Easily moddable; new vehicles and game types; shiny new graphics; same familiar play style.
New content fairly sparse; assault and bombing-run modes gone.
Since the last Unreal Tournament game was released four years ago, no worthy contender has managed to dethrone the now-classic shooter as the best game for online deathmatches. With the much-delayed Unreal Tournament 3, we get the uneasy feeling that Epic Games has grown a bit complacent with its multiplayer crown. The game’s brand-new graphics engine and glut of maps mask some very familiar weapons and gameplay mechanics. And while we appreciate that the developers haven’t broken from a proven design formula, we’re disappointed by the lack of innovation in this long-awaited sequel.
What truly stands out in this visceral fragfest are the gorgeous new maps and the arsenal of new vehicles. UT3 is packed with more than 40 maps split among its five modes (deathmatch, duel, CTF, vehicle CTF, and warfare), each oozing with a memorable style and design gimmick. For example, the Deimos map awed us with its zero-gravity tubes and mesmerizing space backdrop, while the Gateway map kept us on our toes by warping us to three distinct battlegrounds. Learning how to apply our acrobatic fragging skills to the new maps was an exciting challenge, which is why we also appreciate the bot-driven single-player campaign.
Sixteen new vehicles gave us fresh and faster ways to slaughter our foes. From the elevated Necris Darkwalker to the massive five-seat Leviathan battle tank, the mechanical transports here are daunting death dealers that can’t be taken out alone. We especially liked using the flying Fury vehicle to zip across maps while our teammates latched on with grapples and flew behind us.
The only new gameplay mode included is warfare, which is a mix of the CTF and onslaught modes. By including a gameplay device called the orb (which allows players to instantly capture control-point nodes), this team-based mode ensures that rounds are fast paced but balanced enough to avoid lopsided victories. Still, it’s no replacement for the omitted assault and bombing-run modes.
We’re not sure if the relatively sparse amount of new content in UT3 will be enough to convince the existing Unreal community to upgrade. Until more players make the transition, $50 is a steep price to pay for updated visuals at the cost of a vibrant community.