Unreal Tournament has always been a flagship multiplayer FPS for PC gamers, with its terrific pace and innate playability providing one of the best FPS multiplayer experiences on the PC. Now, Unreal Tournament has been bought to the Playstation 3, complete with next gen graphics, new vehicles and weapons, but with the core gameplay still intact. And we at TSA have to say, ‘good lord, this is fantastic!’
Before we go ahead, forget everything you know about console FPSs. This is not a generic console FPS, it is, as the name implies, Unreal. It is not meant to be realistic, so it doesn’t even try. However, Unreal Tournament has never been a game that is supposed to be played single player, and it still isn’t. There is a storyline, one of those ‘aliens are invading, fight them off’ storylines, but the single player missions themselves are essentially multiplayer matches against bots. The storyline justifies this by saying ‘they respawn when you kill them, you must kill them a certain amount of times so they run out of respawners’ and throws you into a team deathmatch. In UT3, you play as the leader of a four man (three men, one woman) mercenary team called Ronin, who are fighting for humanity’s survival. Before each mission, whilst the screen is loading, your leader will give you a reason why you’re about to do the mission in a gruff, manly voice, which provides a small back-story to the area you’re fighting in, who you’re fighting and why you’re fighting them. It should also be noted that you can play the campaign via online co-op for 4 players, also.
The cut-scenes between some of the missions look very impressive, particularly the opening cinematic when you start a campaign, they really do showcase UT3’s engine very well, and the characters during these cut-scenes look almost real, the light shines on their skin very realistically, and their facial expressions are similarly impressive.
The in-game graphics are just as good. The environments are stunningly detailed, the characters look amazing, and, whilst it may be cliché to talk about water effects, the water here looks amazing. The vehicles are mind-blowing, both their design, their look and the way they work. The Darkwalker walks on tentacles, about 15 feet higher than any other vehicle, and the way it moves is so realistic-looking it’s almost scary. If you step off a high walkway on the Darkwalker, the tentacles lower you to the ground below, and it’s scary how real it looks. The vehicles are all superbly balanced in gameplay, too. You can take a Darkwalker out in a Manta, if you’re good enough, or you can defeat it out with a rocket launcher, because it’s slow as hell – but if you get hit by the beams you’re not getting back up, because you’ll be in several small pieces splattered all over the wall behind you.
There’s also an instant action mode, which is a multiplayer battle against bots, which is great for practicing, getting used to maps and for general messing around in, you can pick the mode, map, how many bots and how skilled they are, and any mutators (add-on plugins you can download for free, such as 3rd person view or double-wielding).
Now we get to where Unreal Tournament games excel, and UT3 is no exception. The multiplayer is as fast, action packed and as fun as it always has been. There are six game types, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Vehicle Capture the Flag, Warfare and Duel. Don’t forget there’s also online co-op in campaign mode too. Many UT veterans will miss the Assault mode that featured in older UT games, but there’s still more than enough to be getting along with. Other than Warfare, you probably already know what these modes are, but just in case; in Deathmatch, you kill everyone and the person with the most kills wins, in Team Deathmatch, you’re in two teams, Red and Blue, and you must kill the opposite team, the team with the most kills wins. In Capture the Flag, you’re in the two teams again and you must capture the other teams flag, by running to their flag, picking it up, then running through your own flag – Vehicle Capture the Flag adds vehicles into the mix, but you can’t use a vehicle if you’ve got the flag, to make it more interesting.
Duel is exactly what you’d expect, 1 vs 1 matches, in as small an area as you can find. Warfare is the mode that many people may be unfamiliar with: you’re in teams again, but this time, you have no flag to capture. Instead, you have to destroy the enemy’s core (which is a large spherical object in the enemy’s base). To do this, you must capture nodes to make a pathway to the enemy’s base (you capture nodes by neutralising them if necessary (by shooting them) then walking through them and waiting for it to finish – you can speed this part up (or fix one of your own nodes) with the secondary fire on the link gun, then blasting the enemy core as much as possible. Bear in mind the other team will be doing the same, so these matches can get pretty intense.
In both vCTF and Warfare modes, vehicles are available. These vehicles are, as we’ve previously said, very well designed and balanced, not to mention terrifying at times. When you’ve just got the enemy’s flag and you’re running back towards your own to capture it, nothing makes you shout ‘oh shit!’ more than seeing the enemy’s Darkwalker ahead of you, or an rival Scavenger suddenly appearing from around the corner. Similarly, nothing feels better than doing than taking the Darkwalker or the Scavenger out with your trusty rocket launcher. It’s a great feeling. Also, if you can use vehicles, that means the hoverboard is enabled – pressing square will put you on a hoverboard which is considerably faster than walking and you can jump higher too. You can also grapple onto any vehicles and tag along, which is even faster – be careful though, if you get shot when you’re on a hoverboard you’ll fall off and drop any flag or sphere you’re carrying.
Now, not only are the maps, vehicles and weapons very well designed – with all the classic UT weapons returning, with a few additions, like the slow field, which makes a big-ish square of what looks like next gen jelly that slows everything inside it whilst looking very damn cool, but UT3 is, as you may have heard, user moddable.
Maps, weapons, vehicles and skins can all be created by the user on a PC, then cooked for the PS3. This is the first console to enable such user modification, and it definitely won’t be the last. There are already some great mods and maps out, from a Masterchief skin to annoy the 360 owners to some fantastic looking levels that could pass as maps that came with the game – there is plenty of choice already, with more coming out all the time. For mods, maps and the like, TSA recommends www.ut3mod.com, which has a large collection of worthwhile maps, mutators, weapons mods and vehicle mods that are all rather impressive.
So, altogether, considering that UT3 is primarily a multiplayer game, but still provides you with offline modes that can occupy a lot of your time, complete with fantastic graphics and sound, and gameplay that’ll knock you off your seat, UT3 is definitely worth your money if you can play it online. If you can’t, however, it might be better to go with an FPS that that has more of a single player emphasis, unless you’re happy with battling the bots, which are sufficiently skilled to provide a challenge, especially on the higher difficulties, but are no substitute for the real thing.