Not the biggest leap forward, but still alot of fun.
The good stuff:
- Gorgeous looking enviroments with crisp texture detail
- Great character movement with sharp control
- A ton of different ways to blow your opponent into pieces
The bad stuff:
- Not much in the way of content compared to the prequel Unreal Tournament - Weapons feel underwhelming
Unreal Tournament released in 1999 was a superb game with high detailed models, a variety of unique weapons that felt really good, a ton of maps and alot of ways to customize the gameplay experience with a handful of mutators and very customizable match rules. Fast-forward to the future and in late 2002 we have Unreal Tournament 2003 with an all new game engine which is nothing short of visually stunning. Unreal Tournament 2003 is just as much fun to play, however, it isn't all that you would expect from an sequel.
The first thing you will notice upon starting a match is that the game just looks beautiful. High polygon models and enviroments, high detail and crisp textures and wonderful lightning. The amount of detail that can be seen in one small map is superb. Every level is decorated with lots of meshes that stray from simple geometry. The big outdoor enviroments is just a whole another thing with jaw dropping visuals. The only bad thing you could say about Unreal Tournaments 2003's graphics is a lack in shadows, and the shadows do seem rather unrealistic. But the game looks gorgeous anyway that you probably couldn't care less.
Unreal Tournament 2003 plays wonderfully. You have alot of control over your character's movement with very responsive and sharp controls. You have quite a good bit of air control, and a ton of control of how and where you want to jump too. This kind of movement makes for some very competitive gameplay online, and the maps where designed with this in mind with plenty of opportunities to do a running jump dodge onto that otherwise unreachable area which allows for quick access to a power-up. This may sound intimidating, and at first it is. The movement definatly takes a bit of time to get used to, but once you do you just can't go back to another first person shooter without it.
A new mechanic in Unreal Tournament 2003 is the addition of adrenaline. Adrenaline is gained by picking up pills scattered across the map or by fragging your opponents. Once you gain a hundred adrenaline (Indicated by the HUD at the top left) you will be able to activate one of four different abilities which depend on the key combo you used. You activate an adrenaline ability by pressing a four key combo using the arrow keys. Up, Up, Up, Up for example activates speed which makes you run really fast for a small period of time. If you get killed whilst using an adrenaline ability however you will respawn with no adrenaline.
Some of the traditional gameplay modes make a comeback in Unreal Tournament 2003 which are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and capture the flag. Assault and Domination haven't returned but two new modes are Bombing Run and Double Domination. Double Domination is similar to Domination found in Unreal Tournament in that there are control points located on the map and two teams have to try and capture and hold them. With Double Domination there are only two control points on symmetrical maps and a team can only score if they hold both control points for a period of ten seconds. Bombing Run is like the bloody sport of Unreal Tournament combined with rugby or American football. A ball is spawned in the center of a symmetrical map and must be put through one of the teams goals to score. If you are holding the ball you cannot shoot any weapons, instead your weapons are replaced with the ball thrower for as long as you have the ball. You can shoot anywhere you want or you can pass to a teammate with a lock on feature.
While Unreal Tournament 2003 has enough content to keep anyone satisfied for a long period of time, it doesen't pack in as much as what was included with Unreal Tournament. A handful of the mutators seem to be missing and there only seems to be about half as many maps. What there is tough is some well balanced and competitive maps and many different character models to choose and play with. Some fans from Unreal Tournament may be a bit annoyed to find the Ripjack (A weapon that shoots sharp metal spinning disks which could bounce of walls and make for some easy head shots) has not been included and the redeemer is gone. Instead of the redeemer there is a weapon called the Ion Painter in which you indicate via a tracer where you want to strike. You must remain still for a few seconds and then an orbital ion strike will rain down on the unfortunate combatants that happen to be in it's path.
All the weapons in Unreal Tournament 2003 look really good and are well balanced. There are some changes made to them such as the Flak Cannon has a tighter spread but they remain familiar to what was in Unreal Tournament. However they all feel underwhelming. The shield gun (Unreal Tournament 2003's Impact Hammer) can be used to slaughter an opponent with a close range impact and the alternate fire can be used to project a shield around the front of the character. But the primary fire just doesen't give much satisfaction, you just walk up to someone and it's as if they disappear with a blood splatter. Same with the Rocket Launcher. You would expect it to look very powerful and sound deafening, but the rockets give off a small, weak explosion and the sound of the rockets getting thrown out of the launcher is quiet.
Whilst Unreal Tournament 2003 doesen't have as much content as you would hope for, it's still a solid, fast paced and competitive multiplayer shooter. Anyone who likes first person shooters should definatly check out Unreal Tournament 2003.