The week of UT3 blather continues. You should know that I have abandoned any concept of self-restraint. I see that almost nobody is reading these posts, which is fine. They’re huge rambling things full of speculation and ruminations on a niche game that isn’t even out yet. I am under no illusions about the usefulness of these articles. I write this stuff because I must, not because I expect you to read them.
Weapon balance is a tricky thing. Everyone has their own ideas about what having “balanced weapons” means and what a balanced set of weapons looks like. Forum threads have been hammering away at this issue for over a decade, and we’re not going to untangle any of the debates here. This issue is important to players, and it can make or break the game for lots of people. The best a developer can hope for is to piss off as small a group as possible.
To that end, each weapon in the game should feel unique, and have a purpose. Some for long distance. Some for short. Some for fighting in the open and some for tight spaces. No one weapon should dominate the game. There should never be a weapon that can be useful in all situations. There should be a couple of tiers of weapons. There certainly shouldn’t be any useless weapons. Each weapon should look and sound distinct.
After sinking some time into the demo, here are my thoughts – in excruciating detail – on each of the weapons:
I’ve always been of the opinion that if you could get close enough to someone to score a melee hit while carrying a very noisy weapon then by gosh, you deserved a quick kill, which is why I love this weapon. We have tremendous fun with this at our UT99 LAN games. We have an unspoken agreement that certain maps are “jousting” maps, and when one of them appears in the rotation everyone ignores the conventional weapons and begins trying to splatter one another with the hammer. It’s absurd, hilarious fun.
Which is one of the reasons why UT2003 was such a let-down. They removed the impact hammer and replaced it with the shield gun. The SG sounded flatulent, it was hard to make contact, and if you did manage to score a hit you’d do a little bit of damage and knock your foe away, forcing you to chase them down yet again.
For UT3 the original impact hammer is restored to its former glory as a viable weapon in the hands of a nimble player. It sounds great, and looks vicious.
For UT2003 they replaced the Enforcer Pistol with the Assault Rifle. The AR was appallingly underpowered. The damage it did was little more than a mild scratching, of the sort you may apply to a persistent itch. They should have called it the Assuage Rifle. I always thought of the weapon as The Massager.
For UT3 they have brought back the Enforcer. It does decent damage and is enough to let you defend yourself until you get something better.
It shoots blobs of glowing green toxic radioactive goo. The projectiles are heavy (the trajectory is about that of a softball pitch) and they stick to surfaces. The alt-fire has always been a little too powerful for my liking, with a direct hit being enough to kill anyone regardless of armor or health. The way the globs cling to things has great strategic value, because you can splatter a doorway with the stuff to ward off pursuers. This is an ingenious weapon with many devious uses.
The most noticeable change in UT3 is that it no longer delivers its massive damage in an instant, but instead burns away the hapless victim over several seconds. This is a really interesting twist, since getting hit with a fully charged alt-fire blob still means you’re as good as dead, but you have a couple of seconds in which to act. A skilled player might get their revenge before they snuff it. In any case, they are likely to be exceptionally aggressive for those last few seconds, which should lead to many amusing situations. This is far more interesting than the “poof you’re dead” thing the weapon had going in UT99.
Since the original Unreal, they have always had a gun that shoots a narrow beam (primary) and a slow-moving orb of energy (alternate fire.) If you shoot the orb with the beam you make a “combo” attack by detonating the orb in a strong but very localized explosion. They have never stopped messing with the gun. They keep changing the speed of the orb, the precision required to pull off the combo, changing the size of the explosion, altering damage output, lowering the re-fire rate, modifying ammo use, giving it a new appearance, adding aspartame, etc.
The experimentation continues here. I like the current version, with the exception of ammo usage / supply. It uses too dang much, or you can’t carry enough of it. I’ve been trying to practice combo attacks, but after two shots I have to hunt around the map for more ammo. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I miss the wider beam it had in UT99. Since then the gun has featured a slender, needle-like beam that to me has never matched the original for the “wow that looks like it would hurt” thrill.
Visuals aside, the link gun is mostly unchanged. I really like the sound it makes when hitting someone with the alternate fire, which solves the problem of earlier versions where you couldn’t tell if the beam was making contact or if the target was just out of range. I’ve liked the Link Gun in all its many forms, although this one might be my favorite for purely cosmetic reasons. They have retained the repair / boost functionality that the weapon gained in 2003.
Not much to say, except that I don’t see the point of the alternate fire. Primary fire is still your standard minigun: Spew out an incredible volume of ammunition, wave the sucker around, and you’re sure to hit something. Alt-fire releases a burst that the game claims “can pin foes to walls”. I haven’t seen this happen yet.
I’ve tried this alt fire, and I didn’t find it to be useful. I think the big problem is that nobody has used it on me yet. You don’t really understand a weapon mode until someone hurts you with it. I don’t know if I’ve been lucky, or if the alt-fire is useless, or if people just haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.
It’s not in the demo, and most likely not in UT3, alas. It was a unique weapon with many uses. The way the discs bounced around meant you could shoot around corners or fill a tight space with flying blades when dealing with an entrenched foe. The alt fire didn’t do much damage, but it had a ton of kinetic force, letting you toss foes around. It was the ideal weapon when fighting someone on a high ledge, because a good shot could send them into the abyss.
