Epic Games is no stranger to bonus packs - they've been rolling them out for the last ten years, starting with Unreal's Fusion Map Pack, which featured six new deathmatch levels. Unreal Tournament enjoyed a wealth of bonus content, racking up five new models, nine mutators, two texture packs, and a whopping 31 new levels. Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 enjoyed roughly half that each. Zooming on up to 2008 we have Epic Games' first bonus pack for Unreal Tournament 3 a trio of levels that we'll examine on an indivdual basis. Let's get started.

DM-Morbias Station

Anyone that has played Unreal or Unreal Tournament has probably played a version of DM-Morbias. For that matter, if you've played UT2003/4's DM-Gael you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect too, as it was a spiritual successor to Morbias. Picture if you can, a two tiered circular room that is open in the middle, with elevators at opposite sides - that's basically it.

With the full might of Unreal Engine 3 behind it, Morbias naturally is outfitted with a few more bells and whistles than its predecessors. Windows now adorn the perimeter walls offering a spectacular view of the exterior structure of the space station and the planet below. However, the weapon loadout which consists of RocketLaunchers and a central single Redeemer means you won't spend much time sight seeing. Still everything is nicely detailed as you would expect from a professionally designed level. Nice touches include glimpses of fully-fleshed out-of-reach areas behind barricades. Also, Portal's GLaDOS seems to have moved in as a warbly female robotic voice sporadically chimes in on an unseen loudspeaker about various unrelated events.

Going by the simple description of the level that I gave earlier, you'd probably expect that there's not much gameplay, but you'd be wrong. First of all, there's no health, so you either play with reckless abandon and hope for the best, or you lurk about the edges and pray you kill before you're killed. The Redeemer plunked down in the center of the room all but guarantees mass carnage. The elevator rooms consist of a walkway plank - open on either side - on the second floor that leads you back into the central room, which yields plenty of z-axis gameplay in and of itself.

The only negative I've seen in this build is a small invisible ledge that surely was an oversight in testing.

While it certainly fills a void of arena-style levels in the Unreal Tournament 3 map lineup, it would seem like a simple enough project for just about any budding designer creating a custom map. Which begs the question - does this map hold enough value to represent one-third of the first bonus pack to be released for this game? I think the answer lies largely in whether or not you find arena maps to be entertaining.

CTF-Facing Worlds

Like Morbias, Facing Worlds is a stalwart CTF representative of the Unreal Tournament franchise and it has appeared - in one form or another - in each one. Face 2 from the Unreal Tournament bonus pack and Face 3 from Unreal Tournament 2003 were both radical departures from the original, while Unreal Tournament 2004's Face Classic brought it back to its roots. Structurally speaking, CTF-Face is most similar to the original and Face Classic, but with an Asian twist. The most pleasant and surprising thing about the new design is just how naturally the iconic Face towers adapt to the theme. Looking at them for the last nine years, I never once thought of a multi-eaved pagoda, but there it is... and it works!

Like many other Unreal Tournament 3 levels, Face shows signs of the Necris invasion and each side is themed appropriately. The red half is bright and sunny with mountains and rolling hills in the background, while the blue half sports the trademarked Necris tendrils descending from the sky, burrowing through the structure. As you'd expect the background of the blue half is properly gloomy. Even the grass on the two main pathways between the bases has been baked down to the stone. Typically, Face has always taken place on a misshapen rock orbiting an earth-like planet, but in keeping with the Asian theme this version is grounded, though the basic shape of the play area is the same. Again, it's unexpected but it works. I also want to point out that, just like other Unreal Tournament 3 levels, there really is no 'skybox' per se... everything you see in the background has been constructed in 3D. Those mountains you see in the distance really are there. The detail in the level is exceptional and my only complaint would be that the bloom tends to make things a little fuzzier than you'd expect them to be were it real. You might say it gives the level a dreamy quality, but it just makes me want to reach for my glasses.

What can you say about the gameplay? It's Face. Chances are you know what that means - Snipers perched on every available ledge. Other than a Link Gun, the Sniper Rifle is the sole weapon available at the spawn points - all of which are still slightly behind each tower. To that end, the Helmet parked behind each base is a welcome respite from instant death as you make your way around to the front. The Rocket Launcher and Shock Rifle help make the interior of your base a difficult place to be for the enemy. The Redeemer, Armored Vest, and UAmp are still present in their usual spots in each base and denying your enemy those assets is key to your success.


Despite being in a pack of two series classics, CTF-Searchlight, in my opinion, is the gem of the bunch. The action takes place in what appears to be a temple on an island of a Necris world and everything is gothic and gloomy. In the center of the play area is the namesake - a twin searchlight in a tower, high above a multi-tiered round structure supported by flying buttresses. On opposite sides of this central building are chapels topped by belfries and on the lower floor of each you will find the flags. Courtyards with withered trees and a creepy statue (seriously, what the hell is that thing??) stem from either side of the chapels and serve as the primary exits from the flag room. Off in the distance you can catch glimpses of a city or superstructure of some sort with searchlights of its own

There are a few things that make this level special. The first of which is simply solid gameplay. In addition to the two flag room exit routes mentioned above, there is a third that takes you to the rooftops of all of the buildings allowing you, at any time, to switch routes and drop to a lower area. The pathways between flags are varied without ever seeming complicated, giving both the defenders and the flag carrier equal chances at success. The flag room itself is scaled well, providing a number of defensive positions and there are more entrances than exits allowing the offense a chance to take the defense by surprise. Even snipers can find a fun place to play as Rifles are provided both on the upper-outer floor of the central building and in the belfries.

Those that like gimmicks will enjoy Searchlight as well. Within the center building is a rotating platform on which rests the ShieldBelt. At an outcropping in each base you'll find an Invisibility powerup - keep these out of the hands of the incoming enemy or you'll have a headache on your hands! High above the level in the Searchlight tower, the twin beams will spotlight the general area of the flag carrier should he or she successfully make it from your flag room. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. The searchlights seem a little buggy in this build. Hopefully, that will be fixed. Nevertheless, it's a very cool and original idea and doesn't break the game in its current state.


Given that previous bonus packs have typically included more than double the content of this one, many people seemed to express disappointment with its contents. I think it's fair to take the expectations raised by past packs and colour your opinion of this offering, though you must remember that the complexity of Unreal Engine 3 content takes much much longer to generate. Fortunately, Epic made three very smart choices. Two of the three are beloved classics and the third is an absolute quality level that may well earn classic status of its own. Morbias is a simple and accessible level for newcomers and a proven arena map. Face is the stuff of legends and most people either love it, hate it, or love to hate it. That map on its own will guarantee instant interest in both the pack and the game. Searchlight is a brilliant, atmospheric level that manages to toss in a few gimmicks without ruining core gameplay.

The fact is that there simply aren't three levels that any one person would love. I've heard rumblings of desire from some for three hardcore DM maps or three hardcore CTF maps. Warfare was notably overlooked which means that any subsequent pack will surely take aim at that gametype.

No matter who you are, the chances are that you will find at least one level to appreciate. These packs only serve to energize the existing player base and drive interest from those that have yet to make the plunge into the third Tournament. If this is any indication of things to come, it's safe to say that we're looking forward to future bonus content.

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