Some of the weapons are more influenced by the later titles. The rocket launcher and stinger minigun are both heavily based in Unreal Tournament III, while the Link Gun takes its cues from UT 2004. In part these are placeholders, with the community looking to do complete redesigns for certain weapons for this particular game. Yet whatever becomes of the rocket-launcher, the developers are fairly certain it will retain its current three-barrel structure.
Likewise, Unreal Tournament already has around 20 playable maps, but most of these are textureless shells. They provide a navigable level layout, but not much in the way of theme. The maps which are finished, however, are promising glimpses of the final product. Outpost 23 is a complex maze of gleaming white chambers that overlooks a vast plateau. Meanwhile, the newly released CTF map “Titan Pass”, sees players battling in a verdant valley dominated by two ancient alien fortresses. Another finished map is an updated version of the CTF classic Facing Worlds, a faithful recreation that mainly takes advantage of the visual updates Unreal Engine 4 offers. Deck 16 is also looking to make a return, while new maps in the works such as the Bigrock Asteroid Mining Facility hint at the diversity of arenas which was always a hallmark of the series.
Currently, however, that diversity isn’t reflected quite so well in the game modes on offer. Basic modes such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag are available, along with a couple of variations on these themes, but the more creative modes that made Unreal Tournament stand apart are yet to make an introduction. There is no Assault mode, and although the mode is listed on the game’s development Trello board, it appears that little work has been done toward it. Vehicles are also allegedly in the works, presumably for the “Bombing Run” mode stipulated on the board. As yet though, there’s no further information on Bombing Run, so we can’t tell if it will be a mode in the vein of Onslaught or Warfare, or something else entirely.
Even if we take both these modes as given, in terms of what it is offering to players, the new Unreal Tournament isn’t showing off much that we haven’t seen before. Given how innovative the series has been previously, first through its Assault mode and later with its introduction of vehicles, this could prove to be a real problem for the new game. Crowds are great at providing lots of feedback and doing heavy lifting, but they’re less good at coming up with new ideas.
Moreover, aside from its curious development model, I’m yet to see anything that has got me truly excited beyond the fact that this is a new UT game. The closest it comes to innovation is a couple of tweaks to the movement system, allowing players to perform wall-runs and slides alongside the familiar dodge ability. Unlike Titanfall, however, this ability is not fundamental to how the game functions – sliding wasn’t even bound to the standard control system by default.
None of this is to dismiss the work that both Epic and the community have done thus far. Unreal Tournament is already a blast to play. It looks and, more importantly, runs fantastically, the finished maps are interesting and many of the unfinished maps show promise. But while the new UT currently makes for a pleasantly nostalgic evening, it doesn’t have enough meat on its bones yet to keep me coming back on a regular basis.