Unreal Tournament has been a huge success on the PC platform for many years and now Xbox 360 owners are getting their first taste with Unreal Tournament 3 which was released on the PS3 and PC last winter. Thankfully the new Xbox 360 version is, for the most part, worth the wait.
Unreal Tournament has been so popular throughout the years because the gameplay is so fast and frantic and this carries over into the latest Xbox 360 incarnation. Unfortunately the game has to be played with the dual stick pad rather than the keyboard and mouse support that the Playstation 3 version offered. When I initially heard this, I was shocked to find out that the Microsoft console did not offer the same control method. To be fair the pad method works reasonably well until you are moving vehicles in close proximity or switching weapons in the heat of battle, however it really would have been nice to have the option.
Changing weapons on the pad is handled by the left and right bumpers which is again slightly more cumbersome than the keyboard or mouse wheel. The right bumper cycles you forward in the payload while the left one calls up a circular style menu for selection. I preferred the left bumper after getting used to it, however neither method is a patch on the keyboard and mouse configuration, veterans of the game will find this extremely clumsy.
Vehicles are something that have been around in Unreal Tournament for a while and they are again present in UT3. Players of Halo will find the control system immediately recognisable as it is almost identical. You point your target to a position then push forward on the left stick and the vehicle will make its way there. The only problem with this control methodology is that in tight spaces it proves cumbersome as there is a lack of fine control. Negatively you can also not swivel the cannon on a tank while moving in a different direction.
I have got the problems out of the way first and thankfully the game is not all bad, because once you look past some of the control problems the game plays exceptionally well. Picking up the controller most experienced gamers will immediately find themselves at home.
The Xbox 360 version of Unreal Tournament 3 is supplied with all three of the maps released so far on PC and PS3 as downloadable content as well as an additional five exclusive levels just for 360 users. The variety of these maps is a little lacking to be honest and they are quite disappointing.
All the game modes are available, such as Warfare, Vehicle CTF and Team Deathmatch. These are all great fun especially the Deathmatch game which is a personal favourite due to the frantic action. There are eight different bot skill levels which should make the game enjoyable for everyone.
The single player game is still pretty much fun in short bursts but proves inconsequential when compared to the multiplayer aspects, however it could be argued that due to the improved bot skill levels the game now plays slightly better than the previous versions. The lack of storyline is to be expected, however this time around I found myself slightly more involved with the characters than before. I can’t really put my finger on it, but the single player game seems more cohesive. Of course the single player game at the end of the day are just basically glorified bot matches, but they are enjoyable.
As well as the single player campaign and the multiplayer modes, there is Instant Action which lets the player jump into any of the six game modes on a map of choice. You can also set the goal score, time limit, the faction of the opposing bots and if the players should be forced to respawn. There are also a set of nine mutators (not as many as the other versions) which you can turn on play with the standard world settings. Interestingly the game now has the ability to toggle on split screen mode, the first ever in an Unreal Tournament game. As well as this split screen mode, friends can log in as a guest with their buddies Xbox Live Account and join the action.
The graphics on the Xbox version are excellent with some excellent modelling on the guns as well as great attention to the environmental detail. Bump mapping and self shadowing as well as HDR are other facets in the graphic arsenal which shows there is certainly plenty of life left in the ATi Xenon graphics chip. It is not all perfect in console land however, and those of you lucky enough to have a high end PC system will notice some slowdown in times of extreme action. Texture pop in rears its ugly head occasionally and there are sometimes textures which look frankly ugly. Overall however, it is an extremely impressive showing.
The sound throughout is polished and of considerable quality and the speech is tongue in cheek enough to fit in with the theme of the game. Every weapon and vehicle has their own sound effects and they work wonderfully well in the game.
The biggest issue with Unreal Tournament 3 on the Xbox 360 are the total lack of customisations. The Playstation 3 version allowed users to create their own maps and mutators using the Unreal Editor, however this time around Microsoft have imposed restrictions on this sharing of user created content. This is a massive downside for me and I feel it ruins the overall appeal of this package on the 360. That said, if you have no interest in joining the massive online community in sharing and creating content then this will not be an issue.
So is the game worth buying? For me it is a mixed affair, some of the aspects are improved. However the Playstation 3 version not only lets you play the game with a keyboard and a mouse but you can create and interact with the online community with the Unreal Editor.
At the end of the day if you don’t have a powerful PC or a Playstation 3, then this is a worthwhile purchase which you will find enjoyable for many months especially if you have friends to join in the fun.
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