Unreal Tournament 2004
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Atari SparkyThere's no denying that Epic listens to their fan base. Unreal Tournament 2004, the latest installment in the ever so popular Unreal Series, breaks away from the rather dissapointing effort that was UT2003, and brings players back to familiar ground with enhancements. UT2003 was nothing more than a mere leap in engine technology, looking past the luxurious graphics revealed a game that tried hard but simply couldn't deliver something that'd keep you busy and not to mention raise the fun bar. Don't get me wrong, I had fun with the game for a good month or so, but simply put the game down as it couldn't hold my interest and sadly I'm not alone. At first glance Unreal Tournament 2004 could be looked upon as UT2003 with a few new additions and some fancy new artwork. Unreal Tournament 2004 delivers the player much more, and on a grand scale. The game comes packaged with all of the maps and characters that shipped with UT2003 and UT2004 also delivers more NEW maps than UT2003 shipped with (Thus the six CD install and effort to release a DVD version).Unreal Tournament 2004 has also seen the addition of four new weapons which feature in Onslaught: The extremely deadly Anti Vehicle Rocket Launcher (AVRiL), Mine Layer, Grenade Launcher, and Target Painter: AVRiL: The AVRiL is primarily used for taking vehicles out. Simply get a lock on a vehicle in the area and let her rip. The fun part of all this is that you actually have to guide it to destruction; it doesn’t automatically lock on, so in retrospect you actually have to do some work here. Using the alternate fire however does lock on, but with this comes some rather annoying complications. In doing this you’re actually restricting your viewing area as the weapon zooms and follows the target, no biggie but it sure takes some getting used to. At first I was under the impression this weapon was far too powerful, but really, after using it for a while I couldn’t imagine Onslaught without it. I find myself avoiding the alternate fire however, it just seems slower and not to mention I tend to die quite a bit as I can’t see what’s going on around me.Mine Layer: An odd one, but if you’re the dominant type then you’re really going to have a blast here. This beastie lets you shoot out eight spider mines, which on your command using the alternate fire will follow your painter around the map. Point them towards an enemy vehicle and you can bet your bottom dollar things are going to get messy. Once they’ve reached your designated destination the Spiders latch on and basically explode on impact, leaving a trail of destruction behind. Main downside is that you have to be careful near walls and step inclines, as they tend to explode, leaving you with a few bits of scrap metal and a nasty bank loan. For something even more potent you can grab a Manta and attach them to the side fans. Nothing beats taking them for a joyride past an enemy Goliath Tank and watching them jump off after it. Using the primary fire will also give you the option of simply letting them defend an area; this to me isn’t as fun though. Grenade Launcher: The Grenade Launcher is kind of a mixed bag. On one side you’ve got this really strategic weapon. Simply fire off a few grenades in someone’s direction, making sure they stick and dare I say it you’ve got yourself a walking time bomb. Using the alt fire will turn your walking time bomb into a mini nuke. You'd best use it when he or she is close to a teammate as you’ll not only whip out the primary target but get some splash damange in the mix too. This includes vehicles as well. It seems these babies stick to anything excluding walls. Spam regarding this weapon can be rather frustrating at times. Since the rate of fire on the Grenade Launcher is rather fast there's nothing stopping you firing the grenades off in every direction and praying you take someone down in the process. No biggie sure, but I do ask myself sometimes.Target Painter: The Target Painter is Onslaught's Super Weapon, put simply you can use it to mark a spot on the map for the Phoenix Bomber to fly by and drop its payload. The results are messy and not to mention fun. Also making a return from the first Unreal Tournament is everyone’s favorite, the Sniper Rifle, which replaces the Lightning Gun in some maps. The primary fire has been slowed down (Thank God for that) and using the alternate fire brings up the scope. Using the scope however will cause a small burst of dust to be shot into your view. This does distract - and just to point out the obvious: it’s meant to.UT2004 also modified some of the exsisting arsenal included in last year's game. The Shield Gun, Bio Rifle, Shock Rifle, Link Gun, Flak Cannon, and Lightning Gun have all received some loving. One of the more pleasurable changes for me would have to be the Flak Cannon. The primary and secondary fire rates have both been slowed down a fraction and the arc of the secondary has also been shortened a tad. This, to me, can only be compared to sliced bread. Some of the weapons also received cosmetic changes. The Assault Rifle, Link Gun, and Shock Rifle have all been given a new model and they look great. Most welcomed in my opinion and my personal favorite would have to be the new Shock Rifle. GameMode wise, Onslaught would have to be the pick of the bunch. Ever since the release of BattleField 1942 I've dreamed of seeing vehicles in the Unreal Universe and now Epic have delivered. They bring a whole new dimension to the Unreal Universe and I’m still to this day never going to play another game (FPS that is) that doesn’t at least use vehicles to some extent. All the vehicles have been balanced to perfection. There’s no given situation where one doesn’t work better than the other. Simply put, they each have a purpose and that’s the beauty of all this. The premise for Onslaught works well, at times you’ll be thinking you’re about to put the match in the bag when all of a sudden the other team takes one of your Power Nodes and it’s back to square one. I think it's safe to say there's no moment in the game where you're left wondering what to do, that is unless you're one of those boring players who like to camp the Raptor spawns.UT2004 also sees the return of Assault, a smart move on Epic’s behalf. UT's incarnation of Assault suffered a great deal of flak from players, and thankfully UT2004's takes the basic fundamentals and simply improves the package ten fold. From the little touches like the objective beacons (so you know what you're meant to do) to the exceedingly beautiful intro scenes which gives you the low-down on the map, (granted you’ll only watch this once per map but still a nice feature to include) it all comes together and works well. Great GameMode, endless possibilities and I for one can’t wait to see what crazy ideas the community come up with. With those two feature GameModes covered, UT2004 also provides all the classic modes we've come to love over the year's. UT2004 however, does a better job than last year's game. The enchanced weapons and more gameplay focused maps (which pretty much skimp on the pretty graphics and deliver hardcore gameplay) help to deliver a tighter game, "it shows". Don't get me wrong though, the maps still manage to look great. The main selling point would have to be the way the game feels. It's hard for me to sit here and define how the game feels, so I'll just throw my two cents in and say it feels right, unlike UT2003. With all the positive comes some negative points:I'm still not happy with the GUI, sure compared to UT2003's it’s a godsend, but I can’t help but feel a little let down. It’s extremely cluttered, too colorful (mainly in regards to the loading screens), dull in areas, inconsistent, and not to mention just downright ugly in sections. I’m not going to sit here and preach. Epic knows how I feel and I doubt that’ll have any effect on the situation.Using the custom RGB settings for the HUD is great, and the fact that it uses default settings whilst playing team based modes is also a neat feature. Going back to playing Deathmatch after a game of Onslaught, however, sees the game reset your custom settings... very annoying. There were some minor sound changes from the Demo build, mainly in regards to the vehicles. Truth be told the HellBender now sounds like an old man driving a high pitched forklift. The new Damage Amp sound is just downright wrong. I much prefer the old version. On the subject of sound, I was highly disapointed to see that the new Skaarj team didn't get any loving. It would have been nice to see them with some new hit-sounds and voice instead of rehashing available assets used in UT2003.In conclusion, Epic have delivered the goods this year. They listened to their fan base, realised their mistakes with UT2003, and it shows without a doubt. Uninstall UT2003 and do yourself a favor and pick up Unreal Tournament 2004, you won't be disapointed.