Top critical review
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Don't believe the hype...
on 18 February 2003
After playing the original UT to death, I was champing at the bit to play this one. Having finally upgraded my PC enough to hack the graphics requirements (only just - it still occasionally slows down even with a 64meg GeForce4), and cleared half my hard drive to install it (3gig of space! - even by today's atandards that's big), I was disappointed by the game itself. It remains very faithful to the original formula, but it just seems to me that there's something...missing.
Most of the guns from the first UT remain in this one - albeit with minor changes to most. The rocket launcher has been weakened - which isn't a problem; it probably was too powerful in the original game. A bigger grievance is the loss of the sniper rifle - a great weapon not just for sneakier players who wanted to steal a few frags out of harm's way, but just as a powerful one-shot gun. Its replacement in the new game, the Lightning Gun, is nowhere near as satisfying to use and suffers from an extremely frustrating charge-up time - more realistic perhaps, but very annoying when you're trying to hunt someone down!
I like the idea of trading players in your team, but it could have been done more on a merit-based system, whereby the more impressively you perform, the better the standard of player you can attract. Instead, trades occur at intermittent phases through your progress through the ladder, but many of the trades you are offered are no better than the players you start out with. It doesn't seem to make much diffrence though - the AI of the bots on your team seems to be subnormal at best. I rarely bother to change the line-up of my team between matches, because there seems to be very little difference in the way they play.
The new modes of play are a mixed bag - Bombing Run is good fun, although a little much like Capture the Flag in reverse - once a member of your team has the ball, they rarely, if ever, relinquish it to a team-mate (as is the idea) before they die and the opponent takes control. As a result, it tends to become about one player taking control of the game and doing heroic single-handed dashes across the map to score. Double Domination, a variant on the original Domination, is a big disappointment. The size of the maps (and yes, to be fair they are enormous) means that if you lose control of one of the points you are holding, the measly ten seconds you are given to return to it and win it back are nowhere near enough. Many has been the time when I have scored points by killing the one enemy holding its base, and been totally unchallenged while the ten seconds rack up on the clock.
And the final level is a bit of a mess - a great idea in theory to have a maze, but in practice it becomes more of a reflex test - who can get to the trigger first, the computer or the player. It removes a lot of the actual fighting skill which got you to the final in the first place.
Finally, and probably the stem of many of the problems with this game, is that it's just not as satisfying to play this game. The guns in the first Unreal Tournament were a lot more substantial; the sounds effects were meatier and it generally felt a lot more 'real'. This game suffers for not being able to pull you in - playing the original in the dark with the speakers up, i felt I was really there, but this game just doesn't have it. There's just a feeling of it not being as 'dangerous' as the previous game - the enemies don't seem as threatening, the cutscenes are more comic-book than action-movie and the cheesy announcer's voice reading out the team roster is laughable.
Despite all these rants, however, it is still a lot of fun - I'm sure many gamers will enjoy it, provided their computers are up to it. I haven't had the opportunity to play it on-line yet, which is admittedly the way to play FPSs, so perhaps if you're networked to your friends at home you'd find this an ideal game. A lot of work has gone into this game to make it as polished as they could. Trouble is, with all that polish they seem to have lost a bit of the raw playability of the original. Buy it if you're bored of the first UT, but if you're making a choice between the two, go for the first one, which is now available for about twenty quid less than this disappointing update.