Daily Elysium: UT2003, Not As Bad As I Think?

Slow news morning so far, and IÂ'm just managing to ramp back up to speed following a singularly bizarre weekend. But, while weÂ've got a momentÂ's peace around here, IÂ'd like to take a moment to talk about a game that, until this past weekend, hadnÂ't been seared against my retinas for quite some time: Unreal Tournament 2003. With early reviews of Unreal 2 painting it increasingly as a dud I had begun to think that there might not be any good Unreal games on the market, but the release of both a UT2003 bonus pack and surprise patch made me take a second look at a game IÂ'd pretty much written off several months before.

Then it made me question why IÂ'd been so critical of it to begin with.

IÂ'll be the first to admit that IÂ'm no paragon of impartial objectivity. When it comes to my free time IÂ'm just as likely to formulate my own unfounded expectations of a game, television show, book or movie as the next guy. ItÂ's a difficult trait to overcome, and I often fall short. Someone once told me not to judge a book by its cover, but he was wearing a Members Only jacket and corduroy slacks, so there was really no way I could take him seriously. Now that I think on it, it may have been Certis.

On the other hand, if I may take the liberty of being self-congratulatory for just a moment, when I see that IÂ've been wrong about something, IÂ'll be the first one to say as such. A lot of people find an opinion, apparently chosen at random from a great sea of freely floating opinions, and latch onto them like a starving sea lamprey on a bloated whale carcass with no consequential evidence to support their haphazard convictions despite every shred of evidence to the absolute contrary. We all know people like this, who seem to believe if they ever did admit their own fallibility they might very well evaporate into a wafting cloud of self-doubt and disappear forever from the face of tangible reality. Even more incredible to me are those who applaud this kind of behavior, who say things like "You know, Hitler was a vile mass-murdering snotwad, but at least he stuck to his convictions!" No!  Hitler was a vile mass-murdering snotwad, period, end-of-file. His inability to see his own failings of character, his own intolerance makes him an even more reprehensible character. Call me wishy-washy if you must, but IÂ'd rather have the flexibility of character to both know and admit when IÂ've been wrong.   Now before you all get your tighty-whities tangled, turn down the hyperbole alarm for a moment and realize I'm not equating misjudging a video-game with murdering several million people.  I am saying that no one's judgements, even those well founded, are flawless, and the ability to question one's convictions is crucial.

Eventually, it was a lesson I had to learn on my own, and, surprisingly, the critical process helped. I realized early on, when it comes down to writing a review or impressions up for a game, one needs to focus far greater attention on being objective instead of subjective.  People don't want to read reviews chock full of personal pronouns, and adjective laden litanies on what you thought was cool. (Save that stuff for bloated editorials!)  They want to know one thing: Will I like this game?  Objectivity tends to mediate scoring, to close off the extreme ends of euphoria and absolute disgust, and bring a well thought through score somewhere into that middle ground. In fact, my measuring stick for the general veracity of a gaming review site is one where 9s are doled out as seldom as 1s and 2s, and generally IÂ'll ignore anyone who scores more than one game a perfect 10. I donÂ't think IÂ've ever played a perfect 10 game.

Unfortunately, for me, when I picked up Unreal Tournament 2003 it was an impulse purchase not meant for any review, and so my impartiality scattered like so many trailers caught in a tornado. Further, UT2003 was released very close to Battlefield 1942, a game for which I have a special warm spot on the soft underbelly of my iron cold heart. So, even as I installed UT2003 I was already in a mind set to pass judgement. Not an hour into the game, I had, with an imperious wave of my flaccid hand, proclaimed UT2003 More-Of-The-Same, and dispatched it unceremoniously from my desktop. I tried again to play several times over the next few days, but I found myself much more preoccupied with controlling the Rail-Car flag in Stalingrad than tap dancing my way toward some adrenaline power-up.

My actual complaint with UT2003 stands. It is a derivative game. It is More-Of-The-Same. It is also a well crafted game, and can be extraordinarily fun for a few minutes of visceral gibbing. It has a strong CTF component, an engaging Bombing Run gametype, as well as a nearly flawless classic deathmatch. But more importantly, UT2003 is exactly what it always aimed to be, a gorgeous twitch shooter that one can get lost in for minutes or hours. To compare, as I did, UT2003 to a Battlefield 1942 is as common and inherently flawed as comparing Xbox and Gamecube. You might just as well compare a John Grisham book to wall spackle.

I canÂ't help but wonder, if I had been reviewing UT2003, would I have looked at it more objectively, saw that it achieved its goals while fostering a strong player community? Would I have liked UT2003 more if IÂ'd scrutinized it for flaws and realized that aside from some occasionally dodgy net code, it really had no more or less shortcomings than my beloved Battlefield 1942?  Subjectively, based solely on how UT2003 matched what I baselessly wanted from an FPS, I probably wouldn't have scored UT2003 much above a 5, but had I turned a more objective eye on the game, I doubt I could have scored it any lower than 8.   

