|System: PC, X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Epic Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Midway||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 10, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Over the past eight years the Unreal Tournament franchise has carved out a violent path through a blasé sea of first-person shooter competitors, arriving consistently at the top of the pile as one of the best titles in the genre.
The series has never been much for grand crusades, elaborate story campaigns or execution of carefully thought-out strategies. Instead, it provides an incredibly fast run-and-gun assault across an enticing array of futuristic arenas in an adrenaline fueled explosion of charred metal, flying limbs, and high-impact projectiles. Like its predecessors, Unreal Tournament 3 follows suit with an immense and highly satisfying multi-player slugfest, though in the end it feels like more could have been done in its three year development cycle to improve the formula a little further with some fresh ideas.
As a genre, the first-person shooter continues to steadily evolve. In recent years many of the mega-hit games have slowed-down the action to a more deliberate, strategic pace that places a greater emphasis on tactics, completing mission objectives, and conservative use of weaponry and ammunition. That's all fine and good, but sometimes you just need to get a little crazy. UT3 shows the old-school days of carrying a full arsenal on your back and running around an arena at high-speeds while firing off volleys from a dozen different weapons in less than 20 seconds is still just as awesome as it was years ago. Its lack of intelligence is surprisingly one of the game's strengths; you don't have to spend much time bothering with lengthy dialogue or contemplating your next move since it has all been very clearly spelled out for you. It's time to grab some guns, hop in a tank, and get blasting.
Though the PS3 version supports use of a USB keyboard and mouse, it's best to stick with the Sixaxis controls for the console version due to a slight turning lag and some keyboard control differences from the PC setup. Besides, I can't imagine why you wouldn't go for the PC version if you want to play with a keyboard and mouse to begin with. Dodging is handed by jumping in whatever direction you're moving and crouching is done automatically when appropriate in the game.
Your arsenal is primarily comprised of tried-and-true devices. The majority of the weapons come directly from previous games and may elicit a ho-hum response from UT veterans. Some have received a graphic overhaul and minor adjustments in firing physics while others are essentially the same. The Impact Hammer and the Enforcer return once again to replace the Shield Gun and Assault Rifle. The rest is made up of machine guns, rocket launchers, and other destructive gizmos including the much-loved Redeemer. The weapons look great and have nice visual effects, but there's not a ton of new stuff here.
From the second you drop into your first match, it will become quickly clear the improvements made in the graphics department are significant. Everything about the visuals in UT3 - from incredible lighting effects and amazing map scenery right down to the minute detailing on the massive vehicles and players themselves - is impressive. This very well could be the one area where the game has seen the greatest level of improvement since Unreal Tournament 2004. The third-generation game engine is the one and the same used in Gears of War (only expect a lot more color), so it's no surprise the game looks this good. For better or worse, UT3 also features the same beefy, testosterone-injected style character models found in the aforementioned Epic title.
Even with a major graphic update, a sweet new engine, and a handful of added features, UT3's gameplay retains much of the same feel as the earlier games. There are a few pleasant surprises, some of which are greatly appreciated, but overall you'll still get the exact same brand of gameplay out of UT3 as you did from other games in the series. There are six basic play modes - we'll get to those a bit later - and a campaign mode that dabbles in a bit of all of them. If you're new to Unreal Tournament, the solo campaign is perhaps the best way to get a crash course in the different play modes.