Primary fire still emits the familiar shards of glowing hot metal with a really wide spread pattern and high damage potential. The alternate still fires a single arcing projectile good for prenominal damage. I haven’t been able to get the hang of the alt-fire on this one. The projectile is too fast, too light, and my shots keep going over everyone’s heads. With the UT99 flak gun I could lob one and hit someone in the forehead at fifty meters, while running. With less arcing and more speed the new one is more “accurate”, but I can’t get used to it.
The weapon feels weaker than before, and is particularly useless at long distances. This makes sense and is probably a good change, although it feels all wrong after so many years of the UT99 flak gun.
In UT99, the rocket launcher could cue up six rockets to be fired in a single volley of ridiculous overkill. I built my game around abusing this weapon, and while I was sorry to see the six-rocket capacity removed, I do admit the smaller capacity made the game more balanced. They have played around with the weapon in various iterations of the game, and I must say that I think this incarnation of the rocket launcher is by far the best.
As Unreal Tournament has evolved, they have messed around with this weapon a great deal, and it’s seen a lot of different functionality over the years:
- Instant fire: Good old Quake-style rockets that are released the moment you depress the trigger.
- Spread fire: Queue up several rockets, then fire them all at once so that they fan out. In a hallway you’re pretty much guaranteed a hit, although not a kill. Most likely you’ll only hit your foe with one of the rockets.
- Spiral fire: The rockets stay together. It’s all or nothing. If you hit it’s probably a guaranteed kill, but if you miss you miss completely.
- Grenades: Instead of “launching” the rockets it tosses them out so that they bounce and tumble in unpredictable (and thus very difficult to evade) patterns. Perfect for dealing with people in entrenched positions.
In UT3, they have created a single version of the rocket launcher that incorporates all of the above functionality. The gun can do pretty much anything from any of the previous iterations of UT, at the cost of being the most complex weapon in the game.
I still think it has too much kinetic force. I’ve been clocked with a rocket and sailed off in odd directions that didn’t seem to have a lot to do with the angle of the projectile or the point of impact.
The original UT99 sniper rifle was apparently too strong. (Although this was never the case when the weapon was in my employ. My aim was never good enough to coax the demonic powers out of this thing the way some players could.) In the hands of someone with exceptional aim it was purportedly possible for them to kill with impunity, as no other weapon could counter it for range and potency, as well as allowing the sniper to remain hidden. This is actually pretty realistic, but in a high speed combat game it just sucks when you get killed in a single hit for no discernable reason. The game stops being about frantic combat and starts being about hunting down and digging out the sniper. In an outdoor team game snipers just serve as an annoying distraction. If you’re playing the game you don’t have time to hunt them down, which means you just have to put up with the “sniper tax”, which is that you have to bounce around open areas like an idiot and accept that 1 in 5 trips over the open area will end in death.
In UT2003 they came up with two competing solutions, which sort of indicated to me that they weren’t sure what to do about the problem. They made some annoying changes to the sniper rifle that made it less useful in the hands in regular players without really affecting the ace snipers. They also introduced the lightning gun, which replaced the SR on some maps. I never enjoyed the lightning gun, but the beam it gave off got rid of the “sniper tax” effect, where one guy could sit in a dark corner and rack up kills all day because nobody wanted to play hide-and-seek with him. The beam leads right back to the culprit. If you want him, go get him.
Now the lightning gun is gone and instead the sniper rifle gives off a faint but distinctive tracer line when used. I’m not an expert on the weapon, but this seems like a good compromise to me. Prolific snipers will need to keep moving if they want to stay in business, which is a pretty good system. In a CTF game I was able to rid myself of a couple of annoying snipers without needing leave my post and hunt for them. I just had to out-snipe them.
It’s not in the demo. Considering how much I hated the 2003 TL, I was really hoping to see how this one worked. It’s bound to the same key as the new “hoverboard”, so I assume this is an either / or deal based on the game settings. Speaking of the hoverboard….
I’m not crazy about it so far, but I haven’t really had time to give it a chance. I hate how it goes slow on water. It seems like a nod to Back to the Future II, but it also neuters the device in the one place I think it could actually be useful.
I’m not sure if this device is a good idea or not. I think it depends on the map. You can’t use weapons when using the HB, which is good, because then everyone would ride it all the time. But what bugs me is that in CTF the flag carrier can nab the flag and surf away with the thing. You can chase him on your own hoverboard, but you can’t attack him while doing so. If you use weapons, he’ll quickly outpace you. This seems to really shift the balance of power and eliminate the need for the running fight flag carriers had to do in order to earn their reward. Maybe the hoverboard is only available in maps with vehicles. I can’t really tell what their intention is with this thing, because they only have the one map in the demo.
That’s my take on the game mechanics and weapons so far. Despite my vigorous blather on the game, I’m probably going to wait a while before picking it up. This game is huge and complex, and I don’t think you can make an honest assesment of its appeal based on a demo with three maps. I enjoyed the UT99 demo, but I never would have guessed I’d still be playing the thing eight years later. I enjoyed the UT2003 demo, and I wouldn’t have guessed I would be done with the game eight weeks later. (Otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it.)
After Christmas the first round of patches will be out and the game will probably be $10 cheaper. That will be a good time to see what people are saying and see if I’m still interested.
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