A new mode of play in First-Person Shooter video games.
Games like Doom, Doom 2, and Quake were some of the fist FPS games to introduce us to the ultra-addictive world of blowing your closest friends into tiny chunks. For the most part, these games had simple rules. Shoot them, don't get shot. It was simple, brutal, and very fast. Eventually, such simplicity began to lose its charm. Since most of these games allow people to create modifications to the games, some creative people began inventing new and creative types of games. As the games themselves became more mature and technically advanced, so did the mods available for them.
As time wore on, we began to see team-based mods. Mods with altogether new rules, which rewarded strategy as well as a quick trigger finger. Taking the hints from the modding community, game makers began incorporating these new gaming styles into the newer generations of FPS games. These days game modes like Capture The Flag and Team Deathmatch are an expected component of any FPS.
Enter Unreal Tournament 2003.
The latest entry into the FPS orgy on software store shelves is yet another iteration in the universe of Unreal. The feel is the same. The look is more polished, but essentially the same. But the game modes have a new addition that makes the game stand out from all of the rest.
The rules of bombing run are not difficult to understand. They are roughly comparable to a crossbreed of American Football, Rugby, and Basketball, but with guns. The goal is to carry an item (Some people call it the "ball", others call it the "bomb") into an area controlled by an opposing team and place the item onto a specific spot within that area. The specific spot is apparently some sort of dimensional portal and the item is supposedly some sort of bomb and placing the bomb through the portal supposedly does something terrible to your opponent. All of these details are really pretty meaningless.
Taken at face value, it seems pretty simple. Pick up the ball, carry it to the spot, throw it through a hole. But there's more. Oh, so much more. The nuances of the play mode are intriguing.
When your team is on offense, there are a few things to remember. Firstly, the person who is carrying the ball is unable to fire back at the other team. This means they need your help! Especially in games with 10 or more players. Weaving through corridors with 5, 6, 8, 10 other people shooting loads of ammunition at you is tricky at best. Since the game offers commentary on what is happening, it is interesting to enter these large games as a spectator.
As a spectator, you may move around the game anywhere, but you are unable to do anything, and nobody is able to see you. You are essentially a ghost who is merely watching the game. When the players converge, the commentary often goes something like this:
Red team is on offense!
Red team fumbles!
Blue team is on off..
Blue team fumb..
Red team is on...
Blue team scores!
One problem I have with the game in relation to being on offense is the lack of communication. Since you are able to pass the ball around, it seems like a team with a good passing game would be utterly devastating. But it's pretty much impossible to communicate with your teammates. When all ten fingers are involved in manipulating your character, there is no time for typing messages. And even if there were, the game is far too fast to actually read them. It would be very helpful if there were an in-game method of communication with microphones or something.
As it is, usually any passes you attempt to make are not even seen, since your team mates are so busy trying to extinguish your opponents.
Some players have developed an amazing technique that I have been unable to compete against. Using the Translocator gun, a player can fire a small object in any direction. Once the object has been fired, a player can instantly transport themselves to the object. With this gun, some players will acquire the ball, then throw it far ahead of them selves, high into the air. Then fire the translocator and transport themselves to the ball. Essentially, passing the ball to themselves. Doing this two or three times in a row, a player can basically zoom across a large room or courtyard, while maintaining control of the ball and making themselves impossible to hit. It's quite an amazing feat of timing and aim. And I find it incredibly frustrating.
Oh how I miss the days when I had the time to play games 10 or 12 hours at a time and perfect my techniques. Now, I'm much like a walrus, flailing around the arena, trying to hit *something*. But it's still fun.
Once you've cheated death long enough to actually make it to your opponent's goal, you are faced with an entirely new challenge.
The circle through which the ball must be thrown is fairly small. So the room containing the goal is often the bloodiest scene in the game. Goal shots are often missed, making rebounds very important.
Usually, the goal is suspended above a deadly pit. If you are going to attempt a "slam dunk", you are going to die, regardless of the outcome of your attempt. So you'd better well succeed, especially if you have no other team member nearby to try a second shot.
The things to keep in mind while on defense are pretty simple, protect your team's goal, shoot the guy with the ball.
If you catch a rebound in your team's goal room, it is usually better to throw the ball into the above-mentioned pit. This resets the ball to the center of the arena. You might be giving up possession of the ball, but that's a lot better than trying to move it all the way across the arena, to your opponent's goal.
I think the only flaw in the game is the lack of ability to communicate easily. Without communication, developing strategy is nearly impossible. If I could say things to my teammates, we could establish roles, assign zones of protection. Plan sneak attacks. Develop a passing game. It could become almost as involved as an actual, physical sport. Maybe this is part of the retail version, but i doubt it.
Maybe I should be thankful for this flaw. Otherwise, I might have to quit my job and devote 100% of my time to playing this game.
Overall, I really like Bombing Run. I hope to see it incorporated into more games. I'd really like to see other types of team play modes as well. I think the sports-like nature of the game makes it much more interesting. I haven't much enjoyed multiplayer FPS games for several years now, because it gets so boring, just running around, shooting everything that moves. Even CTF games become shallow and wear thin quickly for me. Team games like this would revitalize my interest in the genre, and lubricate my wallet to boot.
Note: This write-up is based on the demo version of UT2K3. There may be more to say after playing the full retail version. I invite more commentary from any noders who own the game.