Menu System/HUD

Here's an area where prettier isn't necessarily better. There's no denying that this is a slick, beautiful interface. However, much of the functionality of Unreal Tournament's UWindows system has been left behind. Gone are many of the important options we've come to know and love.

When you first start up the game, you'll see a basic list of options. Digging deeper into each of them will reveal more options.

Single Player reveals a ladder designed for offline play, utilizing the venerable AI of the Unreal bots as team mates. From here you can begin the tournament, view a slick video tutorial of each gametype, or check your statistics. Setup a profile, choose a team symbol and your skill level.

The ladder begins with a tutorial, two quick one-on-one Deathmatches, a one-on-two (you being the one) Deathmatch, and a five way free-for-all Deathmatch. Finally, you are able to select your team. But to command them, you must first beat them! Select your players carefully according to his/her/it's listed attributes.

The tournament takes place over four brackets of comptetion: Team Deathmatch, Domination, Capture the Flag, and Bombing Run. Completing the challenges here, allow you to take on two of the current champions Brock and Lauren, who return from Unreal Tournament, in a two-against-you Deathmatch. Defeating them will send you to take on the grand-champion, Malcom, who also returns from Unreal Tournament. Malcom is a skill-adjusting bot, much like UT's Xan, who will give you a run for your money in one of the most controversial and intense maps of the game.

Play-Online/LAN brings up the Server browser, allowing you to retrieve messages from Epic and find servers offering a gametype you are interested in. These gametype tabs are filterable by several different criteria. If you'd like to avoid returning server information on passworded servers, servers running mutators, or full servers you're fine. There's also a custom query box, but sadly that is undocumented.

Host Multiplayer Gamer allows you to setup maplists, rules, and mutators for your very own server. From here you can enter a myriad of options, including server name, your email address, and more.

Network Settings allow you to select the type of internet connection that most closely matches your own. This will have a great impact on your online gameplay. Choose wisely. From here you can also setup your name/id# for UT2003 stats. You can track your online progress at Epic's UT2003 stats.

Control Settings let you customize your controls. Bind a weapon, command or movement to any button you choose. iForce settings are in this menu, and allow you to enable your force-feedback mouse. The weapons submenu will let you prioritize your weapons. This ensures that if you have "Auto switch" enabled, that you will only switch to a weapon you prefer when picking it up. This also determines which weapon will be armed when you press your "Best Weapon" button. The Game Settings submenu contains a load of options that do not fit neatly into another category.

Sadly, this is one of the areas in which UT2003 falls short of it's predecessor. Many important options such as Speech Input Binder have been removed. This option was important to team play because it allowed you to bind a few important commands to convenient keys instead of being forced to use the now more cumbersome HUD speech menu.

The Video, Detail, and Audio sections of the menu will let you optimize the game settings so that you can acheive the best balance between performance and detail. For a good tutorial on setting these options, visit RaptoR's Performance Tweaking Guide

The player selection screen is very good, and it allows you to choose from one of 51 (once the single-player game is completed) characters and choose your prefered team.

Within the Instant Action menu, the Game & Map sub menus work well, with multiple screenshots of the map you are choosing. Unfortunately, it seems as though this time around they left out the map author name and player count. A small oversight, but I will miss this nonetheless. You can also choose Game Rules such as game speed, friendly fire, time limits, and more.

Adding mutators to your game are as simple as clicking on them and adding them to the list. They are designed so that you can mix and match them to allow an infinite variety in the game. The included mutators are a mix of fun, functional, and useful. Mutators like Vampire, which allows you to regain health by infilcting damage on other players, and BigHead, which causes your head to inflate according to the number of kills you've made, fall into the fun category. Mutators like Instagib, and Arena change the game altogether, greatly increasing the play value of UT2003. Other mutator like Slow-Motion Corpses and Floaty Cadavers allow you to take some spectacular (and amusing) screenshots.

The bot configuration menu has been inexplicably neutered. Again, the bot limit (without hack) is set at a max of 16. The bots are not as configurable as they were in UT. You can no longer set weapon preferences, accuracy ratings, or even names from within the menu. You can, however, select which bots (from an exhaustive list) will be in a game, or on a specific team.

The HUD is no longer as customizable as it was before. You cannot shrink or change the color/opacity of the HUD. You cannot specify where certain parts of the HUD will appear onscreen.

The chat area where death messages and team commands appear is on the lower mid-left portion of the screen. Not exactly the easiest place to look in the heat of the battle. To compound problems, the font is very small and the colors are very dark. You must make a concerted effort to see what is being said to you. In a Deathmatch, this is perhaps a minor problem. But in team games (which Unreal Tournament excells in), it is devastating. Compound this with the non-existant Speech Binder and you have a problem. Communication is definitely an area where the game falls short.

The console (hit the ~ key) is missing a few important features as well. The ability to record demos is crucial to clan play and tournaments, as well as a necessary feature in creating tutorials. That has been promised in an upcoming patch, but still is a feature that should have been in the shipped game. The ability to access the advanced menu by typing in "preferences" into the console is also sorely lacking. All advanced changes must now be done by hand-editing the user .ini, something that is fine for experienced gamers, but for the casual gamer or newcomer, it is a tweaking feature that must be included in a patch.

As you can see, Epic have done an incredible job with the Engine. Easily one of the most powerful and flexible gaming engines around. Digital Extremes and Epic have both done a terrific job in creating some breathtaking content.

The main issues so far being the missing customizable features. One of the most endearing aspects of Unreal Tournament was the ability to customize, and I'm certain we'll see much of that implemented (in perhaps more complete ways) with community built add-ons. But why they were overlooked or omitted is a question we just don't have an answer to.


QAPete: The HUD gives me some problems too. While you can add/remove portions of the hud using the '-' and '=' keys, there is no option for shrinking the hud components, which is a shame because they take up far too much monitor real estate. Same goes for the scoreboard, which limits the number of characters you can use in your nickname to the point where clan members are scrambling to change their nicks to something shorter.

The GUI is missing some very important features. In the 'How Could You Do This' category we have the lack of an IRC client, no Advanced Preferences (although you can get to those via UnrealEd), no Speech Binder, no demo recording (here's hoping that's available in a future patch), no 'Open Location' option that saves previous locations (although you can open the console and type 'open serverip_or_name', and a general feel that things are much more limited and spread out now. If you run the game in Linux or on a Mac (hopefully that'll come soon), you're out of luck with Advanced Preferences - you'll have to edit your UT2003.ini file.

Sparky: I’m extremely disappointed with the games Interface. Don’t get me wrong, on a whole it looks great, but dare I say it’d best suit a console (Unreal Championship anyone?). That brings me to the question of the month. Why did they feel it necessary to replace Uwindows? They totally had something special there, and not to mention it suited the PC platform. To me, everything in 2003’s pretty package seems cluttered and is pretty much spread around like a child’s first painting.

The Heads up display is visually appealing, but lacks the features to make it a worthy successor. There’s next to no tweaking included which is quite a shame, not to mention a huge disappointment in the fact that UT included most of these basic yet important features. Why they felt the downgrade was justifiable I don’t know, but I’m sure they have their reasons.

hal: It seems as though many of the HUD complaints are being addressed in the first patch. Several key features (such as Speech Binding) are said to be returning in the patch as well. It's still puzzling why those things were omitted to begin with. Perhaps Epic and DE underestimated the appreciation the fans had of those features that they included in UT.

I think the new interface looks great, and it seems much more responsive than UT's. But maybe that's due to my substantially sized UT folder. The look is slick, though I could do without the announcer shouting the characters names as I scroll through them.