WARM AND FUZZY
Unreal Tournament III may have been built from the ground up with an entirely new engine, but the old 'comfy slippers' adage still holds with the gameplay. That familiar, nay iconic, roster of weaponry remains intact - the Bio-Rifle, the glorious Redeemer, the Shock Rifle with its ingenious ploy of being able to shoot the alt-fire plasma emission with the primary fire zapgun for added death-bringing hilarity. But look closer and you become aware of one or two gaps having been plugged - gaps that you probably weren't aware of in the first place.
At the shallower end of the pool, for example, the Stinger (UT-speak for mini-gun) always had a slightly crap alt-fire option. Now, however, it's been gifted with the ability to fire bursts that can pin an enemy to a wall by his head. In a similar fashion, the rocket launcher can now chuck grenades as well as its familiar racked-up missile salvos, while the Unreal Engine physics can now provide stuff like real physical attributes for every individual pellet of a Flak Cannon round.
Gobsmackingly, Epic also claim that the insane graphical complexity of each weapon means that each holds more polygons than an entire map in UT2004. Honestly, that's the sort of factoid that would make the Germans declare a national holiday.
Epic have also noticed that when people are speeding around their imaginary lands in vehicles, two of the most common action keys are rendered redundant, namely duck and jump. So it is that, in a tradition kickstarted by UT2004's Manta, many of the vehicles now have different modes of manoeuvre, to thunderously brilliant effect.
Take the Necris Nemesis for example. As lead designer Steve Polge eloquently puts it: "Real tanks can't crouch" - but this one can. Or at least, it can switch between a ground-hugging sleek-mobile whose turret is firmly fixed forward and a standard drive-and-aim mode, before slipping into a far more interesting gear: having you move along at an absolute crawl but granting you a higher viewpoint, a tremendous amount of firepower and (I admit, grudgingly) a lot more rockets fired in your direction.
If you think that's quite cool though, just wait until you see the Leviathan. Jesus 'Capital H' Christ! A tank of the corporations rather than the Necris, the Leviathan is a five-man beast and is - as you might have guessed - bloody big. The driver has control of the accelerator pedal and a smaller gun, while each of his companions blasts happily away with different varieties of heavy weaponry from the tank's roof and sides - each with their own cheery purple energy shield to boot.
When you first see the tank deploy itself into 'crouch' mode, however, your eyes will widen and you'll temporarily forget to breathe. Unfolding itself like the best Transformer base you've seen, with its four guns raising on fire engine-style hinged platforms, the thing becomes a veritable machine o' death: double the gun barrels circling one über-gun with infinite range and almighty explosive capabilities.
THE POWER OF THE DARK SIDE
The Leviathan still doesn't quite match the Necris Darkwalker though. I know you've seen a ton of material on these wavy-legged monstrosities - but I promise you that until you fight against them yourself, there's no way you'll realise quite how intimidating they are.
In my playtest, I was happily nipping around atop my Marty McFly patent-pending hoverboard on the crest of a craggy outcrop, when a previously crouched Darkwalker raised itself to its full height so it popped into view directly in front of me.