A slightly more detailed write up of the weapons of Unreal Tournament 2003 is called for. The short version is that every weapon is good -- the creators of UT2k3 did a very good job of tossing out the junk weapons of UT99 and replacing them with more useful versions.

Assault Rifle : The assault rifle is a basic starting weapon and is quite capable of taking down enemies all by itself. Its primary fire mode sprays weak bullets at a decent clip with a moderate spread, however the secondary fire bounces a grenade that does a great deal of damage. Hitting an opponent with a grenade and then finishing the target off with primary fire is the most efficient method of dispatching enemies with this weapon. Holding the secondary fire down increases the velocity of the fired grenade, and when the pressure is maxxed out this weapon almost behaves like a single shot rocket launcher… which is quite advantageous, to say the least. Low ammo (4 shots) on the secondary fire is this weapon’s primary drawback.

Shield Gun : This is the second starting weapon every player begins his life with. In primary fire mode, does a huge amount of contact damage when you ram an opponent with it firing. Note that while this fire is engaged, it automatically discharges on contact with an enemy – though clever maneuvering is needed in order to actually touch an opponent. The secondary fire of the shield gun radiates a barrier in front of the user, reducing the damage done by projectile weapons from the front. Note that attacks from the back and side still do full damage. This shield will eventually run dry after a rather long period of time, and recharges naturally when out of use. Energy weapons (shock rifle, link gun) are deflected by this shield, and if the reflected beams should happen to kill an opponent, you are credited with the kill. One often-overlooked use for the shield gun’s barrier is in the prevention of falling damage – if you land on the shield (ie, its facing down as you fall) a great deal of impact damage can be prevented. Despite the fact that the shield gun is often used as a weapon of last resort, it is a very versatile weapon that is overlooked by the majority of players.

Minigun : A very powerful weapon for the accurate player. In primary fire mode, the minigun spews forth a stream of low-powered and inaccurate bullets whose sheer number is usually enough to shred an opponent. Good tracking skills are needed to take full advantage of this weapon, as it is very unforgiving to those who cannot keep their target in the crosshairs. The secondary fire of this gun fires a more powerful, more accurate stream of bullets at a reduced rate. While the minigun will never be a preferred ranged weapon, this secondary fire gives extra life to a weapon whose ranged power has been traditionally limited.

Bio Rifle : After the shield gun, the bio rifle is perhaps the least used weapon in the game. It rapidly consumes its ammo in primary fire mode, lobbing slow moving but powerful globs of hazardous goo that are, quite frankly, simple to dodge. These globs, when they miss (and they do) lay around for about 5 seconds and then explode, damaging people that are really, really close to them. The primary fire is envisioned as a weapon that creates a ‘minefield’ of sorts for defensive purposes, but the gun has too little ammo and the globs have too short a lifespan for this to be effective. The secondary fire of this gun slowly loads multiple rounds of ammo into the chamber, to be fired simultaneously when the fire button is released. The maximum amount that can be fired in this way is 10 rounds – which is enough biosludge to instakill any target, without question. When the redeemer or ion cannon is unavailable, the secondary fire of the bio rifle is the preferred method of killing a heavily armored opponent, though the slowness of the reload usually limits this instagib to a single attempt.

Link Gun : The primary fire of the link gun sprays an area with moderately-quick plasma shots that do a moderate amount of damage. In this mode, the gun is nothing special – its good for spamming an area at moderate distance, but little else. In secondary fire mode, the link gun shoots out of beam of continuous damage death, which rapidly erodes the health of any enemy it is in contact with. However, the range of this weapon is limited, and the gun must continuously nailed to the target to take full advantage of its power. As players become more accurate and experienced, the secondary fire of the link gun becomes a very effective tool. In cooperative matches, two players of the same team, if both armed with link guns, can ‘link’ them together – on player targets the other with the secondary fire of his link gun. After this link is established, it will eat ammo like nothing else, but the link will remain until the fire button is released. The player who is being linked too will experience a huge increase in the power of his link gun, turning the secondary fire into an unstoppable laser beam of death. However, due to the relative weakness of the link gun, this tactic is rarely used.

Lightning Gun : The sniper rifle of UT2k3, the lightning gun does severe damage when it hits the body, and truly obscene damage when it hits the head (not, as it might be thought, an instakill). The primary and secondary fire modes of this gun are essentially identical, though the secondary mode engages the gun’s zoom. It is not encouraged that the user rely too much on this zoom, as it the lack of peripheral vision allows the user to be blindsided quite easily. Instead, the player should improve his accuracy until he can reliably hit targets without the zoom, and preferably while moving. The most advanced players of the game use the lightning gun almost exclusively due to its long ranged, powerful, accurate shot.

Shock Rifle : Often argued to be the best weapon in the game, the shock rifle is certainly the most versatile. In primary fire mode, the weapon behaves like the sniper rifle – with a long ranged, unzoomed, powerful shot. The shock beam is about half as powerful as a lightning round, but fires twice as fast. In addition, the beam imparts a good deal of force to the target – it is blown backwards several feet. This is quite disorienting, and experienced shock users can use this blast to predict where the target will land, to immediately hit them with another shock. This juggling technique is very difficult to defeat once mastered. The secondary fire of the shock rifle produces slow-moving balls of energy that do moderate damage. These are quite easy to dodge, and are generally only useful for close range spamming, however they do a good deal of splash damage, so it is possible to hurt yourself with this technique. The real power of the shock rifle lies in the employment of the Shock Combo. This attack is executed by shooting a shock ball (secondary fire) towards your opponent and then hitting it with a shock beam (primary fire). This causes a massive explosion centered around the shock ball, eating up 5 rounds of shock ammo and usually obliterating everything nearby. This is a very powerful attack whose expert use has given rise to the taunt “Combo Whore” – proof positive of this technique’s effectiveness.

