STAFF REVIEW of Unreal Tournament 3 (Xbox 360)

Monday, July 28, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

Unreal Tournament 3 Box art Unreal Tournament 3 finally makes it way to the Xbox 360 after first releasing on the PS3 and PC almost seven months ago. There is almost a cult like following for the Unreal games, and there is no doubt that Midway hopes for the same on the 360. From the moment you start playing the game, you'll immediately notice that the game is very similar to previous versions in controls and general aspects. But the graphics obviously are a huge upgrade and the gameplay is pretty darn solid. So most if not all Unreal lovers will be quite happy with the latest installment in the series.

UT3 offers you a single player experience and of course the Live multiplayer experience as well. You'll find that both options offer you many hours of gameplay and fun. One of the best features that involves both the career mode and Xbox Live is the new coop mode that allows players to join up with a buddy and progress through the storyline. This option is what all of your big titles should have and UT3 does not disappoint in anyway. Coop campaign mode can also be done via splitscreen on the same 360 console or over System link as well. Oh and by the way, you can carry a guest into matches played on Xbox Live. Your buddy will have the ability to log in under their gamertag as well if they have one readily available on the same console or a memory card. They'll earn achievements for playing just as you will. So grab a buddy, set up splitscreen and get into some Live action online.

There is a bit of a twist to the campaign mode. As you progress through the single player campaign you will unlock cards. These cards can be used to alter the gameplay a little for the level you use them on. I would probably compare it to the old Madden card system where you earned boost cards for your players or you could affect the other teams abilities. Some cards will boost the skills of your team while others will hurt the enemy. All cards are beneficial to you in one way or another. Now I did notice that a lot of the cards earned you are able to hold onto them and use them on a later mission. But there are a few instances where the game requires you to use them immediately on the next mission upon earning them. Still a pretty cool feature and adds some fun factor to the game as well.

Now of course everyone loves the single player campaigns, but in today's gamer minds its all about Xbox Live multiplayer it seems. Well, you'll be happy to know that the game has some fantastic multiplayer aspects. The game originally ships with 16 maps and 6 different game modes. The maps vary in size and all of them fit quite nicely into the fast paced gameplay of UT3. Your game modes of choice are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Vehicle Capture the Flag, Warfare and Duel. Weapon variety is fairly vast as well giving you 13 different weapons to dismantle and obliterate your competition. And if weapons aren't enough then how about 15 different vehicles to man in Vehicle Capture the Flag. You'll also have plenty of power ups and deployables at your disposal such as armor, ammo, traps, weapon upgrades and shields.

All of your weapons and gadgets are easily accessible through the user interface. You can progress forward through your available weapons one at a time by using the right bumper. Or you can bring up a radial wheel that allows you to point to the weapon of choice using the analog stick. Granted the PC version of the game works so much better for switching weapons, but this will do.

The vehicles, and there are many of them, are basically controlled very similar to the way you controlled vehicles in Halo 3. You basically move the aiming reticule in the direction you want to move, push forward on the left thumbstick and off you go. Simple concept to grasp for most folks. Some vehicles even support multiple players. One person controls the vehicle while another sits in the gunner position. You will find that vehicle control can be a bit frustrating just as it was in Halo 3 at times,e specially when in a fire fight with someone running around you.

The newest game mode to hit the Unreal world is Warfare. The game is completely team objective based and uses a moving battlefront system ala Frontlines: Fuels of War. The maps are vast and you'll have vehicles to help you obtain and complete your objective at hand. Basically, the enemy has a shield system which you have to weaken and destroy. You do this by controlling Nodes, which basically are enemy points on the map that give them access to certain vehicles and weapons. You will have to established a linked network of Nodes up to the enemy base to completely open the power core to attacks. Some Nodes are more important to others, and on a few maps you will come to learn that there are special Nodes that do major damage to your enemies power core via hefty attacks such as launching missiles. At times, the announcer in the game will tell you of Nodes that are vulnerable to attack right at that moment. You'll also be able to see these Nodes on your mini map. Once you have established a link from your power source to the enemy base you'll be able to destroy their power source and win the match. Included in the game play is a interesting orb system that allows immediate control of a neutral or enemy Node when a person on your team carries the orb to a Node control point. Each team starts with an orb in their base and one of the players can pick it up and becomes designated and Orb Runner. You cannot use any vehicles to transport the orb. You can only proceed on foot or hoverboard. The game can get quite strategic at this point, and this feature actually helps losing teams try to make a comeback in games.

Over and above the campaign and online multiplayer you'll also have the option to jump into instant action versus bots. You'll be able to set up all of the match setting including game mode, map, difficulty, etc. And some of the best news for fans of the game and fans of splitscreen is the option to play in splitscreen with a buddy in quick play matches.

Graphically, Unreal Tournament 3 is stunning. Character models are detailed extremely well and maps are full of minute details. Texture mapping is top notch as well as the shadows cast across each and every map. You'll be treated to a great visual feast when playing UT3. At times some gameplay will be hampered by loading textures or details, but this has honestly become almost acceptable behavior with any game that uses the Unreal engine. Overall, you will not be disappointed in the least by the game's look and feel. All the blood and gore is there from past iterations of the game. But don't worry parents, there is an option to dumb down those gore effects. But really who would really want to do that to this game. UT is all about the blood and gore!!!

The controls in the game are quick and fast paced and you really have to be on your toes, especially when online. At times, the default settings can be a bit touchy and may affect how well you actually do in the game. But luckily there are plenty of options for tweaking those controls to your style of play.

When it comes to the sounds of the game, the game once again does not disappoint. Voice acting can get a little mundane but again in today's games voice acting does not always get top billing and the game usually speaks for itself more than the characters. Thats exactly the case with UT3. Every weapon and vehicle has its own distinct sounds and you'll get completely immersed in the maps and the way the ambient sounds play into the action. Trust me, you'll know when you catch a missile in the face. Every sound you hear will be completely expected.

Overall this game is top notch and a must have for FPS fans. There are plenty of modes to play, the storyline is great and fun to play, and the graphics are absolutely amazing. When you first start playing you really will get a Gears of War type of feeling from not only the visuals, but the dark side of things as well. The characters almost seemed modeled after Marcus and the boys at times. You are getting everything the PC and PS3 have to date all wrapped up into one package. My recommendation would be to pick this one up if you can. You will not regret it.

Overall the game is really great! More maps, weapons and vehicles via downloadable content would be the only suggestion that I would have that comes to mind. Just be sure to support the game.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.3 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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