In the long run, I donÂ't think IÂ've necessarily become a UT2003 convert, and I would imagine with the release of Road to Rome it will be quietly ushered to the hard-drive equivalent of a supply closet where I store other games like Giants, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and Starfleet Command 3 that I like to think IÂ'll someday get around to playing again. But, I see more clearly now that UT2003 was probably sold short by a lot of gamers who installed it with ridiculous preconceived notions. For what Unreal Tournament 2003 sells itself as, it succeeds wildly. If you havenÂ't played UT2003, you might want to pick up the latest patch and bonus pack, and look at it with fresh eyes. You may find itÂ's a better game than you thought.

Comments

See Cuebert I told you the boss could admit when he's wrong,he's not as cold hearted and souless as you claim!

I've been playing multiplayer games of UT2003 pretty much every weekend since its release and happen to think its great. However that's mainly because I'm playing in bombing run mode and have a regular very evenly matched opponent aand team. If UT2003 were strictly deathmatch only, I probably wouldn't have bought it.I find that I can't hack straight deathmatch games anymore I have to have a team based game and some sort of objective.The only reason I haven't played BF1942 more is cuz my PC crashes pretty frequently running it, otherwise I love it too.Must be getting old.In fact I am getting old it was my birthday yesterday and if this was Logans Run right now I'd be running!

This is way off-topic, but I have a confession to make. I've been visiting this site since its first week, and all along I've been living a lie. In actuality I was a gamer without a job. Yesterday that changed, and I now join the ranks of the employed once more... although I won't actually begin work until late this month. I'm even employed in the games industry! Whoopeee!!!

Congrats dude  !

Nice article Elysium I really enjoyed it.

You might just as well compare a John Grisham book to wall spackle.

Geesh what did a wall spackle ever do to you?

UT2003 was a great game the day it shipped.  I skip around in all game modes, and each time I revisit one, I'm astonished all over again.  The community is making mods out its collective wazoo (scary thought if taken literally), some of them even good (Deathball).  And the fact that Epic and DE are each making free bonus packs for the game is pretty sweet.

Yeah, I'm somewhat of a fanboy.  But hey, just like that girl from way back when, she's fast-moving and gorgeous and you know she'll only improve with age.

Of course... I guess that girl might've dumped you.  I'm stopping this metaphor right now.

I never understood what people liked about BF1942.  For me, the netcode was terrible - I never felt like I was shooting where I was aiming, even with a low ping on a cable modem.  In UT2k3... sm00ve, baby.  Smooth like chocolate cake (anyone recognize that reference?  Search Gamespy's Daily Victim archives).

Back to bashing Battlefield 1942.  That whole "realistic combat" thing really gets little thorns in my pants.  You know, like when you were a kid, and you'd go out into the woods, and get your pants stuck in a briar patch?  And finally you rip your way free and run away screaming until... suddenly... the beautiful creamy margarine tub of Unreal Tournament 2003 beckons, and...

I'm ending this whole damn thing right now.  All analogies shall be henceforth shot on sight.

After playing the demo, my first impression of UT2K3 was very similar to yours: pretty, fast, more of the same, but plays more like quake 3 than UT.

So a month ago, I'm stressing out for a new game to play. I had sworn off Warcraft3 months before (the crafts have been deadly to my productivity), and I was so hard up for a game I bought Animal Crossing on the cube!

I had to get UT2K3, I just had to. Not because I wanted more psycho death matches or CTF, but rather because the integrated development environment is, hands down, the best out there (and free with the game!). Unreal script is so wonderful that I won't even try to describe it in a few words.

So I decide to give it a whirl and I discover what is best about UT2K3: the maps are so SICK, so AMAZINGLY beautiful and smooth (and they run so well). The gameplay finally "clicked" after a few hours, and I'm a double jumping flak monkey wondering how in world I could have ever thought the game played more like Quake 3 than UT.

If you like FPS games, or like to make your own games/maps/mods, then you owe it yourself to check out UT2K3. If nothing else, it is more stress releiving than BF1942 or America's Sit and Wait-err Army.

I picked up the game a couple days ago, and I would imagine that I am about half way through at this point.  First off, the graphics are absolutely incredible.  There are may parts of the game where I have stopped playing and just wandered around looking at the design, and the marvelous texture work.  Of course on the ship I had to crouch and look up in front of Aida to belhold those wonderous polygons.  AND SHE LOOKED AT ME.  I dare any man who plays this game to say that they haven't done the same thing.  ; )

That being said, I can't help but be a little disappointed in the game.  It is odd, but I continue playing, not on the premise that I am involved or immersed in the game or story in any way,  but to just "see it".   <spoiler below>

 

 

There is one scene at the beginning where the guy is guiding you to the control  room using the intercom system on the base and says something to the effect "There are a lot of creatures in this next room, be careful".

 

<end spoiler.>

How moronic.  This game is completely devoid of any suspense or intrigue at all.  It is almost like a rail shooter and even when you don't have some moron telling you what is going to happen, you can pretty much ascertain when the next group of monsters will appear.

The short game length would be tolerable if the game had a modicum of excitement.  Of course there are some memorable moments, but these are just islands in a sea of tedium.  Unreal 2 is a pretty bauble, devoid of any character.  Is it worth it?   I would say "perhaps" ,  if only just to see the latest technology as I really can appreciate the amount of talent and time it took to get the visuals down.