraft now produces a new "splash" effect created by lighting that appears from its twin engines when it hits the ground, and the Humvee-like truck and the scorpion buggy have headlights that project light on the ground in front of the vehicles.
The scorpion has apparently been overhauled since the last time we saw it. It's still a single-person vehicle that looks like a dune buggy, but it now has a new arsenal. When we saw the game in September, it had a single, primary weapon: a grenade launcher. It appears that Epic is still working on the new primary weapon, which appears to be placeholder at this point, but the new secondary weapon seems pretty interesting. In keeping with the new game's theme of finding ways to brutally kill opponents with vehicles, the scorpion has two long blades that spring out from its sides that will instantly kill anyone in its path. The scorpion's speed ensures that you'll be able to use these blades to good use.
We noticed a few other changes that seem to further balance out onslaught mode and make vehicles more enjoyable. Stationary turrets in onslaught seem much more powerful, and this is a good thing, because they were pretty weak in the version we played in September. Now they seem great for taking out players on foot and in vehicles. Turrets can be countered by tanks, which have an incredible range and pack quite a punch. Tanks can be destroyed easily by flying vehicles, which, in turn, can be countered by turrets.
One thing that Epic had previously considered for its onslaught mode was how to handle usable vehicles that had been flipped over. The last time we played the game, Epic representatives had explained that they were considering either having a vehicle be destroyed immediately if it flipped over or possibly letting players manually flip overturned vehicles, like in Bungie's popular Xbox shooter Halo. Epic seems to have chosen the latter; we were able to flip over vehicles by walking up to them and pressing the "use" key. We definitely like this method better, because the onslaught maps seem huge and definitely don't seem suited for extended periods of walking. It should be noted that the vehicles aren't invulnerable. When you hop into a vehicle, a number that represents your vehicle's current condition appears at the bottom-left corner of the screen, and if your vehicle sustains enough damage to bring this number to zero, it will blow up.
Just like the other game modes, onslaught can be played with bots. The AI seemed to work in only one map so far, but our computer-controlled opponents at least seemed competent. They gladly hop into vehicles (sometimes stealing them from under your nose) and enter the fray. They also attack and capture node points as you would expect a team of human players to do.
We were excited to see Unreal Tournament 2004 again, simply because it seems quite enjoyable. But we were pleasantly surprised to see these additions, which make an already exciting game mode seem even better. Epic has been tight-lipped about the game's release date, so all we can do is wait for the game's final release.