Flak Cannon : My preferred weapon. In primary fire, the flak cannon shoots a spray of hot metal, which does huge amounts of damage at close range. At longer distances, this shot gradually spreads apart to cover a wide area with moderately damaging flak. In addition, this flak will bounce off walls and floors to cause damage – careless aim often damages the user. The secondary fire mode produces an arcing ball that explodes on contact with floor, walls, or enemies, producing a wide area of splash damage. This is useful not only because it can be used to strike targets not immediately in view (by arcing it over barriers, onto platforms, etc) but because it has a very good fire rate and impressive damage. This weapon is weak at distance, but is exceedingly powerful at close range. Like the primary fire, the secondary fire can also damage the gun’s user if the flak ball is exploded nearby.

Rocket Launcher : The rocket launcher, as the name suggests, fires single, slow-moving, powerful rockets in its primary fire mode that cause splash damage when they hit. A single well-placed rocket is enough to kill an unarmored, unboosted opponent. In secondary fire mode, rockets slowly fill the gun’s three chambers to fire up to three rockets at once. This produces a huge amount of havoc in a wide area with little accuracy required, and as such is the new players’ universal weapon of choice. After the third rocket is loaded into the chamber, all three rockets will immediately discharge (ie, there is no holding 3 rockets), which often causes extreme discomfort for the user if he does not vent the rockets properly. Also, if you only have two rockets left and are charging the gun’s secondary fire, the rockets will discharge after the second rocket is loaded, which is again often unexpected and detrimental to the user. If, while charging the secondary fire, the primary fire button is tapped, the secondary fire rockets will emerge in a spiral pattern, striking a single point for obnoxious damage. In addition, if the user can get an enemy continuously in his crosshairs for about three seconds, the gun will achieve a lock on the player and the rockets will home in on this target – though their turning radius leaves quite a bit to be desired. In all, this is a very powerful weapon that should be a high priority for every player.

Ion Painter : The new super weapon in UT2k3, the Ion Painter sets up a target for the orbiting Ion Cannon, which instakills everything in a huge blast radius. The painter’s beam (primary fire) must be held on a single, outdoor point for several seconds for the ion cannon to achieve a lock, after which it fires. The ion painter’s secondary fire is a zoom identical to that of the lightning gun. In practice, the Ion Painter/Cannon is the closest thing to a useless weapon included in the game. The necessity of targeting a stationary point (with the zoom often required) usually requires the user to be stationary as well – which is just begging for death. The painter’s beam is clearly visible while it is focusing on a target, which, of course, leads the way right back to the stationary user, like a big flashing “I’m helpless, shoot me” sign over his head. Related to this is the long wind-up the cannon has before firing, which gives targets time to duck behind a wall or a barrel or anything, which completely shields them from the blast. In all, kills with the ion painter are more luck than anything else, and this gun should be avoided unless there is very good reason not to.

Redeemer : The portable nuclear weapon is the most powerful device in the game, and widely shunned amongst polite company. Such is the thoughtless devastating power of this slow-moving projectile that many players consider it too cheap to use and avoid it, however if you are looking for the most death for the least effort, the Redeemer is the way to go. In primary fire the gun fires a single, slug-slow rocket that explodes in a gigantic fireball, pulverizing everyone in the blast’s line of sight. Damage from the redeemer bypasses shields and is generally an instakill. Secondary fire paralyses the user in favor of actually piloting the missile, which is one of the cooler aspects of the game. The turning radius of this missile is surprisingly good, which combines with its slow movement to make for interesting plays. However, the user is both blind an immobile while piloting the missile, which is the simplest way of getting killed. If you are killed while piloting the redeemer, it explodes immediately, but you are not credited with any kills it might inflict. In addition to this, if the missile is hit by a weapon (most frequently the lightning rifle or the minigun) it explodes harmlessly. Like the ion painter, the most trivial of barriers completely shields the target from the nuclear blast, meaning all targets must be in direct line of sight of the explosion point in order to be effected.

Translocator : A utility weapon that is disabled on most hardcore servers, the translocator can serve to add another dimension to combat, reach otherwise inaccessible areas, keep tabs on important places, make quick escapes, and inflict instakills. In primary fire, the translocator fires an arcing projectile that acts as a teleportation beacon. After the beacon is planted, pressing the translocator selection key will activate the camera mounted on the beacon, allowing the player to observe the immediate area – however the player will also be immobile while this is in effect. Employing the secondary fire teleports the user to the beacon, while pressing the primary fire again recalls the beacon to the user. If an enemy happens to be standing on the beacon (or you have shot the beacon onto the enemy) and you recall to it by way of secondary fire, you will instakill the enemy by way of the telefrag – the most humiliating way to kill someone. If the server allows the translocator it is strongly recommended that all players adapt to it quickly, as it is an invaluable tool in combat. Translocating quickly can disorient your target in skirmishes, putting you in superior position to surprise and damage the target. In all, this weapon adds an element of wildness to games that many players to be against the spirit of certain game types – traditional deathmatch in particular.