disillusions.


[Triggs] Game Review: Unreal Tournament 3 by Triggs
January 16, 2008, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Gaming

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2007 has been a bumper crop for the gaming industry. Playstaion 3 is slowly taking its deserved dominating position in the console market, despite having yet to release heavyweights like Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, Kingdom Hearts, and the king of kings Final Fantasy. The Wii has also lived up to expectations, with smash hits like the latest incantation of Super Smash Bros and Super Mario Galaxy. The 360 also has its fair share of blockbusters, and with 8800s selling like hot cakes, the PC isn’t just about to lose out.

So that brings us down to the various genres of games. The RPG sector is stellar, bringing us Granado Esparda, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, and the game that wouldn’t die: World of Warcraft. RTS has a great showing too, with the expansion of Company of Heroes and the legendary Command and Conquer. Action has upped the ante as well, giving us Ninja Gaiden Sigma and God of War 2. Yet the real winner is the FPS sector. Brilliant stand-alones like the now legendary Bioshock and the visual treat Crysis are joined on shelves by new installments of hall of famers like Half-Life 2, Team Fortress, Call of Duty, Halo, and Medal of Honor. As 2007 reared its dying head, another phoenix, slumbering for over three years, finally awoke and basked radiant glory. Its name is Unreal Tournament.


The golden ‘U’ within a circle has been synonymous with fast-paced, high adrenaline, high intensity, and highly gory first-person action since its inception in 1998. Ten years down the road, it still doesn’t fail to disappoint, serving up doses of octane and bloody filled hours of pure entertainment.

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Serving up a decent dose of minigun lead
The latest incantation, Unreal Tournament 3, is actually the fourth game of the series, but I guess the ‘3’ is meant to symbolize it as a 3rd generation Unreal game (UT 2003 and 2004 were considered 2nd generation Unreal games). Despite a new single player campaign, the focus of the game is still on the multiplayer aspects. Link up with others over internet of LAN or duke it out with some of the best A.I. bots in the market. There’s still the classic Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag (CTF).

A new map mode which I find particularly intriguing is the Warfare mode. It’s pretty similar to Onslaught on UT 2004, with two teams having to invade the enemy’s base and take out a central core, capturing nodes along the way to disable the cores defenses, although the new addition of an orb which allows for instant capturing of a node gives increases strategic play into the mode. Stalemates can be broken pretty easily with the small ball of metal, bringing an increased priority on killing the poor sod with the golden snitch.

Certain Warfare maps also include separate support nodes which give the team controlling them benefits like additional firepower in the form of turrets, or additional speed by giving them a leviathan to zip to the other side of the map with. Again this emphasizes the need for more tactical play and not just running around with big massive guns killing other people. Pick up public groups usually end up being overwhelmed by the flood of info and tactics and the games usually pump way into overtime.

Vehicles also make a triumphant return. Mantas, Goliaths and Scorpions are spawned in various locations in certain maps to help you gain the upper hand. A whole slew of new vehicles based on the Necris race, like the Viper (which I’ve personally never tried myself, but have been rammed over several times).

While we’re at it, I’m going to rant about everyone’s sudden obsession with tripods. First it was Tom Cruise and his War of the Worlds. The Command and Conquer and Half Life 2 decided to chip in with the Annihilator and the Strider. And now, UT’s thrown in their share with the Darkwalker. It by far has one of the highest mobility ratings, and a ridiculously high powered laser attack. Unfortunately it’s also tall and you stick out like a sore thumb, inviting rocket launcher users to take potshots.

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That is a Darkwalker. This is a situation
you do not want to be in.

A new innovation brought in is also the Hoverboard (Power Rangers in Space anyone?). It gives a massive movement boost, and allows you to hook onto a vehicle for a ride, but even the slightest amount of damage suffered knocks you right off the board, leaving you a sitting duck. Still, in CTF maps where mobility is key, the Hoverboard is invaluable.

Vehicles also have a game mode to themselves; the new Vehicle Capture the Flag (VCTF) is essentially CTF but in a huge map such that walking is not a feasible option. Instead, it’s choke full of vehicles begging you to take them out for a spin. In simple terms, the side with the most vehicles in service wins; kind of brings you back to C&C Renegade and ye ole’ de_jeep. This is often the favored map for adept players not playing with their clans. They want a more strategic game, but doing Warfare in a public group usually leads to suicide.

The single player campaign is pretty dull, little more than a five hour tutorial. Picture this: your colony has been attacked by the Necris dudes, and you want revenge. Sounds like something out of a low-rate Japanese movie starring the Yakuza. The storyline wants to convince you its epic, but it really isn’t; and the cinematics do little more than serve as breathers between matches, and show off the game’s excellent graphic engine.

Fortunately that’s one part that really hits the jackpot. The sprite polygons, explosions, and map textures are top notch, losing out notably only to Crysis. Special mention must go to the amazing attention to detail. Stop for awhile to investigate the globs of goo your Bio Rifle left on the corridor walls and you’ll find it pretty easy to believe that was radioactive acidic goo. Also, take a dive into one of the many acidic pools in selected maps and check out the coagulated blobs of green biohazard waste; just don’t stare too much and get killed.

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Note the background graphics. This is one of
the most visually appealing maps

There’s also a map builder, which I personally haven’t tried but it seems to be pretty user friendly, ranking alongside Blizzard’s World Editors in the Craft’ franchise. This will pretty much ensure we have a steady stream of fresh fan-made custom maps which are so important to keeping a game alive (Counter Strike, Warcraft 3 etc…), so we can expect a pretty good UT3 following for the next year at least.

One of the things I particularly appreciated about UT3 is that they kept it more or less the same as its predecessors, as such anyone who has a decent amount of UT experience from any other UT (UT Gold from 99 included) will have little trouble adapting. Retro has been the way to go this year, with C&C 3 hitting an underground gold vein by re-using a tried and tested formula. The weapons have changed little, with minor tweaks here and there; the only one with a significant revamp seems to be the rocket launcher, which can now fire its rockets as grenades in addition to the usual one shot, three spread shot and spiral.

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All hail the legendary
Rocket Launcher.

Ultimately the one which found its way back onto my favorites list was the Flak Cannon. Whilst the guns in UT3 are all finely balanced (other than maybe the Redeemer mini nuke-launcher), the Flak Cannon has a special place in my heart because I feel it symbolizes what the UT franchise has been bringing to us for a decade. The Flak Cannon is a crude, barbaric, yet effective gun; something you really don’t want to get killed by in real-life situation. Planting the shrapnel from a Flak Shell into someone almost always ensures he gets ripped into a shower of bloody bits, as you pause to admire in sadistic glee, then go off to find another victim.

In a same way, that’s what UT is all about: fast paced, slick, barbaric, almost vulgar action that appeals to the murderous psychopath within each of us. Most other video games try to seem ethical, with heroic alien-battling super soldiers engaging in mortal combat, or by taking a scene from today’s ongoing War on Terror. Midway studios did none of that. They decided a long time ago that they’d throw ethics and morals out the window and just give us the part we paid for: tearing other human beings to shreds.

I can almost hear the Midway employee passing a customer his copy of UT3: “We’ve given you a ridiculously big gun and several dozen hapless targets to use them on. We’ve also bribed everyone on the UN Human Rights Council and murdered any anti-violence activist who dared to voice out his opinion. Enjoy sir, and have a great day.”

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