Having a Bloody Go on 360
Epic Games’ Unreal Tournament series has been pleasing FPS fans for nearly ten years. The franchise is known for its frantic shooting action and smooth, online multiplayer support. Unreal Tournament 3 (UT3) had a staggered release for PC and then PS3 in late 2007, and the title was well received by both the public and critics on both platforms. It’s been nearly eight months since then, and the Xbox 360 version compiles all the supplemental content and includes five new exclusive maps, new characters, and two-player split-screen support.
UT3 is almost exclusively an online shooter. In fact, the single-player offering is so meager that it is little more than a glorified tutorial. As such, I’m not even going to take more time describing said mode. Needless to say, those who purchase this title must have access to a high-speed internet connection and Xbox LIVE Gold. The multiplayer goodness to be found in UT3 for 360 includes six modes of play, online and offline, two-player split-screen support, five exclusive maps, and a surfeit of servers to ensure quality connections.
The technical aspects of multiplayer in UT3 are unmatched. At the time of review, we never once had difficulty connecting to games, were only dropped once, experienced ZERO lag, had tons of matching options, and thoroughly enjoyed the logical menu layouts.
I also really appreciated the flexibility of the new split-screen features. For starters, two players can actually play together online from the same console because guest functionality is offered. Astoundingly, this isn’t standard in all games (yes, I’m looking at you, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare!). What’s more, two different gamertags can be signed in and you can both accrue achievements.
Multiplayer game modes include Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Duel, Capture the Flag, Vehicle Capture the Flag (VCTF), and Warfare. These modes should be immediately familiar to all except the FPS uninitiated. Warfare, however, is the only mode that may seem foreign because of a few twists. Basically, Warfare, as in other FPS titles, is all about territorial dominance. The first team, Red or Blue, to drain the power from the other team’s Power Core wins. Along the way, teams will try to secure Nodes, essentially expanding their area of control. Controlling Nodes also gives teams the advantage of draining their enemy’s Power Core, nullifying its shields, and opening up new vehicles and spawn points.
Finally, the UT3 online community is vibrant! Chatter on mics is almost non-stop, and often I found conversations to be hilarious. All UT3 players seem to be up for a good time, and there are always loads of them in every game mode available.
Despite UT3 online multiplayer’s technical excellence, after extended playtime, it became clear that it is not my kind of shooter. For the record, I’m not a Halo fan either. Don’t get me wrong, UT3 is a very compelling experience that I had a ton of fun with. However, it’s not as precise or demanding as many other online shooters out there. This stems from UT3’s weapon selection, pace of play, lack of cover, and paltry statistic tracking.
The armament with which players can choose is composed of futuristic designs that try to make up for their inaccurate, tiny reticules with large explosions and secondary effects. Nowhere is this more evident than it is in a gun called Redeemer, which deploys tactical mini-nukes. Also, the game’s few standard weapons (pistol, mini-gun, and sniper rifle), are made obsolete by the vast array and sheer quantity of available big guns. Honestly, if you’re trying to use the pistol against an opponent with a rocket launcher, you might as well be brandishing a butter knife. Additionally, trying to find a somewhat sheltered perch and managing the woefully implemented zoom of the sniper rifle just screams disaster. This is where the game lost me. Futuristic weaponry just doesn’t have the gritty appeal of an assault rifle. Consequently, the game kind of feels like a ‘roided out Ratchet & Clank.
Pace of play in UT3 is off the charts. This is both a plus and a minus for the title. For starters, it does produce a frantic euphoria among combatants that definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. Stringing three or four kills together definitely feels good, and the onscreen notification system that lets everyone know who’s boss is very rewarding. However, accumulating frags tends to be more a question of twitch reflexes rather than skill. That’s probably why many guns have an explosion or ricochet effect to help compensate for the uncanny speed (I’ve never seen anyone run that fast while going backward).
Moreover, though level design, on the whole, is very compelling, the lack of cover never allows players to stop running. Subsequently, frontlines and bottlenecks never really form except occasionally in the Warfare game mode. Finally, there’s no consequence for dying. Sure, it will hurt your team’s chances in Deathmatch, but players aren’t publicly humiliated for their careless play and re-spawning antics. That’s because only frags (kills) are tracked, not the amount of times the N00b died before they got their four measly kills.
Fortunately, the game is blessed by some amazing graphics. As one would expect, the creators of Unreal Engine 3 know how to use their tool. With the amount of action onscreen, it’s amazing there isn’t any shuddering, and the maps and environments are frequently breathtaking. The sounds are also quite representative of the varied guns and high speed action, but the voice over work is utterly forgettable. Thankfully, the controls are about as good as they can be for a console FPS. My only complaint would be that once mounted in vehicles, it becomes very clunky indeed. In fact, I always let fellow team members deal with the frustration.
Unreal Tournament 3 is a solid first-person shooter marked by exceptionally smooth multiplayer support. Plus, the community of players that gamers who purchase the game will be joining is outstanding. If you’re looking for a simple title to get your blood pumping, then UT3 may be just what the doctor ordered. However, players looking for greater complexity and realism must look elsewhere.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
Absolutely outstanding! With the amount of action onscreen, it’s amazing there isn’t any shuddering, and the maps and environments are frequently breathtaking. 4.2 Control
On foot, the game controls really well. However, once mounted in vehicles, it becomes very clunky. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are quite representative of the guns and action, but the voice over work is utterly forgettable. 3.7 Play Value
The low level of difficulty, poor single-player experience, and gimmicky, futuristic arsenal make the game shallow. Nevertheless, the vibrant community and diverse online modes make it quite enjoyable overall. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.