Well, the modem came through the post on Tuesday - leaving with all the equipment I need to get online, but my ADSL isn't activated until tomorrow, which is a bit of a pain, but I suppose that's better than having the line activated but the modem going AWOL in the post.
I can't wait to get it installed, because I was playing the Unreal Tournament 2004 demo last night. Usually, I'm utterly cynical about franchise releases, but this blew me away. Whilst UT2k3 was simply UT with better graphics and a couple of new game modes, UT2k4 features a few more surprises. Firstly, the vehicles. Implementing vehicles in an online game is nothing new - Mobile Forces did it ages ago, and did it well too (worth a look if you can find it on budget) - but UT2k4 has taken them a level beyond anything I've played before. The buggy is excellent, with a chain plasma cannon, and Boudicca style chopping arms that you can spring out from the side of the vehicle to lop hapless pedestrians in half. Most satisfactory! The Goliath tank (couldn't you have come up with a better name, guys?) is well, a *tank*, with all the fun and mayhem which that implies. The Raptor is quite fun too, and really brings the third dimension into play.
There are a couple of new weapons, the sniper rifle makes a welcome return, and the mine layer is quite good, and all the favourites are still there - flak cannon (my personal favourite), shock rifle, link gun, etc.
However, it's not the vehicles nor the weapons that has me excited by this game. It's the new game modes. It's almost universally agreed that Bombing Run is one of the best things to happen to multiplayer gaming since Quake deathmatch, was the jewel in the crown of UT2k3. Well, they've topped it.
Onslaught is even better than Bombing Run. I've only played it with bots so far, and no doubt it'll be even better when I play it online with real people, but I spent about two hours happily blasting away on it. The premise is that each team has a power core - you defend your own, and attack the enemy's. It's not quite that simple, however, as the map is littered with power nodes that must also be constructed and defended. You have to hold a node in order to be able to attack the next one in the network, and that makes for frantic action, as you have multiple engagements across the map.
The maps are huge, which really brings the vehicles into play, and you can respawn at any power node you hold. It's ace. Skillo, even. Roll on Friday evening.