Unreal Tournament 2003 (1)

Genre: First Person Shooter
Year: 2002
Developed by: Epic Games
Published by: Atari
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Feeling Like: Believable Bracket

Unreal Tournament is one of my favorite multiplayer games, one of my all time favorite shooters and gave me some of my best video game related moments ever. It was the first game we tried over the LAN when dad purchased a second computer, and showed me the bliss of what easy to play shooters can do in a setting of frenzied, sugar fuelled teenagers. So you might say Unreal Tournament 2003 had big shoes to fill.

The potential was there. It was my first year at Bigelow House. Karl and Jon were both as addicted (and much better) to Unreal Tournament, so the sequel announcement had us bouncing off the walls. Particularly since we were in a house of 80 unsupervised, unfocused teenagers/20 somethings all with capable computers and an eagerness to share new, digital experiences. But it didn’t quite take off. Our judgment was akin to thousands of others who purchased the game; it was nowhere near as good as its predecessor.

Unreal Tournament 2003 (3)
Why so much flak?

To start, the name was confusing and foreboding. By adding a calendar date, we got the indication that Epic wanted to make Unreal Tournament a yearly release, like sports games. So…we’d have to pay another 60 bucks each year to keep up? Not a tempting offer, particularly since University students only have money for essentials: beer, food, games, textbooks…in that order.

The single player campaign seemed to be a huge improvement, however. Assembling your own roster each match with various skill sets and tactical prowess made for a diverse loadout and encouraged experimentation. Once I lowered my laptop’s settings, I began to appreciate the Unreal 2 engine more and more. Models and locations really did look much better. The introduction of double jumping, wall jumping was welcome by me, as I could finally avoid my embarrassing (and lethal) pitfalls. The adrenaline pills, and subsequent powers you could use, were a neat idea but I could never find a good time to use them in battle. Something about twelve different players all shooting their ammunition in tight quarters doesn’t lend itself very well to standing still while you try to press specific button combinations to gain a temporary boost.

Other complaints continued to pop up amongst our trio. Why was the game three discs big, when it seemingly scaled back a lot of the modes? Why did they completely change the look of the iconic Flak Cannon and Shock Rifles? Where was the Enforcer Pistol? Why did they replace the Sniper Rifle with the Lightning gun? Why wasn’t this whole thing just an expansion pack? Why are the exclamations of “DIE, BITCH!” THAT much more obnoxious? It didn’t help that our resident wired connection was infamous for timing out players, or having so much lag that multiplayer matches were nigh unplayable with more than a few entrants.

Unreal Tournament 2003 (2)
This was not the Sniper Rifle I was looking for

Upon retrospect, Unreal Tournament 2003 suffers even more. I can’t remember a single map layout, whereas Facing Worlds and Morpheus from Unreal Tournament are absolutely unforgettable. It’s weird to have a game ahead of 91 others on the 500 when it sounds like I hated it. I definitely didn’t. Shouting at each other down the hallway, having a brand new venue to discuss, strategize and casually murder your friends is rarely boring. Had it been more like Unreal Tournament, toned down the graphical requirements and kept a few more weapons around, I think we would have played it a lot more. As it stands, it’s a curious placeholder between a classic, and the vastly superior Unreal Tournament 2004 (Coming Eventually).

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