Gaming Today Reviews Unreal Tournament III (PC)
The Unreal series isn’t really considered the grand-daddy of gaming; in fact, it’s more like the middle-aged uncle. But as some of you may know, a middle-aged uncle (who, in my case, lives out in the backwoods and has a surplus of guns and fireworks) can still be a lot of fun. The newest installment in the franchise, Unreal Tournament III, is finally out; and while it may show of the series’ age with its simple FPS gameplay, it can still provide an endless source of entertainment. Full review after the break.
The first thing you’ll notice about UTIII is that the graphics are phenomenal. The game comes from Epic Games, the same guys who made Gears of War, and they’ve carried over that high level of detail into this game. Everything from the characters to the levels to the weapons looks sharp even in the middle of a heavy firefight. The cut scenes are just as breath-taking and also expertly directed. I actually found myself wanting to see more cut scenes just because my eyes would be glued to the screen every time. The only drawback to this is you will definitely need a pretty powerful PC to get the game to run smoothly. That and some of the art seems a little too similar to Gears of War at times, which makes it feel like you’re playing an FPS version of that game (main character, James “Reaper” Hawkins, could pass for Marcus Fenix’s long lost brother).
The gameplay is typical for a run-and-gun FPS. Your goals are simple: grab bigger guns, grab armor and health packs, and shoot anything that moves. With UTIII though, all of this is executed perfectly. No two weapons are alike, and some of them are pretty inventive. Each one has a secondary fire mode as well, which is usually more powerful, but require more skill. Also, the weapons feel very well-balanced, so even if you have only the standard pistol and are up against someone with a rocket launcher, you still have a chance. Returning to the Unreal world are vehicles, which control quite smoothly. They all have their strengths and weaknesses too, so one skilled person in a vehicle won’t necessarily dominate the opposition. For example, the Axon SPMA can rain artillery down on foes from halfway across the map; but it has to be deployed in a fully stationary mode to do so, which leaves it almost a sitting duck. Some maps will also let you have at your disposal either a hoverboard — which lets you move around the map faster — and a “translocater.” The translocater lets you shoot a disc out and then teleport to where it lands, so you can reach high places and move across the map at a much faster rate.
The single-player campaign is more robust this time around, though in kind of a superficial way. Instead of playing a string of random tournaments for no apparent reason, now there’s a backstory about an alien conflict (also reminiscent of Gears of War) to piece these battles together. Through some clever, almost tongue-in-cheek story elements, everything from respawning to capturing a flag is explained as somehow being related to the new futuristic way of fighting wars. At certain points, you’ll get to choose between different missions. Winning certain side tournaments can earn you card, which can be redeemed to give yourself an edge in the next mission. The AI for your enemies and teammates is pretty solid for the most part, but you’ll find yourself questioning their actions at times; like when one of them grabs the enemy and then lingers for awhile collecting nearby ammo rather than running back to your base. That and the banter from them will get old pretty quickly, especially when your one sterotypically black teammate yells out, “Oh yeah! Clench those cheeks!” Thankfully, this can be remedied by allowing other people to join in the campaign with you at any time over the internet, since the game supports online co-op.
But the main meat of the game is the online multiplayer. UTIII offers a ridiculous amount of maps to choose from, which will hold your attention for quite awhile. Some are wide and expansive, while others are compact. There are also plenty of different game modes to choose from, like team deathmatch, capture the flag, and the new “warfare” mode, where you struggle for control points on the map that give you access to other vehicles and weapons. Good luck finding enough people to play anything other than a standard deathmatch though. Take note too: if you’re used to more realistic games, like Call of Duty 4, you will most likely get your ass handed to you at first. Stick with it though, and you’ll start to adjust. The game also comes packaged with the Unreal 3 Engine Editor, so expect to see even more maps and such from the modding community at some point.
About the only thing I can downgrade the game for is not bringing enough innovation to the table. Maybe I’ve gotten too used to FPS’s like Call of Duty 4 and Team Fortress 2 that require you to keep track of a whole lot of things and work on specific strategies, but just running around and blasting everything in sight seems more like a throwback to the late 90′s. The inclusion of vehicles is about the only thing that really changes up the gameplay from past Unreal Tournaments, and the rest is mostly the same game with improved graphics and new weapons. Still, that doesn’t really make it any less fun. This is the game that has lured me away from all the other high-caliber FPS’s out there for the time being, and that alone deserves merit.
Unreal Tournament III delivers everything it promises: classic FPS gameplay brought into the next generation, complete with almost everything you could ask for.
The graphics are just plain amazing, though you’ll need a top-of-the-line system for the game to run correctly.
Some of the voice acting can get annoying and downright ridiculous at times in the Campaign, but otherwise, everything sounds great.
The gameplay is fast and fun, but unfortunately not all that innovative from past Unreal Tournaments.
With the abundance of maps and online modes, not to mention the included Unreal 3 Engine Editor, it will be a long time before you run out of things to do with this game.
Despite its lack of innovation, Unreal Tournament III is a fun and gorgeous game. If you’re a fan of FPS’s and you’ve got the machine to run it, this game is a must-buy.