When men were men and mice had balls
Unreal Tournament 3
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, (Xbox 360 in the future)
Price: $49.99 PC (Shop.Ars) $59.99 PS3 (Shop.Ars)
Rating: M (Teen)
Unreal Tournament 3 feels like an anachronism. Back in the glory days of competitive first-person shooters, it was all about speed, reflexes, and having the best route through each map. Get the health, get the best weapons, and be able to nail a moving target with a headshot. The days of Quake and Unreal were great for those of us with gaming ADD; I used to put on headphones and blast my favorite metal songs while blowing away my friends. I could get all out my aggression in about a half an hour playing those games.
Then something happened. Things slowed down. Vehicles were put in. People were expected to play in large teams, hang back, use their "classes." The change that games like Battlefield 1942 brought to multiplayer games was an interesting shake-up, but then everything went that way. It's been a while since we've had a game that was all reflex, that was a mad dash to your favorite weapon, where you could download a new map or gametype every day if you wanted to.
I'm too awesome to notice that Darkwalker behind me.
Unreal Tournament 3, even with its odd name (it comes after Unreal Tournament and apparently combines Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Tournament 2004 as Unreal Tournament 2, while leaving the single-player games aside), doesn't really have to do much as a game for it to get a hearty "buy" recommendation. With any of the Unreal games you're basically buying the latest iteration of the Unreal engine, with a few examples of what it can do. Sure, the out-of-the-box experience usually delivers some amazing thrills, but the real value is what amateur coders and enthusiasts will do with the game using the robust editors and tools. You'll be playing free, high-quality Unreal Tournament 3 content for at least the next two years; if the game came with an empty box and an engine license, it would still be a good deal.
But we can't review based on potential, even ifamazing stuff is already online. We're going to look at what the game is like now, as well as look at how the game is blazing its own trail on consoles. On the PC, this is an incredibly strong, almost old-school shooter. On the console, it's breaking down barriers.
Everyone moves faster, everything is slower
Ironically enough, those of us who spent way too much time playing Unreal Tournament 2004 will have a harder time getting a feel for UT3 than newcomers. The flack cannon isn't nearly as powerful or as fast. Neither is the rocket launcher. The minigun feels more powerful. Watching how easily nimble opponents can double-tap the A or D button to jump out of the way of the slower rockets while pumping you full of enforcer rounds is a humbling experience. It's still a twitch fest, but spamming rockets isn'tthe easyroad to success.
You'll have plenty of time to figure all this out in the campaign mode, a single-player experience that takes you through the new game modes and maps while explaining what's going on. While this is a good way for rookies and veterans alike to get proficient in the game, the dogged determination to explain why a war is being fought like a first-person shooter is campy at first, then just mildly annoying. The "Field Lattice Generator" that's so important? Yeah, it's the flag. FLaG. Get it? I don't know why the game can't just calm down and be a game, but it's at least amusing in its earnestness.
Still, it's worth it to go through at least a few of the missions in the campaign mode just to figure out what's up. To make the process a little bit more tolerable, you can play with others against the PC-controlled bots in a kind of single-player co-op mode. This can be a good way to learn some tactics while not at the mercy of another human team, and it's a very welcome feature, especially considering how the teammate AIfalls apart in objective-based maps.
At first,Unreal Tournament 3might seemjust a cosmetic upgrade to an already old formula, but once you start to really dig in, you get a sense for how much things have changed and how different the playing field now is.