Review by Fallen Horseman

Reviewed: 12/13/07 | Updated: 12/25/07

Unreal And Epic: Two Words That Perfectly Describe This Game

This game brings about another first experience for me. No, I’m not new to first-person shooters (FPS) but I am new to the critically acclaimed Unreal Tournament franchise which began a decade ago. With its rich history and high expectations, how well will the fourth entry into the franchise, named Unreal Tournament 3, compare to the many FPSs that have saturated the market? And is the new kid on the block as good as or even better than its predecessors?

Well, most gamers associate the Unreal Tournament series with spectacular online play. While this review will mention that later on, what most gamers seem to not realize is that there is a single player component to the game as well (albeit not as rich and engrossing as the online experience – more on this later on). With that said, this game also has a storyline that explains the events of the single player campaign.

You play as Reaper, the leader/member of a mercenary group that has just seen one of your inhabited planets get decimated by a Necris (monster/dog-like beings) invasion which almost results in your death. When you are healed from you injuries, you take a squad called the Ronin, and participate in a war that will help you get your revenge on the invading Necris for what they did. Along the way you will encounter other prominent characters to move the story along, such as the reigning Tournament champion as your commanding officer.

Of course this doesn’t seem to be as riveting as a Metal Gear Solid storyline but the Unreal Tournament series is not known for their single player (as already mentioned). It does do a good job explaining why certain characters/races can be playable. It also gives a sense of purpose as to why anyone would care about the single player experience and it provides incentives for any player to continue to play it.

Story aside, we now talk about the graphics of this game. Right from the start this game already has huge shoes to fill graphically. The developer of this game, Epic Games, also developed Gears of War, which is one of the standards of next-generation graphics. As one would undoubtedly guess, this will is a major issue in one of the things that will make this game great. Well, the graphics are marvellous. I personally have not played Gears of War but I have seen many gameplay videos on it. This game comes incredibly close to the detailing, lighting and art direction that Gears has. One thing I cannot say for the environments is the seemingly lack of personality that the environments feature. Of course in the end it is just a battlefield, but I would have liked to see some sort of characteristically different features that truly separate each map from one another.

One thing I would have also wish for, though I’m not holding it against the game itself, is destructible elements. The publisher, Midway, also released Stranglehold earlier this year (which I also reviewed) which had an unmatchable level of destructibility in their levels. I just though that with the massive amounts of destruction that can be had in this game, a little destruction in the environments here and there would really change the outcome of matches. With that said, the graphics in the game does not disappoint and it effectively gets the job done when providing a great gaming experience.

Now come the discussion of the game’s audio. Well I find this one of the low points of this game, though it’s not as bad as I make it sound. Again, this is my first Unreal Tournament experience so I don’t know how it was before but the audio is definitely not one of this game’s stronger points. There is a lot of repetitiveness to the audio. This comes mostly from the announcer and I guess it can’t be helped due to the nature of the game. While playing the game, you’ll continually hear things like “Double Kill” or “Killing Spree” which is all well and good – gameplay wise, but as you get better, you will hear this a lot. Also you will get repetition from your single player bots as they only seem to have a few lines to yell out, and they will yell this many, many times. There is also some audio troubles when you are getting tutored in some of the finer aspects of the game during single player such as explosions and gunfire drowning out explanations by characters.

It isn’t all bad for the audio in this game. The voice-acting is decent as well as the explosions and gunfire sound. The music is very fast-paced which goes well with the gameplay. Not to mention some of the dialogue will remind you of some of Midway’s other treasures (e.g. Mortal Kombat) when the announcer says “Flawless Victory”. There are a couple of voice selections per character that is used for taunting other players during the game which adds a little more depth and emotion to the character that you are using.

Now we get to the good stuff, which is of course, how the game plays. We’ll start off, as always, with the single player aspect of the game. Basically it’s the same with the multiplayer component, but with bots, so I guess there won’t be a lot to say about this area. I still have a few things to mention though. With your team, you can issue commands that will help you manage the game during the chaos that is ensuing in the battlefield. You can tell your squad-mates to defend an area, to cover you or to attack, etc. The only thing is, a lot of times, your squad isn’t very competent. You’ll find yourself having to pick up a lot of the slack to make sure that you have a chance at winning. There are also four different difficulties to test your mettle in. One thing that seemed incredibly weird to me was that even though you are playing single player, you NEED to be signed on to the Playstation Network. If you lose connection mid-way, you lose all your progress during the battle.

Let me start the multiplayer section by mentioning a major fact about this game that people seem to be griping about (not me though, but its just personal preference): There is no split-screen mode. Now to continue, this game is purely online, and that’s where it shines. Combat is fast and furious. Even some of the veteran FPSsers will probably have a little trouble adjusting to the speed of the game. There are a lot of things that are going on around you which is coupled with the lightning quick action that occurs. This combination ensures that the player is always at the edge of his seat and always aware of his/her surroundings. Teams are separated in blue and red. Games are very easy to join as one can use a quick search or a customized search. The game also features mouse and keyboard support for anyone wanting to use that instead of the Playstation 3 controller. The controls are fully customizable and are very easy to learn. I literally just jumped into the online experience and was killing opponents in very quick succession. It’s definitely one of those games that is very easy to learn, but difficult to master.

Unmentioned in the single player section is the variety of weapons at the player’s disposal. Though some of the weapons might seem regular, all of them can cause their fair share of damage. From the starter pistol to the rocket launcher, each weapon has a chance to kill. Some of the weapons are harder to master than others, but with a little bit of training, any weapon is dangerous, especially since most weapons have two different sets of attacks. There are also some power-ups that can be found to increase one’s killing power.

There are several game modes that can be played in this game. The first few are standard FPS fare such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag (and its variant, Vehicle Capture the Flag). The two other “standout” modes are the Duel and Warfare modes. In duel, the player will be pitted against another in 1 vs. 1 combat. The winner will stay and fight another challenger while the loser goes. Then we have the Warfare mode which is a little more complicated than the other modes of play. Your main objective is to destroy the enemy power core. But in order to be able to even touch the core, there is usually another core to capture first before any damage can be done to said main core. This will usually require more coordination and teamwork than the other modes. In the many maps of Warfare, there are many different ways of acquiring and destroying the cores such as having to get a tank to a certain area to open blast doors that contain the enemy core.

This is one of those games that will age well into the future. The replayability is massive, especially to fans of online multiplayer (like many of the Unreal Tournament games before this). This doesn’t even take into account the mod support that this game has, which, once it is up and running will ensure a newer experience every time the game is played. With stat-tracking and multiple game modes as well as the ability to mod the game, gamers will continually flock back to this game in many years to come.

So how does Unreal Tournament 3 stack up against the heavily saturated FPS market? Well, pretty good in my opinion. It is one of the best first person shooters to come out this year on multiplayer merit alone. With its amazing graphics, deep gameplay and the game’s longevity, this title is a well deserved purchase for any Playstation 3 owner. In everything it does, the game does it well. Even though I did not play any Unreal Tournaments before, I have heard from many a gamer that this game plays almost exactly as before. Like the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and Epic has not only kept the tried and true formula of previous incarnations, but they have brought the venerable franchise into the next-generation. I’m sure that the many Unreal Tournament fans will embrace this game as they did with the previous ones.

Next Gen Review #4: Unreal Tournament 3

- Great online experience
- Mod support
- Beautiful graphics
- Large replay value
- Many modes of play

- Repetitive audio
- Weak single player AI
- Lack of split screen

Story: 7/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 8/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Replay Value: 10/10

Overall (Not an average): 9/10

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Unreal Tournament III (US, 12/11/07)

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