Unreal Tournament 2003 v2225 - PC
This game was released in 2002 and was the sequel to the winner of the last great multiplayer FPS shootout. So why look at it now, with constant updates and improvements across the year this is still a top flight game that continues to be played but now with the 2004 version out it now naturally moves to budget brilliance instead.
Quake III Arena did well enough, but Unreal Tournament's more varied styles of gameplay in the one box ensured that it sold more, had more mods and ultimate received plenty of gameplay tweaks. The 2003 edition was released in October 2002 and removed one gameplay mode and introduced two others, but the graphics received a modern makeover.
Aside from the usual deathmatching, capture the flag and last man standing gameplay modes, Domination was doubled, so that two control points had to be held for ten seconds to score (a lot longer than it sounds), and Bombing Run was a mix of CTF in reverse where the ball had to be taken to the opponent's goal and then fired through it to score. The ball could also be passed from player to player to bring in an element of Speedball and just to spice up the entire game, sometimes the goal isn't necessarily on the ground, there may be a final jump to make which could cost you your seven points per “try” if you miss. Invasion sees you playing the DM maps but fighting 16 waves of aliens from the original singleplayer Unreal.
So why is an old game under review? As well as support for the mod community which Epic and Digital Extremes encouraged, they also gave away new maps and mods in the next two years following the game's release rather than charging for another add-on, and have stuck to this tradition for the 2003 version. Also, in a move showing extreme trust, the version 2225 patch removes CD checking. Get this patch, the two bonus packs from the two co-developers and the Ownage Compilation of hand-picked third party maps from famous mapper Cliffy B(rezniski) and you have 3GB of quintessential FPS action- and that's before you go online and test out the wealth of other mods and maps that have sprung up in a surprisingly short space of time. The game is now under £20 if you search around the internet.
The reason for the price drop and the speedy CD protection removal is due to the 2004 version out now in a FIFA-style update, but if you aren't bothered about vehicular combat then this is as good as it gets until then. Of course the price of this game will continue to drop until it's properly out on budget, but this is a display of give and take not seen since the support for Half-Life.
If you're worried that the graphics are too good for your PC, then there's also a downloadable software rendering mode as well, which also needs the latest patch to function, so as long as your other specifications are in order and your hard disk defragged, the power of your graphics card stops becoming the be-all and end all. Like Quake III Team Arena, the Unreal Engine loves power but will scale happily down to GeForce 2 standards.
VerdictHardcore players have bemoaned the annual update, in spite of the fact that the developers know the pressure they're under to deliver a game worthy of rapid repurchase and are starting to compete with the PC version of Halo with vehicles.
If they're that bothered about getting the 2004 version, as stated before, they can get UT 2003 for almost half price, get all the FREE add-ons via the internet or recent magazine coverdiscs, and stick with that- without having to use the install CDs in the drive the whole time. For that you can enjoy one of the best FPS in style, for no added fees and with long-term support for servers unlike bigger companies we could mention.