Innovate: To begin or introduce (something new) for or as if for the first time. That's how it's defined at To the consumer of Unreal Tournament 2004 custom levels, or at least to us, the list below may very well be the definition of innovation.

This isn't meant to be a comprehensive enumeration of the best of each gametype - just a tip of the hat to those designers that tried to think outside of the box. What does your list look like? Leave a comment and let us know! Drumroll please...

10. CTF-1on1-Joust

Love it or hate it, this official UT2004 capture the flag map tries something that none other before it has tried: each player starts beside the opposing flag and attempts to barrel down a narrow corridor with it, kill the opponent, and return his or her own flag for a cap. A conglomeration of "borrowed" level pieces, it's clear that this is no artistic showpiece. Should capture the flag be played in a tiny level the shape of a capital "I"? That's debatable. What isn't debatable is that Epic was trying something different. And that's why Joust is on the list.

hey look, a flag! hey look, another flag!

9. AS-Mothership

Another official UT2004 map that breaks new ground for the series with its space battle. This drop dead gorgeous map is the artistic opposite of Joust, and it serves well as a proof-of-concept and fits perfectly in the Unreal Tournament heritage of action in blazingly new arenas. You won't mistake the combat for something you'd see in the Independence War series, but UT2004 series innovation is what this list is all about, right?

8. DM-CBP2-KillBillyBarn

Never before had I thought to myself "Unreal Tournament sure needs a level that takes place around an old hillbilly barn". Luckily, Teddie "teddabod" Tapawan did. This map sneaks in on its unprescedented theme, but this map is decidedly entertaining to play as well. And finally Mr. Crow has finally found his proper role in the Unreal universe.

7. DM-Forbidden

This one is a product of Epic's David Spalinski and Warbeast, former fellow-CBP'ers. Warbeast is known for his outrageous custom meshes and he certainly doesn't disappoint in Forbidden. While not a great deathmatch map in the classic sense, the locale is a must-see: a Final Fantasy-esque ship operating on both mechanized and natural means, sailing through the river passing through an un-named city. Impressive enough, but what solidifies this map on the list of most innovative maps is that it takes the scrolling skybox and outer play-area found in AS-Convoy and gives it a one-up in the form of bridges that you actually pass underneath, giving it a greater illusion of deathmatching on-the-move.

6. DM-Redkin

This one takes deathmatching on-the-move in a whole different direction and, as such, earns a spot on our list. Hourences certainly knows his way around UnrealEd and has an impressive list of works to back that up. Redkin is his attempt to breathe life into an Unreal Tournament 2004 level by pushing the movers to the limit. Indeed, every room features moving parts of some sort. In fact, you'll find a lot of action outside of the play area. Hear those vintage plane engines roaring outside the building? In between frags, take a look out one of the windows and watch a dogfight ensue in the canyon. Don't idle there long, however, because Hourences brings the dogfighting action right to you as you witness stray shots from the planes riddling the window in front of you.

5. ONS-Maelstrom

To innovate is to do something in a new way. Hunter does just that by tweaking the Onslaught game and delivering it in a stunning package called ONS-Maelstrom. Let's put the good looks aside since we are dealing primarily with innovation in this feature, and get right to just what makes it unique. The power nodes are arranged in a grid-like fashion, giving each team an almost infinite number of paths to the opposing core. To keep things zipping along, the power nodes are now much easier to build and quicker to destroy. Does it work? That's open to debate. But we're celebrating the pioneering spirit here and this level has earned a spot on the list.

4. DM-Goatswood

Don't let the prefix of this map fool you - this isn't a deathmatch map. But there is plenty of death going on inside... and the quaint countryside that's found in this level doesn't even begin to hint at the horrors that lie beneath. This masterpiece by Angelheart is actually a singleplayer level in which you explore and accomplish a series of tasks to gain your way inward and downward to uncover the chilling storyline. Not only does it look amazing - there are freaking ducks swimming in the creek and butterflies in the flowers - but it's an impressively large level. There simply isn't anything else like it for UT2004 and, as such, should be considered a must-have. Thank you, Angelheart.

3. CTF-Opposite

I'm going to steal some thunder from our next selection by mentioning one of its peerless features now, but that's only because G.Lecter borrows Angel Mapper's auto-constructing walls to add a new twist to a tried and (sometimes) true capture the flag formula to come up with something that works and actully delivers a fresh experience to the gametype. To start with, the flags are merely feet apart separated by nothing... or seemingly so. Approach on foot or attempt to translocate and you'll find a wall begin to come together in "puzzle pieces" to block your path. But you can shoot through it - oh yes. Feel free to shoot up the enemy flag room from your own, but forget about returning the flag unless you take the long way around. Other such walls are sprinkled strategically throughout the map that can sometimes surprisingly take away the most obvious path.

2. DM-CBP2-Reconstruct

Now that I've described the "auto-constructing walls" to you in the previous entry, it's time to give credit where credit is due: this innovation first appeared in Angel Mapper's DM-Reconstruct. AM uses this feature nonpareil in quite different ways. While these can definitely (and sometimes unexpectedly) change your course, they can also be used defensively and can offer you alternative routes as well. The map is visually sublime and it takes a chance by introducing an unparalleled element of gameplay. You won't find it in competitive play because I'm sure such features are frowned upon, but it's a fantastic work of art and should not be missed.

1. CTF-PhaseShift

The second Angel Mapper level to make the list is also quite comely, but the star attraction are the ghosts. Yes, ghosts. In actuality, the ghosts are avatars of players on the opposite side of the map - which just happens to be visually different but architecturally is a mirror image of your own. Besides being eerie, it gives you a chance to preview the position of your enemy. Does that effect gameplay? That remains to be determined. Regardless, it stands alone in its implementation and lands firmly at the top of our list.