Review: Unreal Tournament 3 (Sony PS3)

Unreal Tournament 3
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Midway
Release Date: 12/11/07

Unreal Tournament 3, which is in reality the fourth Unreal Tournament game and either the seventh or eighth Unreal game in general (depending on whether you consider Unreal Championship a standalone Unreal title or a console port of Unreal Tournament 2K3) marks the return of the Unreal Tournament franchise after a three year hiatus following Unreal Tournament 2K4. Not that the Unreal franchise hasn’t been kicking around in the meantime, mind you, but with a three year absence, the overwhelming desire to cram a Flak Cannon into someone’s grill is substantial and cannot be denied. Epic has realized this thing, and with the creation of a brand new game engine (dubbed the Unreal 3 engine, natch) they’ve opted to release a new Unreal Tournament to go along with it, hence the 3 on the end of the title.

For some odd reason, there’s an actual story associated with UT3, though it’s generally not a terribly important one. You take on the role of Marcus Phoenix Reaper, who died protecting innocent people on some backwater hellhole from the Necris, the resident creepy goth race in the Unreal universe (insert Alex Lucard joke here). He ends up alive again for inadequately explained reasons, and decides that he’s all about seeking revenge upon them by way of jumping into various Unreal Tournament battles so as to get close to those responsible for his untimely demise. Really, the story is really only meant to serve as a backdrop for a bunch of single player missions so as to allow you, the player, to acclimate yourself to the game itself, and in that respect, it succeeds well enough; just don’t expect anything grand and you’ll be fine. This sort of game is really meant to be about the action anyway, and there are more than a few ways to get your frag on sufficiently, and in that respect, UT3 is a fine gaming experience, with multiple different gameplay modes available for online play as well as a solid standalone single player experience.

Visually, UT3 is quite impressive, thanks in large part to its wonderful graphics engine. But the visual designs of the characters and stages are also aesthetically pleasing, and are often either purely beautiful or beautiful by way of their hideousness (ruined husks of cities, for example, are quite pleasing in their own way). Granted, the game bears more than a passing resemblance to Gears of War (as both are running on the same engine), and ultimately feels less visually impressive in comparison, UT3 does certain things better than its predecessor (blood, for instance, no longer looks like Smuckers Jelly, so kudos for that). Aurally UT3 is mostly very impressive; the voice acting is all very much top notch thanks to some top-shelf talents, including MJ from Ultimate Spider-Man, Kratos from God of War, Wolverine, Luke Cage and Sliver Surfer from Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and Nathan Drake from Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. (I’d name their actual ACTING roles, but how many people are going to see “Sales Girl in Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and go “Oh yeah, I remember her! She was awesome!”?) And if anyone knows how to make gunfire sound appropriately powerful, it’s Epic, and with UT3, they’re once again made a game where firing off a heavy piece of imaginary weaponry is a viscerally pleasing experience to both the eyes and ears. On the downside, the music isn’t anything special, but it’s not like you’re playing UT3 for the haunting orchestral score; the music is some generic rockish music that works perfectly fine for blowing things up, and it does what it needs to do.

Anyway, you can have all the pretty explosions and wonderful effects in the world and if your gameplay isn’t up to par it doesn’t mean a damn thing, so it’s good to note that UT3 plays very well overall. The simplest way the gameplay can be described is by saying “it plays like Unreal Tournament”, and if that’s enough for you, skip down to the next paragraph. For the rest of you, this effectively means that it works like your standard “pre-Halo” FPS with a few of its own neat tricks. You move and look around with the two analog sticks, and the triggers control your firing, with each weapon having its own primary and secondary firing operations (for instance, the Flak Cannon fires a shotgun burst as its primary attack, while the secondary fire is a lob grenade of sorts). Instead of the Halo-esque regenerating health meter, you’re given a normal health and armor meter to monitor, and when they hit zero, buh-bye. There are multiple different weapons to choose from in each battlefield and each weapon is added to your arsenal, thus allowing for whatever weapons you can locate to be right at your fingertips whenever you feel you need them. It’s decidedly old-school, but that’s hardly a bad thing.

