|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|
It's essentially a mish-mash of the other game modes played in sequence with bots and meshed together with a bit of a story. Unlike the previous games, this time around the campaign mode partly ditches the tournament vibe in favor an actual plot. You'll play as a hulking meat-head named Reaper whose colony is one of the first to be destroyed by a gruesome alien force known as the Necris. Together with his sister Jester and two other pals, Reaper survives the attack and sets out for some payback. The small group takes on a mercenary mission which pits them against a handful of other human factions to gain the weaponry necessary to take on the Necris. The story is not completely laughable, yet it's not exactly the high point of the game.
UT3 features fewer play modes than the other series games. You'll find standard modes like duel, deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag alongside more complex games such as vehicle capture the flag and warfare. The gameplay in the first few modes is fairly self-explanatory. Vehicle capture the flag changes things up by giving every player a cool new hoverboard in addition to the option of going for some larger destructive vehicular devices.
You can easily hop on-and-off the thing. The hoverboard lets you cover ground quickly in larger levels where outrunning enemy vehicles on foot is impossible. It's necessary since you can't carry an enemy flag in a vehicle, but it's also great fun just to float around and attempt tricks. While on the hoverboard you can even grapple onto the back of a friendly vehicle and zip along for a ride. It's a great addition that's not without its drawbacks. Getting hit with any enemy fire - even a single shot - while you're on the hoverboard will send you face-planting into the scorched concrete, dropping the flag and giving the enemy a few extra seconds to sneak up for the kill.
Warfare is essentially an improved version of the vehicle-heavy onslaught mode of UT2004. Both sides will seek to destroy their opponent's power core which is protected by a force field. Capturing nodes for your side will begin to drain your foe's power core shield, and controlling all of the power nodes will make their core vulnerable to fire. Capturing certain other non-essential nodes on the battlefield will give you access to vehicles, turrets, spawn points, and other equipment which provides an advantage. You'll constantly be dividing your time between protecting your own power core, capturing nodes, fragging enemies, and trying to chip away at the opposing team's core. The inclusion of orbs makes this mode even more frantic. Both teams will have access to these helpful devices which allow you to instantaneously capture an enemy node by running into it with an orb in hand. With the orbs in play, you'll be required to keep a better eye on your captured nodes if you want to keep them intact. If an enemy drops an orb, you can sacrifice yourself to take it out by jumping on the thing like it was a grenade, which is pretty sweet.
Another major area where UT3 has made excellent gains is in its vehicles, which have doubled in number since the last game. There are some carry-overs from UT2004 such as the Goliath, Hellbender, Raptor, and Manta, among others. These older vehicles are given a slightly fresh look, and a few minor changes have been made to their weaponry and function. The Axon faction also gets a few new machines in the form of the heavily-shielded and destructive Paladin, a long-range self-propelled mobile artillery unit (SPMA), and the airborne Cicada. The best new rides can be found on the dark side. Aside from just looking badass, the Necris vehicles are a great addition to the action. Some of the Necris vehicles have similar functions to the Axon air and ground machines, but there a few which are insane. An early favorite is the Darkwalker. This behemoth is mounted on huge legs, and it's armed with slow-but-devastating twin laser cannons. The Nightshade is a cloak-able support vehicle capable of laying mines and other traps. Essentially a strange orb with tentacles, the Scavenger is a small and versatile ground walker which can deploy a protective drone.
It's quite possible to derive a good deal of enjoyment from playing UT3 on your own without ever setting foot online. The A.I. of the enemy bots can be manually adjusted - it's unfortunate the same can't be said for your teammates - to suit your ability level. On their easiest setting, the bots bumble around like morons practically waiting to be slaughtered. On their higher settings, you'll be swallowing mouthfuls of shrapnel. Still, UT3 is really meant to be played against human opponents locally or in online multi-player frag-fests. This is what the game's entire design is all about, and it's where you'll spend some quality time.
UT3 is visually stunning and the action is non-stop. It's hard to find much to seriously complain about once you drop in and start annihilating opponents in the huge number of high-quality maps with awesome vehicles and a variety of decent play modes. Epic doesn't reinvent the wheel here, but it does give players a fresh update on a classic old-school design that will keep you fragging long into the night. After a three year wait, fans may be a little disappointed by some of the changes (or lack thereof), yet on the whole UT3 delivers the goods. And it's damn good.
CCC Staff Contributor