Apr 24 2024 16:39:45

ECTS: Unreal Tournament 2003 Impressions

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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 Rein.

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





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