Certainly one of the most famous Unreal-series level designers has been Sjoerd "Hourences" De Jong. His influential history in the community and his ability to explain things in simple terms has helped many developers interested in the Unreal Engine get their projects off the ground and released. From someone like this we have come to expect products of superb quality, and his project The Ball is certainly no exception.
Some of you will probably think "Why should I get the retail game if I already played the mod?" Teotl Studios has expanded the puzzles present in the mod, polished up various areas of the game, and the upgrade from UT3 to UDK makes the environments look sleek and nice despite the fact the game is played in a cave system. Suffice it to say that The Ball available at retail is so much more the game it should be than the mod that was a finalist in the MSUC last year.
In terms of gameplay elements, The Ball does a lot of things right. New puzzles with spike attraction (to destroy your enemies) and ropes for attaching to other objects vary the feel of the game significantly as you progress through each meticulously designed level. Teotl has managed to make each level feel unique, which is a feat considering the setting of the game, but you always feel like you're progressing towards something and that is always entertaining. Another feature that Teotl added that really makes all the difference in the world is that, when you are close to the ball, it mostly turns translucent. This makes it so you can see through the ball to whatever is on the other side, which helps more than you can imagine especially as mummies start showing up and you need to run them down with the ball or puzzles require a bit more precision.
If you're looking for a first person puzzler with a story, keep your eye on The Ball. What we've seen previously was a nice taste of what the game has become, but now we get the full course meal. The Ball will be available through retail and Steam, published by Tripwire Interactive, on October 26th for $19.99. Pre-ordering also gets you a cross-game bonus for Tripwire's other UT-mod-gone-retail, Killing Floor - the hero of The Ball as a playable character. And watch for our full review of the game around the end of the month!