Welcome back to the Tournament! A few years ago, UT was released upon a public used to the frantic paced action of Quake III Arena and all of a sudden were confronted with the 'thinking man's deathmatch' game. Unreal Tournament brought new gameplay options into the equation and also the option of team based match play with a revamped engine.
Gamers were divided in their loyalty to the two giants, however I was always of the belief that the two could coexist and even compliment each other and it is in that vein that Epic have released the next instalment of the Unreal Tournament opus.
Whilst with many games, an update should be replaced with the words, "we just wanna make a bit more cash outta you", UT 2003 does bring with it a string of improvements that most certainly make the purchase of the game a most worthy one.
First things first, this game is stunning to look at. Level design has been taken strongly into account this time and every level plays excellently. There were some nagging issues with clipping and a small amount of collision detection on the original, but for the most part they are things of the past for this game. Textures are varied and have more of a dirtied look, especially around stations and bases making it a much more convincing experience to visit these locales.
Lighting and effects play a huge part in this game, as does the environment you are playing in in general. On more than one occasion I was amazed at what was going on around the level and had stopped to look about. A swift rocket to the head quickly stopped the sight seeing and got me quickly back to the frag fest. There was one level in particular earlier in the game where I was racing around on a killing spree and the view ahead of me stopped me dead in my tracks as I watched a shark swim it's lazy way outside through a plate window. The detail of the shark and the high level of realistic animation blew me away.
Player models look good and are animated well. You can see that they have had a lot of fun yet again with these characters, both appearance-wise and by creating a little back story for each one. Read about them and pay special heed to what you see. These crazy characters are going to be your team-mates fairly shortly into the game.
There is a short introductory number of levels to ease you into the game and these are needed, even for those of you familiar, as I was, with the original game. You see, due to better coding and other factors, Unreal Tournament 2003 runs faster and a lot smoother than it's predecessor and it does take a bit of getting used to.