Epic Games’ Unreal Tournament III for the PLAYSTATION 3 is a game of many firsts including:
- First game Epic Games developed for the PLAYSTATION 3
- First true demonstration of the Unreal Engine 3.0 on the PLAYSTATION 3
- First next-gen console first person shooter to feature mouse and keyboard support.
- First game to feature user created modifications on a console.
- First Unreal Tournament game to remain relatively intact from PC to consoles
- And more…
As you can see, Unreal Tournament III (formerly known as Unreal Tournament 2007) is quite the “revolutionary” game for the console world, but aside from all these bells, whistles and technical flare, how does the game itself stack up? Do the visuals (as Epic claimed) exceed those of Epic’s Gears of War for the XBOX 360? Is the single player a real single player? Is mod support working? I spent time and sought the answers to these questions and here are my findings.
First and foremost, the single player in UT3 is nothing more than multiplayer skirmishes with bots bookended with cutscenes and audio commentary about a war you and your squadmates are “waging”. Mark Rein told us not to expect a Gears of War campaign, but I had no idea they were going to be so lazy about it. They did not even remove the “You have won the match” message at the end of each stage. Admittedly, the cutscenes were well made with some of the best character models rendered with the Unreal Engine 3.0. The voice work was also well performed complete with Malcolm resembling MC Hammer. I just wish the dialog itself was worth a damn.
Despite the disappointing single player component, I did finish it on normal difficulty. I will save you from grief and suggest playing through the campaign on the normal difficulty since the bots are not very intelligent outside the basic deathmatch scenarios. Mark was right about the single player campaign being a useful tool for introducing new players the maps and gametypes though. By the end, I was at least familiar with all the maps and how they work. As for the ending, it had a predictable twist and a cliffhanger to boot. Does this mean a sequel in 2008 or 2009? I hope not. The last thing I want is another UT2003 and UT2004 debacle.
Gameplay wise, PS3 owners should be pleased that very little was altered in order to squeeze UT3’s fast paced action into the PS3. The most notable change was the gameplay speed which was reduced (by approximately 20%) in order reduce hand cramps when using the dual analog controllers. (Don’t worry, the action is still a lot faster than most console shooters.) I actually appreciate the reduction in speed as it allows for more opportunities to soak in all those dark themed visuals and I have some idea where my enemies are coming from as well. Aside from the gameplay speed, UT3’s gameplay feature set is identical to the PC version.
Folks seeking innovation in UT3’s gameplay will be disappointed. In fact, the gameplay additions found in UT2004, such as the adrenaline combo system, were completely ditched in UT3. Epic’s goal was to “streamline the UT” experience. In an effort to streamline the number of gametypes, UT3’s multiplayer and single player consists of:
- Team Deathmatch
- Capture the Flag
- Vehicle Capture the Flag
Bombing Run was removed and Assault mode was apparently melted into Warfare mode, but I have yet to see signs of it. Warfare is more like a remix of UT2004’s Onslaught mode. Nodes must be captured in order to unlock the enemy’s core. Once the core is exposed, your team must destroy it through any means necessary. The concept sounds simple, but it is surprisingly teamwork oriented. To differentiate itself from UT2004’s Onslaught mode, Epic added the ability to instantly liberate the nodes with power orbs, use personal hoverboards to traverse great distances and grapple onto the back of vehicles for rapid transit.
For those who are hoping for some local split screen support, UT3 will disappoint in this regard. As for other multiplayer options, apparently there is online co-operative campaign mode (ie: people vs bots), but I did not bother with it. LAN support is available for those who wish to relive the old days with other PS3 owners.
Fears concerning Unreal Engine 3.0’s performance on Sony hardware can be put to rest since Epic have worked wonders with UT3. On a technical level, UT3 is one of the best games on the PS3 to date with very impressive texture and lighting work. Epic also kept their promise and delivered a silky smooth 30 frames per second framerate to accompany the high quality visuals. One tip though, I insist that gamers install the game onto the PS3’s hard drive (found in the options menu) to mitigate the load times and the texture pop ins which occur after the initial loading of levels.
The world of UT3 is rather dark and dreary. The colorful nature of UT2004 was replaced with a “color” palette which can only come from the Crayola Emo pack. Fortunately, weapons, items and characters contrast well with environment. It is almost like Epic created this contrast on purpose. Players can change the post processing filters to give the game a more vibrant finish, but that option can only do so much. Some people will like the darker themed world, some will despise it. I am tolerant of it.
The iconic announcer voice of the UT series returns, but now it is limited to to preset flavours depending on the gametype. I wanted to hear the “sexy announcer” voice and all her orgasmic glory at all times, but alas I could not. The rest of the audio was well done for the most part. The soundtrack was well mixed, but often underused since it only made itself heard during battle situations. Rockets still sound like rockets, the sound of flak cannons shredding bodies is still as satisfying and, most importantly, the bots are still annoying with their one liners.
Even though Epic made UT3 completely playable with a dual analog controller, they decided to include keyboard-mouse support as well. Thank you, Epic! For the most part the support worked as intended, but I experienced a few issues concerning mouse movement and acceleration speeds. No matter what I did, I could not configure it to mimic the mouse behavior on the PC. Before anyone gets their panties in a knot about balance, Epic allows for filtering of games with or without keyboard-mouse support.
Key remapping was available for both the SIXAXIS controller and the keyboard-mouse combination. Unfortunately, a few functions, such as the crouch command, were unmappable thanks to an oversight on Epic’s part. I know crouching rarely used in UT, but I should be able to remap it from the default ‘C’ key. In addition, the keyboard-mouse combination does not function properly without a SIXAXIS control present. If the controller was not present, the game will nag about syncing one in. If you were hoping to leave a controller on and navigate the menus via the keyboard or mouse alone, forget it. Certain submenus, such as the “Custom Keys” menu, are inaccessible without the aid of the triangle or square buttons from a controller. Another oversight by Epic? Hopefully it will be addressed.
Mod support is a large part of the UT series and to have the functionality come over to the PS3 is something I thought I would never see. Thankfully, Sony is rather open with their platform and to the idea of user created content. The creation of mods requires the PC version of the UT3 and its Unreal Editor, however, at the time of writing, creating content compatible with PS3 is not possible without an update to the Unreal Editor. According to Epic, the update has been delayed due to “issues“. In the meantime, Epic stepped up and delivered some noteworthy community created mods via their internal “PS3 ready” version of the Unreal Editor.
The actual process of installing the mods is as simple as loading pictures onto the PS3 via removable media; it is definitely not worth causing a hoopla over. Clever folks even created a system where users can download the mod via the PS3’s built-in Internet Browser. So far, the additional maps and mutators are nice freebies, but I look forward to the first full conversion mod to show up. That is when the real mod party begins.
I picked up Unreal Tournament III for the PLAYSTATION 3 and knew exactly what I was getting: a simple, good looking, great running, instant action first person shooter. Unreal Tournament III is one of those games I can just drop in and frag a dozen people or so and not have to worry about stats (even though they do exist). Community created mods and Epic Games’ continued support will hopefully keep the game fresh and exciting throughout the months and years. So, if you can ignore the fact that this game lacks a real single player component and enjoy a bit of simple fun, Unreal Tournament III is easy to recommend.