It's strange to finally get a look at a game that you've
been looking forward to and subconciously hyping in your own
mind. After arriving at ECTS and walking the floor to get
a good feel of this year's layout and exhibitors, my first
impulse was to head straight to the nVidia stand and seek
it out; My timing couldn't have been much better, I arrived
as the final round of the competition that day was being played
out, and started to watch over the shoulder of Epic's Mark
The deathmatch was taking place on a level called 'Plunge',
which was somewhat reminiscent of the spacetower level from
the original UT, in that it seemed to be a low gravity level
with two large towers and several jump pads. It was noticably
larger than would normally have been expected for a 6 player
deathmatch, which Mark Rein admitted later was a bad choice
on his part, since he prefers more cramped quarters with more
oppertunites rather than this open level with fewer players.
Plunge itself was very vivid, brought to life with some neon
strips, but lacked for subtlety in the general lighting -
it may be that the layout of the level and most of the other
work was finished, but that the lighting wasn't quite done
- certainly other levels made far better use of light, which
leads me to think this may well be the case.
The in game interface looks quite bulky, but doesn't intrude
too much on your vision, and presents the information you
need in a very succinct manner, although it took me a few
moments to work out which of the numbers in the top right
represented frags, position and number of frags in the lead.
Taunts are still in the game, being personalised to the characters
somewhat so that Xan like robots sound very metalic and synthesised,
and the egyptian ladies sound... well, female and human at
least. A nice touch is that a portrait of the character (very
similar to the portraits from Baldur's gate) slides out from
the left as the taunt is voiced, giving a greater personal
touch, and some small recognition of the taunter so you can
find them and hunt them down later more easily.
New to UT2003 are adrenaline pills, which are sprinkled around
the levels and will give you a shortlived advantage when you
collect enough and activate it, but unfortunately I didn't
get enough of an opertunity to play to really get a good feel
for the feature. It did seem however that the adrenaline pills,
which manifest as fairly large rotating pills on the level,
give the game much more of an arcade feel than the original
- it's not Pac Man, but it's a small change from the first
game that may take people a short while to adjust to.
The new weapons look, sound and feel great, there's the requisite
size and appropriate meaty sound behind each one. I was suprised
to see the biorifle or 'googun', since I remembered reading
that newer players had trouble getting their heads around
it in the original, if it will make the final version may
well be up in the air.
The particle effects were on display, and certainly the explosions
look very good if a little small in the version that we played,
but I was left wondering how many times you'll actually appreciate
them with the pace of the gameplay. The only slightly discordant
thing was an effect that players can get set on fire after
taking serious damage: this effect was done simply by spawning
litle flame sprites behind the players as they ran, something
that was remarkably out of place considering the overall visual
quality of the game - I suspect that this effect was a placeholder,
and will be polished to something much more appealing for
the retail version.
The other big news for UT2003 that was announced at ECTS
was that the free version of Maya, Maya PLE [Personal Learning
Edition] will come with UT2003 and will have exporter plugins
that allow you to take models directly into the Unreal Editor.
This marks a huge step forward in the power that enthusiast
users will have to introduce new content to a game, since
Maya is truly a proffesional program for creating 3d content.
We were very excited to see UT2003 at ECTS, and with the
news that there should be a demo out soon, we're chafing at
the bit to see it in action again.
Daniel 'Inept' Speed