One of the biggest player complaints regarding the maps in Unreal Tournament 2003 was that many of the maps were overly decorated with level detail, such as low-hanging girders, light fixtures, and handrails, causing players to get hung up during gameplay. Judging from the demo, the philosophy behind the new level design seems to have kept that complaint in mind. The demo comes with five new maps, DM-Rankin, ONS-Torlan, AS-Convoy, CTF-Bridge of Fate, and BR-Colossus.

DM-Rankin is set in an industrial warehouse and outside a storm is brewing. The mood is set by the environment: three stories of brick, concrete and wooden beams, leaky ceilings and pooled water, and even a loose window flapping in the breeze. The layout is hardcore and it's all about gameplay over looks. Don't get me wrong, a nicer warehouse you'll not find, but it's what you will not find are loads of detail that interferes with your movement. The hallways are nice and wide, planks lean against the walls making great shortcuts to dodge up. This map is sick with flow and nonstop action. We have a winner.

DM-Rankin DM-Rankin

ONS-Torlan is a tougher one to judge. Why, you ask? Is it a bad map? No, there just isn't anything to judge it against. It plays Onslaught just fine, but then again, we're all still figuring out how to play it, right? The map is set at the end of a lush jungle, a dry riverbed runs through the map with a Dam holding back the flood. Military bases, complete with turrets hold back the charge and a Comm Tower dominates the center, straddling the arid channel. The default node placement places an emphasis on the center, but the real power-path is the longer one, encompassing both Goliath nodes. You'll want to use your Raptors to control the Redeemer missile spawning at the top of the tower.

ONS-Torlan ONS-Torlan

CTF-Bridge of Fate is clearly inspired by the Mines of Moria from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Each base is a great hall with several large rooms converging on a center room, the flag room. The flag room has the standard three entrances/exits and plenty of cover spots. Each base is separated by an enormous cavern and connected by three stone bridges arching high over the void. The level is flat-out huge, but the symmetrical layout ensures that you won't get lost. Great pillars fill the vast rooms, providing cover without taking away room for movement. One thing you won't find in Bridge of Fate is a lot of the coveted z-axis gameplay apart from the flagroom and the two sets of stairs. You can, however, set up ambushes virtually anywhere as the shadows and ledges abound. You really need a large player load to enjoy this map.

CTF-Bridge of Fate CTF-Bridge of Fate CTF-Bridge of Fate

BR-Colossus is summed up easily by describing two great bowls filled with walkways, ramps, and tubes. Again, no sticky I-beams, pipes, or jutting decorations to snag one's self on. Notice a trend? That's not to say that there's nothing to see... the scale of the architecture is enormous, as the map name would indicate. Large groups would be comfortable here, yet the lifts and tubes create enough shortcuts that 3 on 3 matches would be possible.

BR-Colossus - Goal BR-Colossus - Overhead

AS-Convoy is one wild ride. Literally. Attackers attempt to steal the missiles from a moving truck convoy and Defenders use turrets and everything else in their power to stop them. The whole assembly careens wildly through a desert canyon. You'll have to make your way across several vehicles before you finally get a shot at the end objective. As a bonus, you can attempt a side objective that will gain you a better respawn point and a cache of better weapons. The action on this level is impressive. Platforms swing from one truck to the next, doors swing open to reveal new routes, and there are a number of ways through the level. You can even take over an enemy turret and turn it against them.

AS-Convoy AS-Convoy
  • Raffi_B: Epic have done a great job with the maps. They have listened to the complaints they received about UT2003, and the end result is a fantastic array of maps. With little to get snagged on, and great item/weapon placement, I hope these maps become popular competitively.

  • Zenny: The maps' designs seem to drastically vary the gaming experience from one point of the map to another. For example, in DM-Rankin there is a good mix of close combat, the hallways, and long distance sniping, the basement. As opposed to one or the other as was the case on many UT2003 maps (Antalus and Curse to name an example for each). The winner of a game on that map is truely the best overall player.

  • .altan: Bringing in the talented members of the community has certainly changed the face of UT2004 - DM-Rankin incorporates a style we saw a lot more of in UT, rather than the dull Egyptian or space-age themes of UT2003. Details such as swinging windows, puddles, and spinning wheels really bring the map to life. However, there are certain parts which remind me of UT more than I'd like to be reminded - blocky architecture. The dull lighting also sharply contrasts the author's trademark visual style as well - perhaps it was set aside to appeal to the commercial crowd. DM-Rankin really sums up what a lot of the fans thought about UT2004 - the best of UT2003 with the best of UT, and a little bit extra. Lots of tricks to pull off in this map, and the gameplay feels like it had a lot of thought put into it. Great Z-Axis action as well.

    It's not hard to guess where CTF-BridgeofFaith comes from. It might have helped the atmosphere a little to use a longer bridge, in my opinion. Some areas are too dark, and certain UT2003 meshes look quite out of place when used in the map. Otherwise, it's pretty solid visually, and the presentation of the halls of pillars are appropriately cold. As many other fans may have voiced already, CTF-BridgeOfFate feels just too big. I almost feel like I'm running through a completely empty map - when I've got the bots on the default count. It fits the atmosphere of the map, sure, but I don't find gameplay on sprawling maps with little Z-Axis very exciting.

    AS-Convoy - now that's quality mapping. Tasteful combination of colour, consistency, simplicity and detail - and well within the theme of the map. Details such as the vehicles themselves, and flapping tethers are truly noteworthy. The moving environment is certainly an improvement over AS-Train of the original UT. The Assault map, while strong in theme, fails to keep me interested for long - it's very, very linear. Several chokepoints, as well - the one at the bridge is quite a hindrance to the attacking team.

    ONS-Torlan - I've got mixed feelings about this one. It's solid, for the most part, and it's got the theme nicely laid out - but it's rather bare. The structures look pretty good despite the relatively low polygons they use, and the gorge in the middle is great. I'm not much of a fan of the over-smooth terrain of the new UT2003-2004 series, and the lighting is rather bland. I just feel it could be improved on so much more, each time I look at the map.

    I'm afraid I really can't stand the Bombing Run level - it looks like a mess of tastelessly placed static meshes and blocky architecture, combined with what's probably the most boring lighting in the demo. I don't really have much else to say, except that I was rather disappointed in such a map for a gametype that has so much visual potential.

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