Unreal Tournament 2003
UT 2K3 is the sequel to a game that first appeared in 1999. If you're new to the series, Unreal Tournament is a futuristic gladiatorial combat game that sports both single-player combat and extensive cross-platform online support. In the single-player campaign, you must win battles to progress to semi-final and final rounds. It's a perfunctory but satisfying process. But the series' real strength has always been its online multiplayer game play. And in that respect, UT 2K3 doesn't disappoint. There are five online game modes: Deathmatch - kill anything that moves; Team Deathmatch - kill anything wearing a vest of a colour different from yours; Capture the Flag - get the flag and kill anything that gets in your way; Double Domination - secure multiple points on a map for several seconds; and Bombing Run - best described as the unholy union of UT 2K3 and rugby. Adrenaline capsules are an interesting addition to the game. Collect enough of them from around the map, and you activate several special modes, including faster movement, quicker weapons discharge, and more. UT 2K3 is much more attractive than its predecessor. Level design is amazingly detailed and beautiful, whether it's the harshly lit innards of a dystopian industrial building or a sun-dappled grove of trees, rocks, and grass. And the game runs like a dream, even at the highest levels of detail - assuming you have the necessary horsepower. I cranked up every detail setting I could find and ran the game at 1,280-x-1,024-pixel resolution on my dual-1GHz G4 with a GeForce4 Ti graphics chip, and I had no trouble at all. You can even run the game in Windowed mode, which lets you quickly hide the game when your boss walks by. But I wouldn't recommend running a lot of background applications while you're playing. Some Mac gamers balk at UT 2K3's relatively steep system requirements: a 700MHz G4 or better and an NVidia GeForce2 MX or ATI Radeon graphics chip with at least 32MB of VRAM. But these requirements are in line with the base-model flat-panel iMac - a system that's been out for more than a year and a half. All the Macs in Apple's current line-up (except iBooks and the 12-inch PowerBook) should get along well with the game. What's more, the core specs are similar to what's required on the PC. Given the performance penalty that Mac users sometimes pay to play ported PC games, this is remarkable. I was disappointed to discover, though, that you must load the CD-ROM to play the game. This may annoy PowerBook-toting road warriors who don't want to carry around extra software discs. The game also lacks direct support for the native resolutions of wide-panel displays. UT 2K3 has a dizzying array of customization options. From within the game, you can adjust video and audio modes, player characteristics, networking specs, controls and input, and more. And the INI file stored in the game's Application Support folder will let you tweak settings for variables you can't access from within the game (see “Getting the most out of Unreal Tournament”). UT 2K3 also supports mods, third-party modifications that provide new maps, weapons, game-play modes, mutators that affect the game play itself, and more. The developer even includes a special UModUnpack application that makes it easy for Mac users to install mods in just the right place. Likewise, UT 2K3 features a broad range of customization settings for online play. The game's integrated server browser lets you find servers that meet myriad criteria, such as empty, full, or password-protected. You can also host your own UT 2K3 server if you wish. And since Mac users aren't limited to Mac-only servers, you can spend your time serving up some ownage on your PC counterparts. There's an undeniable instant gratification in visceral online games such as UT 2K3. Rated M for Mature, this game is definitely for older gamers, but some of the gore and language settings can be tweaked to a level that's more appropriate for younger players.
Evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, improvements make Unreal Tournament 2003 a solid game that definitely belongs in the arsenal of any Macintosh first-person-shooter enthusiast.