Unreal Tournament III had a lot riding on its shoulders with the first person shooter’s debut on the Xbox 360. We were thrilled with it, from the sheer variety of modes, beautiful and varied maps to the 360 exclusive split screen mode.
The storyline is always of paramount importance in FPS games (tongue-in-cheek), and in this case the campaign sees the Necris threatening to destroy humanity, with only a few brave soldiers standing in the way. Although the cut-scenes are visually pleasing, the plot is really only there to scantily tie the missions together. They do a decent enough job but there’s no Oscar material here. Not that there should be either, while I do enjoy a good tale of humanity’s woe in their final hour of doom, a good FPS is really all about the action and that is something that is not lacking in this game.
From the get go you are thrown into the deep end and the learning curve is fairly steep. While the control system is intuitive and easy to pick up, unless you have played Unreal before, you may struggle to keep up with the objectives and find your way around the larger maps. With that being said, the game designers have thrown in visual aids to point you in the right direction. Arrows will appear after you re-spawn, highlighting where you should be heading next, and this, combined with on-screen and vocal directions, can go a long way to helping you out should you become disorientated.
Basic weapon handling is simple and you will delight at the choice of large guns that you can use to blow your enemies away with. To become a true master of a stage, you will need to get to grips with the hoverboard and the vehicles. Some of the maps are large and without these aids you will simply become frustrated. If you cut to the chase you don’t really want to retrace your steps back to the opponent’s base to capture their flag anyway, so hopping on the hoverboard gives you more time to engage the enemy and help out your team.
I had not played a team-based CTF type game since my PC gaming days and I will admit that I was somewhat hesitant at first to step back into this arena. Once in though, the late nights and early mornings of my lanning days came flooding back to me, and before long I was defending my base or protecting the flag-carrier like a pro. The game has an inherent sense of urgency that is always gnawing at you, egging you on to frantically complete the mission objectives.
Before each mission you will receive a detailed overview of what your objectives are. These can range from simply wiping out the enemy to capturing the flag or more advanced tasks involving securing power nodes. Each map has a time limit which keeps you motivated to get on with the job quickly. If you do fail, however, repeating the mission gets easier as you get to grips with the terrain, vehicle and weapons placements.
One of the highlights of the game for me was the split-screen mode. Always a social gamer at heart, this feature, which is exclusive to the 360 version of the game, appealed to me. There is a certain joy one gets embarking on a mission with your partner, teaming up to complete the objectives and pitting your wits against the AI. You will only really enjoy this feature if your TV screen is sufficiently large to ensure you are left with enough screen real estate to see what is going on when the bullets start flying.
Graphically UT III is near flawless with stunning maps that are varied in layout, size and use of colour. The weapons and characters are superbly detailed and most importantly everything meshes into a blazingly fast render. No matter what is going down, the environment is crisp and fluid.
While sniping has never been my favorite past time, I found a new friend in the UT III sniper rifle. It was easy to get to grips with and proved to be a lethal weapon on the larger maps. If you are new to the UT III universe you will be rewarded by the array of maiming options at your disposal. There is certainly something for everyone and there is a weapon/vehicle with your name on it. You can get by in the single player campaign fairly easily, however, try get into the habit of collecting items while traversing the maps, as it is vital to ensure your longevity as the next encounter is always just around the corner.
UT III’s replayability lies in the multiplayer aspect which certainly has sufficient depth to offer serious value for money. Be it Deathmatch, Capture the Flag or the new Warfare mode you can go to town online or lanning with your mates. Both the online and system link options provide for 2 to 16 players battles which will keep you sated.
A goose flesh raising bonus feature on the game disc is the Gears of War 2 Multiplayer Video. This offers an in-depth video preview of Gears of War 2. It literally took our breath away watching Cliff Bleszinski walk us through the new maps, modes and weapons in the upcoming sequel.
Pros: Split screen; fast paced; stunning visuals; game play modes.
Cons: Single player plot; nothing really new added to the series.