Epic Games is widely known for creating the Unreal Engine, one of the video game industry’s most widely used tools for game development. This engine is named after one of the longest running first person shoot-em-up franchises out there. The Unreal series has been running strong since 1998, when the first title released on PC. Throughout the course of several titles, Unreal quickly became known for being one of the fastest and most over the top violent shooters available.
Unreal Tournament III is the first game in the series to hit next-generation consoles, releasing on PS3 and PC in late 2007, with an Xbox 360 version trailing into mid-2008, and for the first time, user created mods and maps are available on a home console. However, we’ll discuss this a tad later.
Beginning with what is ultimately the lowest point of the game, the single player campaign feels very redundant. Throughout the mission, you play as Reaper, leader of a squad of rough and ready combatants who are in a conflict against the Necris, an evil alien race that aims to destroy everything. Instead of a linear, point to point style mission system, UT3 opts to take you directly to each new battleground for a single round mission which is little more than a single player quick match against bots. These rounds are loosely tied together around a series of spoken dialogue explaining the importance of capturing certain flags or defending specific territories.
The games AI sometimes makes little sense, and in certain Capture the Flag maps, entirely too predictable. The prime example that on certain maps, the enemy will camp in certain spots waiting for you, and is always parked in the same spot until you pass by. While this doesn’t necessarily break the game or reduce its difficulty, it just nails in the fact that the single player campaign was given little thought.
Although the game lacks real depth and the sense of emotional attachment, it looks fantastic. It runs at 720p at a very steady frame rate and is home to some of the best looking textures on any game out there. Part of this being attributed to the fact that it is running on an engine that is named after the game itself. Unreal also boasts some of the craziest sound effects out there, with intense explosions and fighting that will make your speakers proud. This is one of the best looking games to hit the PS3 and definitely shows what the system is made of.
The beauty in this game comes from the grunge look of the environments as well as the amazing detail given to the textures and weapons. Each gun is intricately detailed and has two different modes of fire, each with a highly detailed animation. The guns in this game are on par with what we’ve seen out of Insomniac, which is quite the compliment.
There are also several vehicles making their way into the game, including several models from both the human and Necris factions. Each vehicle has a specific use and its own strengths and weaknesses. Also notable is the hover-board, which is very useful in certain situations as an alternative to hopping in a vehicle.
As for controls, there are several methods that can be utilized, giving the player incredible flexibility in how the game can be played. Using the controller works surprisingly well for a shooting game of this speed, and can be used either with or without Six-Axis functionality. The biggest surprise to me was that the lack of rumble didn’t seem to bother me as it has in other games; however, the rumble does work with Dualshock 3 controllers, not yet available here in America. As for those gamers who prefer the keyboard and mouse setup, the game fully accepts most USB setups, and does so very well.
For veterans of the series, the lack of true single player comes to no surprise, as the games multiplayer has always been its selling point. This is where any Unreal game shines. The game doesn’t stray into new modes, but is very polished at the usual ones. You will find several classic modes such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Duel, as well as Warfare and Vehicle Capture the Flag, which are two newer game modes that add a little spice to things.
There should be very little need to explain Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, as they are the same in Unreal as you’d expect in any game, its in some of the other modes that we find some really cool additions. Duel offers a one on one ladder match, so to speak. During this mode, there is a queue of players watching the match as it progresses, and as players get fragged, the recently deceased go to the end of the line and a new opponent spawns, making a round robin of fragging. Warfare, which used to be called Conquest is the combination of the past modes called Onslaught and Assault. In this mode there are several nodes across a larger map that must be taken in order to reveal the enemies Primary target, which must be destroyed in order to win. Vehicle Capture the Flag is basically an altered capture the flag with vehicles on the map.
Being one of the fastest paced games out there, the game runs surprisingly smooth over the network, with almost no lag and very few dips in frame rate. Even with a full room of 16 players, the game holds steady. Epic has opted to add a taunt system to the game, which allows you to belittle your opponent in one of five or six predetermined insults.
As for downloadable content, there is an endless possibility of new maps and mods, thanks to the compatibility of user created content. At the time of this review, the first maps have become available for download. As long as there is a community of players dedicated to the game, there will be a constant stream of new game modes and environments to give the game replayability and keep things fresh.
UPDATED: Sorry, we were not clear that we were not using a Dualshock 3 controller, thus we mentioned the current lack of rumble support here in North America. Sorry for the trouble. Due to the also constant issue of failed headset usage, at the time this review was being done, the online fix had not been added yet. Thus it was missed from the final entry. Sorry for the confusion.