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Unreal Tournament 2003
Corey Tamas

Published by: MacSoft

Cost: $50
Demo:
Yes
OS X? Yes
OS 9?
No
Multiplayer:
Most definitely

System Requirements
Macintosh OSX v10.2.6 or higher, 700 MHz G4 processor or faster (except 12" PowerBook manufactured in 2003), 256 MB RAM, 3GB hard disk space, 32MB ATI RADEON or Nvidia GeForce 2 or faster. Internet (TCP/IP) and LAN (TCP/IP) play supported. 33.6 Kbps or faster modem and Internet connection are required for online play.
Machine Tested On:
G4 Dual 800 Mhz
768 MB RAM
OS X 10.2.6
ATI Radeon 8500

ESRB Advisory:
Mature



For Hardcore Gamers Only
There are a lot of games out there. Some games are developed and published for your parents: Scrabble, Bejewelled, Wheel of Fortune, etc. Their familiar, easy-to-learn rules and low-impact ability to comfortably pass time appeals to people who play games in short, 15 minutes bursts to unwind a bit with their half-caff lattés. Other games, such as Geneforge or Myst take the gaming to a higher, more commited level where the player has to really dig in with both feet and put a little muscle into it, though the pace is still comfortable and the hardware demands are modest at best. Then there are those games that the industry refers to as "Hardcore", where there's no room for players who want the opponent to go easy on them while they figure out the controls. There's no room for "budget" hardware that can't deliver pixel upon pixel of graphical glory. There's no room for dabblers... only those who are ready to put their energy, nerves and time into beating down on ememies as mercilessly as they can. These are the games which give hardware manufacturers a reason to spend money on R&D.; These are the games which cause repetitive stress disorder. These are the games that soccer moms wish would magically disappear.

That's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

Few game types are harder core than "deathmatch", in which players hunt one another down and, in sci-fi gladiator style, fight to the death in a closed arena employing nothing but their wits, their reflexes and a whole lot of insanely lethal firepower. Unreal Tournament, which appeared in 1999, was a game that defined that genre. It was brutal in its gameplay; gamers were actually rewarded for scoring a string of uninterrupted kills or for achieving a "head shot" which cleaned their opponent's cranium clear off his shoulders. It was also brutal in its marketing; Unreal Tournament went toe-to-toe with id software (who practically invented the genre) and their 1999 deathmatch game, Quake III: Arena. Even now, four years later, getting into a usenet or web forum discussion about whether Quake III is better or worse than Unreal Tournament is guaranteed to bring on some serious double-barreled bile and hatred. Whether or not one of the two games is empircally "better" than the other, Unreal Tournament walked away from the 20th century entrenched in the mind of gamers as an irrefutable legend, and remains so to this day.

It's because of the fierce loyalty that fans feel for the original Unreal Tournament that the successor to the game would have to be something really special. As it is with movies, sequels are judged far more harshly than the originals, and Epic Megagames along with MacSoft has their work cut out for them trying to carve a new path with Unreal Tournament 2003: The sequel to one of the most popular games ever released.

New weapons, new graphics, new maps, new game types, new models, new sounds and new hype define this highly-anticipated entry into the world of hardcore gaming. There's no question that the gaming world in mid-2003 is very different than that of late 1999, but UT 2K3 wants to be the new king of deathmatch-style gaming. It may, in fact, achieve exactly that, but an important question remains: Does being the best deathmatch game in the world still mean anything in 2003?

Maybe. Maybe not.

What It Is
Unreal Tournament 2003 is a first person shooter about survival of the fittest. There is no story line worth mentioning, no notable characters and relatively little problem solving. Instead, UT 2K3 puts a gun in your hand, locks you in a closed environment and thrusts you into an ultra-violent game of heavy-artillery tag called "deathmatch". Points are awarded for every kill you make (though in variations on deathmatch, such as Capture The Flag, you can score points for achieving certain objectives as well), and when you accidentally kill yourself, you lose a point. Players can face off in person on a local area network or over the internet, but if it suits the gamer's need better he or she can engage AI-controlled "bots" which will fight them in the same way humans would. In fact, the player can even create a match with a mix of bots and humans if he or she so desires. Once the wild rumpus has begun, the action is fast, brutal and unrelenting. Kids, this is the kind of game that right-wing activists think turn you into a gun-toting killer in real life. It's not for the faint of heart.

Like Unreal Tournament before it, UT 2K3 puts some truly heavy weapons into the hand of the player to facilitate some vulgar displays of power. Many of the original weapons return once again to the sequel, but some new twists have also been introduced: The old Impact Hammer is gone, but a new Shield Gun can be used to throw up a one-person barrier against incoming fire. The new Link Gun lets players fire off blasts of energy, but also allows players to "link up" and do more damage (harder to do than it sounds, though). The Lightning Gun is a spiffy scan-hit weapon with a great sniper mode in alt-fire, and the Ion Painter replaces the Redeemer as the beat-down weapon of choice: It calls down an air strike against the target.

UT 2K3 offers the standard array of deathmatch game types: Deathmatch (of the free-for-all variety); Team Deathmatch (just like deathmatch, but don't shoot the players on your team); Capture the Flag (just like you used to play at summer camp, only with heavy artillery); and Domination 2.0 (the team that captures and holds a control point for the longest wins). Also included in the roster of game types is "Bombing Run" (which replaces the original Unreal Tournament's "Assault"). In Bombing Run, you play a sort of super-charged rugby where one player grabs a giant ball and makes a trek to the enemy's goal, where it is tossed in. It's not a particularly ground-breaking innovation for the genre (the original "Assault" fit that bill a little more accurately), but it's still fun in a gigantic-armed-men-playing-sports kind of way. Like the original Unreal Tournament, "mutators" can be applied to games to make them more interesting. These rule-altering options allow players to add extra dimension to the game by introducing variables such as low-gravity, one-shot-kills, one-weapon-only or other interesting twists. If the Unreal Tournament franchise can boast anything, it's the length the player can go to tweak the game to taste.

All doo-dads and toys aside, it needs saying that Unreal Tournament 2003 shares more than just a name with its predecessor; it really feels like the same game. When I first played the demo, I was surprised at how much it felt like the Unreal Tournament I already knew. The UT world was familiar on an instinctive level and the pace, atmosphere and identity was clearly, inarguably Unreal Tournament. The returning weapons (such as the flak cannon or bio-rifle) will fit the experienced Unreal Tournament player's hand like a glove, and the physics of movement, jumping and dodging most certainly has the UT feel. No news could be better where fans of the original game are concerned, but those who weren't impressed with the original may have wished for more of a departure. For instance, the announcer's booming voice that bellows "head shot" or "rampage" is still a key part of the game, and the same over-inflated, laughable machismo that diminished the original also stinks up UT 2K3 as well. The bots still bark insipid, juvenile taunts and insults in battle, and the heavily-armored, gruff-voiced, "I need more fibre in my diet" space marine is still the principle character... and, man, it's a cliché that just gets sillier and sillier with time. If you were hoping that UT 2K3 would have been something of a step forward from the testosterone stew that was Unreal Tournament, you're in for a disappointment. If, however, you were the football captain in high school who failed every class except shop and routinely duct-taped the geeks' butt cheeks together then UT 2K3 is going to speak to you on a deep level.


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