Which isn’t to say that UT3 doesn’t do a few new things, though how new they are depends on how many of the preceding titles you’ve played. Aside from running about trying to smite your foes on foot, UT3 also offers you a selection of vehicles you can ride around in, both in normal and Necris designs, from smaller jeep-like cars to hovercrafts to huge tanks, each of which does significant damage in its own right. For those who either aren’t playing in vehicle-based maps or don’t want to strap in, a hoverboard has been added that allows you to travel to locations at a much quicker pace, at the cost of your dignity. The various guns in UT3 are culled from multiple games in the franchise, so fans of the Impact Hammer and Tarydium Stinger should be pleased that they’re back, while fans of the Lightning Gun… well, sorry, you’re beat. The variety of weapons is actually pretty good, with each of the guns largely feeling different from one another to enough of an extent that you won’t feel like two or three of the guns are carbon copies of each other. The firepower also feels pretty well-balanced, and you’ll find yourself having your own personal favorites depending on your play style; none of the guns feel outright worthless and most have a sufficient amount of usefulness that makes any gun you get your hands on worth using in combat.

The various matchup types work very well as well, as they provide a decent amount of variety to the game experience and end up being pretty damn fun. Your standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are here, as well as your Capture the FLaG (don’t ask me, they’re the ones spelling it like that) and Vehicle CTF (I bet you can figure out how that works well enough). In addition, UT3 also offers a Duel option, which is essentially one on one warfare, more or less the FPS equivalent of PVP duels I’d suppose, where two of you go into an arena and smack the crap out of each other until someone dies. And finally, there’s Warfare, which is a very odd gameplay mode that involved linking nodes to opposing cores so you can blow up the enemy’s core; think of it as a combination of defending your base while playing King of the Hill and you have a good idea what to expect. Needless to say, the various modes and core gameplay combine into really solid online multiplayer FPS that’s a hell of a lot of fun to jump into at any point, and if you’re a fan of the ol’ online fragfest you’ll love the hell out of this.

Unfortunately… that’s about the extent of the game’s appeal. Now, with a game like this it’s really rather unfair to rag on the single player component when the multiplayer aspects are what’s bring all of the metaphorical boys to the yard, but it must be said: single player is quite uninteresting. Deathmatch and CTF game modes are generally fine, but your allies are… not very good at staying alive in these game modes, which more or less leaves you to pick up the slack more often than not, and if one of your bot teammates is going to grab the flag, you’re not really advised of this until they GRAB it, so by the time you’re in position to provide cover fire, they’re often dead. And Warfare can become an all-out nightmare if you’re not on the ball with squad commands and personal ass-kicking, as your allies are generally bad at keeping their own nodes as well as destroying the opposing core. So, no, you won’t really be playing single player very much. And while the online multiplayer is fun, five gameplay modes is kind of minimal, even with the various modification options to have bots running about and such; Resistance, for example, offers more gameplay modes in its online component (and more players online, to boot; UT3 can handle 32 players online, Resistance handles 40). The game modes are a lot of fun, absolutely, but a lack of variety hurts the overall replay value a bit. Also, the PS3 version will EVENTUALLY be able to accept mods much like the PC version can do now, but it’s unable to do so as of yet; when this is implemented, this will certainly bring you back over and over, but as of now, not so much.

Balance isn’t really an issue in UT3, either; your own personal skill will pretty much determine how well you’ll end up faring in combat, but the guns and vehicles all have their own personal uses and once you find your own style of play you’ll be able to hang well enough to have fun. If you’re a fan of online FPS titles in general, you’ll want to get your hands on this, and the fact that it’s one of a handful of good (temporarily) exclusive PS3 titles makes it that much more worth investing your cash in. Sadly, if you’ve been playing the various Unreal games for any significant period of time, you’re not going to be surprised in any way with what’s been done with UT3; it’s less about introducing new and different weaponry and match types and more about fine-tuning the working pieces into something really great. It DOES manage to do this, but if you’re looking for something new, y’aint gonna find it here, dude.

All told, UT3 is still a great time for FPS fans, if a somewhat limited one. The single player isn’t the best, and the online play can be limited, but to be completely fair, that’s not really a big deal. The multiplayer is fast and frantic and loads of fun, and the game has been tuned and tweaked so much that it ends up being one of the most balanced multiplayer-based FPS titles on the market. And hey, once the mods are available in full force, you won’t be able to find an FPS with more long-term replay value than what UT3 is bringing to your PS3… so long as you have a flash drive or something, anyway.

The Scores:
Story/Gameplay Modes: 6/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8/10
Control/Gameplay: 8/10
Replayability: 6/10
Balance: 8/10
Originality: 2/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10

Overall Score: 6.8/10
Final Score: 7.0 (GOOD).

Short Attention Span Summary
Epic scores big time on the PS3 with Unreal Tournament 3. Fast-paced online gameplay that’s addictive and massively fun makes this one a worthwhile addition to your library. The single player isn’t great, and it doesn’t do anything to reinvent the wheel, but it’s not like that’s a big deal; the gameplay is good times and if you’re at all an FPS fan, this is one game you don’t want to pass up.



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