The worst crime ever committed against PC gamers was releasing the sequel to UT without an Assault mode.

User Rating: 7 | Unreal Tournament 2003 (Best Of) PC
Has anybody seen Vince McMahon lately? I’m betting the world famous pro wrestling impresario has a hobby, when he’s not prowling the ring on Pay-Per-View, pontificating about his next Vaudevillian grapple-fest.

I’m also betting that his hobby is computer game design. How else to explain the appearance on my computer of the much anticipated sequel to everybody’s Game of The Year, Unreal Tournament, as a wrestling federation shooter of sorts?

Well, kids, that is exactly my feeling about Unreal Tournament 2003 (UT2K3). It’s all there, from the Roman Coliseum-like opening with fans screaming for blood, to the wrestlers...er, combatants strutting down a runway like bizarre amalgamations of Robocop and Hulk Hogan or Robocop and Chyna. They flex, preen and scowl just like Vince’s people while the animated crowd jeers and cheers their every pose.

After the pro wrestling like intro, my next impression of UT2K3 was shock. I was awed by how much the graphics had improved, but something terrible had happened to the game play. What used to be a game for all age groups (original UT) has become a game for the under 13 crowd and I’m betting half of them (including my oldest daughter) don't like it.

What Happened?

The worst crime ever committed against the slice of humanity known as PC gamers was putting out the sequel to UT sans Assault mode. They might as well have lopped thousands of devoted fans from their mailing lists.

Assault was the best damn game mode I ever played in an arcade shooter. Instead we’re supposed to be awed by a silly futuristic football-lacrosse hybrid mode called Bombing Run. But what about Death match and Team Death Match? Come on. Those ancient modes are so…yesterday.

What were they thinking? My youngest daughter, a ten year old, loved the Assault mode as much as I did. Ninety percent of the time that's all she played. I probably split my time between Capture the Flag and Assault at about a fifty-fifty rate. Somewhere in this universe the gaming gods have to be mad as hell for this sacrilege.

More Issues

What happened to the sound? I give the developers credit for providing three levels of sound selection: software 3D, hardware 3D, and hardware EAX. My guess is this was done to help improve frame rates for those with less powerful CPUs and video cards, and enables even EAX equipped gamers to lower the sound quality if they discover a need to speed up on-screen action.

But I have to tell you this: software 3D sound in UT2K3 is a joke when compared to the default sound in the original. Weapon sounds are pitiful compared to those in UT. The best example is the awesome minigun. Heard through software 3D, the minigun sounds totally anemic. A child’s cap pistol sounds better. The visceral thrill experienced operating this ferocious weapon in UT, of which sound was a major part, is now gone even at the highest audio setting.

What happened to the gore? Where are the gruesome, blood-soaked chunks of human flesh and bone that I enjoyed watching bounce hither and thither after a direct eviscerating hit from one of UT’s nasty weapons? Score a kill in UT2K3 and you’re treated to a Mr. Rogers version of gladiator death.

Aside from the horrendous decision to drop Assault mode (the most popular mode in single-player, which buttresses my anti-single-player conspiracy theory), the second most popular weapon in single-player is also gone: the sniper rifle. Is nothing sacred? I can think of no reason for dropping Assault mode or the sniper rifle other than an attempt to rob the single-player mode of much of its enjoyment.

With the sniper rifle gone, this time around we get to obliterate the enemy with something called a lightening gun. Sure, it’s cool. It even has a zoom feature that is very futuristic. But one of the reasons many gamers loved the sniper rifle is because it was the only real-world weapon. I loved it.

It was great fun in SP. Maybe it wasn't "fair" in MP, but that's my point. Many gamers don’t care about multiplayer. I want a great single-player experience, which unfortunately is ruined without the Assault mode.

Maybe the developers weren’t out to deliberately enrage a big portion of the gaming public but I think they’ve done it. This "series" has turned into the NHL 2K2 (a game I trashed) of arcade shooters. It's gone from science fiction to futuristic Pro Wrestling. The problem is theatrics like those in pro wrestling just don't cut it for more serious (mature) gamers.

You might be wondering if there is anything great or even good about UT2K3. Aside from the impressive graphics there is a new game mode called Double Domination. Instead of capturing and holding one control point for a period of time, now you have to take two of them for double the fun.

Some new weapons have been added, including a ball launcher (playable only in Bombing Run mode), and a rather creative weapon called a link gun, a descendant of the old plasma rifle. When fired, it emits a beam that will kill the enemy but automatically become harmless if touched by a teammate. You can link its power output to that of a teammate’s weapon and inflict major damage. Unfortunately, this is extraordinarily difficult to do.

Finally, there are far more characters to play as, including some absolutely hideous creatures. I won’t even attempt to describe them. I admit to a preference for the more human-looking bots from the original. On the plus side, one or two of the human looking characters in UT2K3 look like the women fighters in the Sega Dreamcast game “Soul Caliber.”

If you enjoyed the game play in Quake III you’ll enjoy the game play in UT2K3. I didn’t much care for Q3, so ditto for this disappointing sequel to the greatest arcade shooter of all time.

The bottom line on this pretty-looking Part Deux is the game play is now a yawner. It’s the same old stuff we’ve seen in the Quake games and it’s many clones. UT was vastly superior to its rival Quake III. Why the developers of UT2K3 would want to imitate an inferior game escapes me. Why they would want to make the single-player mode as boring as they have is less of a mystery.

If you’re a fan of pro wrestling (I’m not) and repetitive arcade shooters you’ll love UT2K3. If one or the other is less than a good time for you, steer clear of this game.